EASTERN CARIBBEAN –ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
Tips of the Earthbergs
By Jheri St. James
The islands of the Eastern Caribbean are very far away from Laguna Beach, California, and in 2001 we looked at the long list of names—Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kits & Nevis, and St. Vincent & Grenadines—and thought, wow! Collecting these soils is going to be difficult! That was seven years ago. Today we have obtained the soils from each of those Eastern Caribbean islands—six shipments orchestrated by one lady, Juanita Lynch from the U.S. Embassy in Barbados; and one from Dr. Janil Gore-Frances, Ph.D. of the Plant Protection Unit of the Department of Agriculture in Antigua. We sincerely thank Juanita Lynch and Dr. Gore-Frances for their help in obtaining these unique soils from the number one tourist destination on earth. Juanita Lynch sent us this quotation from Frank Collymore’s Hymn to the Sea: “Like all who live on small islands, I must always be remembering the sea.”
Indians were the first inhabitants here and then in 1492 Christopher Columbus became the first European to explore these islands. After reportedly landing in the Bahamas, Columbus named them the Indies because he thought he had finally reached Asia and the East Indies. Numerous explorers followed in his path, then settlers arrived from the Americas and Europe—religious outcasts, slaves from Africa, and a small army of pirates. Great military powers fought for control of the islands, long called the West Indies, now named the Caribbean islands.
This is a large group of islands that separate the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, and are broken into three island groups:
- Bahamas (north)—3,000 individual islands and reefs;
- Greater Antilles (central)—Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico
- Lesser Antilles (southeast)—
- Leeward Islands (Antigua & Barbuda; St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla and Montserrat) and
- Windward Islands (Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados).
The West Indies Federation, created by the United Kingdom in 1958 consisted of 24 main inhabited islands and approximately 220-230 offshore islands, islets and cays. The Federation spanned across all the island groups in the Caribbean. Most of the islands have mountainous interiors surrounded by narrow coastal plains. As with all British colonies of the period, Queen Elizabeth II was head of state. Jamaica was the first to leave the federation in 1962. After that came Trinidad and Tobago, then Barbados, and finally the West Indies Federation was dissolved that same year. Later in a period from 1966 through 1983, the rest of the islands gained their own independence from British rule, except Montserrat, Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos Islands, Anguilla, St. Kitts & Nevis remain UK territories.
Predicted Topography Gravity Map
The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity,
George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the
city on four ox-carts. Fifteen thousand men were baptized,
without women and children. On the site where the dragon died,
the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint
George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured
all disease.Traditionally, the lance with which St. George
slew the dragon was called Ascalon, a name recalling the city
of Ashkelon, Israel. From this tradition, the name Ascalon
was used by Winston Churchill for his personal aircraft during
World War II.
As this map shows, the islands are but the tips of the earthbergs—tectonic plates below. We know that 70% of the earth’s surface is water, but under the water is the earth again. The basis of the entire planet is soil of some kind, except perhaps for those mysterious depths of the ocean. Do they go down into inner earth? (No, the water would all go there, too. It might be good to have a drain to alleviate the rising waters associated with global warming!) Regardless, even though ships and boats must travel the waters, and airplanes the skies from island to island, the Eastern Caribbean is all connected at the base, as are all the countries of the earth, regardless of the arbitrary borders, nationalities and politics, which illusory boundaries separate our minds from one another. So as we remember the sea, let us also remember the earth.
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ST. KITTS & NEVIS
Shawn Williams, an employee at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in Rosseterre, St. Kitts, was our soil collector for St. Kitts & Nevis. The site was the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. The first cannon were mounted on Brimstone Hill in 1690 by the British, in an effort to recapture Fort Charles on the coast below from the French. Designed by British Army engineers and built by African slave workers, this World Heritage Site was inscribed by UNESCO in 1999.
In January 1782, during the great struggle among the European colonial powers and the American republic for control of the rich Caribbean sugar islands and the North American mainland, 8,000 French soldiers attacked the island and besieged the Fortress. About 1,000 defenders drawn from the Royal Scots and East Yorkshire Regiments, local militia and escaped slaves fought valiantly for a month before finally surrendering on 12th February. A year later, the articles of the Treaty of Versailles returned the island to the British, who continued fortifications until 1794. In 1852, British troops were reassigned and the Fortress was abandoned.
The Society for the Restoration of Brimstone Hill was founded in 1965 and in 1973 HRH Prince Charles reopened the first complete restoration, the Prince of Wales Bastion. In 1985, Queen Elizabeth II unveiled a plaque signifying Brimstone Hill Fortress as a national park, including the Fort George Museum.
He wrote: “The best preserved fortress in the Western Hemisphere.” Thank you, Shawn!
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St. Kitts was originally named “Liamuiga” by the Kalinago Indians who lived there. Roughly translated into English, Liamuiga means “fertile land,” a testimony to the island’s rich volcanic soil and high productivity. Nevis’s pre-Columbian name was “Oualie,” which translates to “land of beautiful waters,” referring to the many freshwater springs and hot volcanic springs there.
It was thought that Columbus named St. Kitts San Cristobal, however now it appears that Columbus named the Island Sant Jago (St. James) The current name Nevis is derived from a Spanish name Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, Our Lady of the Snows, because the white clouds which usually wreathe the top of Nevis Peak reminded someone of the story of a miraculous snowfall in a hot climate, near Rome.
St. Kitts and Nevis is very small for a country, 1-1/2 times the size of Washington, D.C. Characterized by its dominant tourism, agriculture and light manufacturing industries, sugar was the primary export from the 1640’s until very recently. In 2005 the government decided to close down the state-owned sugar company, but sugar plantations still dominate the St. Kitts landscape.
View of Nevis from St. Kitts
It is difficult to reconcile pictures of cannon with pictures of blue island paradise islands. But there it is: these are valuable soil to the people who live there, the people who want to own the islands, and to us at Common Ground 191. Thank you Shawn, for your contribution. It is much appreciated. The word for peace in St. Kitts and Nevis is the English word “Peace,” which we hope will always keep the cannons at The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park tourist attractions.