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EASTERN CARIBBEAN – ST. VINCENT

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)—
  1. Leeward Islands (Antigua & Barbuda; St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla and Montserrat) and
  2. 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.

* * *

ST. VINCENT

Mustique in the Grenadines

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an island nation consisting of the main island of St. Vincent and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines. The country has a French and British colonial history. Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. Enslaved Africans—whether shipwrecked or escaped from Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada, and seeking refuge in St. Vincent—intermarried with the Caribs and became known as Garifuna or Black Caribs. Then France and Britain traded ownership for a few hundred years, gaining independence in October of 1979.

Natural disasters have featured in this country’s history—volcano La Soufriere erupted in 1902 and 1979, causing much death, damage and evacuation; in 1980, 1987, 1998 and 1999, severe hurricanes caused extensive damage to crops and the west coast of the island.

Our collector was Kenneth King, from Edinboro, Kingston, who got his soil from Fort Charlotte, the defensive fort on this island, as so many. Here is a painting of a Black Carib fighter from the location.

Ft. Charlotte is the major early 19th century fortification, was presumably built to protect the islands in 1803. The location contains a powder house, a women’s prison, a museum, officer’s quarters, and a gun platform.

The orientation of this gun platform is mysterious as it points inland. It is clear that the enemy is inland and not at sea, although the wheeled gun carriages could have been rotated with some difficulty. There is a moat and a sheer drop to the water on the other side.

Many thanks to Kenneth King for his contribution of the soil from this example of another hard-won independent island in the Eastern Caribbean. The word for peace is the English word—“peace” forever to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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