St. Eustatius is one of the five Dutch islands of the Netherlands Antilles. Statia, as it is affectionately called, is 11.8 square miles or 31 square kilometers. St. Eustatius is five miles long and two and a half miles wide with a population of 3400 inhabitants.
With regards to the history of St. Eustatius, the first settlers that came were the French in 1629, then the Dutch in 1636, and the English in 1665. Before the Dutch settled in St. Eustatius, December 1635, the Zeeland merchant Mr Jan Snouck and his Flushing partners Abraham van Pere and Pieter van Rhee received permission from the West Indies Company to establish a colony on the island of St. Croix. They fitted out a ship, appointed Pieter van Corselles as leader of the future colony and sent him with sufficient men to the West Indies. On Arrival, St.Croix appeared not to live up to expectations, so they concentrated on the neighbouring island of St.Eustatius. Van Corselles ordered his men to occupy St.Eustatius in the spring of 1636 and afterwards informed the Company that he intended to plant good tobacco and make substantial profits.
The expedition from Zeeland found the island uninhabited. In 1636 the new population of St.Eustatius was 40-50 people, consisted mainly of Zeelanders, Walloons and Flemings. As the plantations increased, so did the number of inhabitants. In 1665 the population was 330 whites and 840 negroes and Indians, whereas in 1689 besides Dutch there were also English, French, German and Scottish merchants. Van Corselles men who had occupied the island immediately began to develop the agriculture as well as carrying out military duties. They started tobacco plantations and the first Statian tobacco was delivered to Flushing (a Zeelandian Town) in July 1638.The new inhabitants grew tobacco for the Zeeland market, started sugar-cane and cotton plantations and provided for their own needs. Pieter van Corselles remained the leader and first commander of the colony.
The West Indies Company’s ships transported all products in order to control import and export. This system was not infallible since not only Statian tobacco, but also some from Virginia and the British Leeward Islands was imported in Zeeland and Rotterdam. This lucrative trade and well stocked warehouses quickly caused England, which thought herself the rightful owner of St. Eustatius. In 1663 and 1665 Statia was attacked by the English. From then on the island knew peace no longer and in 1673 the Fort, the adjacent buildings and the warehouses on the Bay were burnt down for the first time. In the eighteenth century St.Eustatius became the most important salve depot in the West Indies, taking over from Curacao. About 1724 the Company began to supply and sell slaves on Statia. We have now arrived at the eighteenth century in which St. Eustatius, despite of changes of command, plunderings and burnings, enjoyed its greatest prosperity. In this period the island was known far and wide as the”Golden Rock”. It is also the period in which wars, slave-trade, smuggling and corruption were very prominent. The French ruled Statia again from 1795 to 1801, followed by the English who took over for a year in April 1801. Trade stopped again during the last occupation and St. Eustatius never recover this blow. St. Eustatius changed hands 22 times, between French, Dutch and the English. The island ceased to be the storage port for the Caribbean and this role was soon taken over by the English. From 1816 St. Eustatius became Dutch until now.
CULTURE OF ST. EUSTATIUS
Culture is the arts, customs, the intellectual, the achievement and fibre of the country or island. Statia’s culture is also a rich one of art, folk-song, folk-dance, folk-singer, Aloi dance group, folk-tale and creole food and local drinks. It is a little sad commentary that some of our culture is slightly disappearing from among us, this is because of the new generation. Various organizations are still trying to bring back and maintain the island’s culture and is succeeding. There are many different events that is celebrated. The Queen’s Birthday celebration at Fort Oranje on April 30th, is still being celebrated with the early morning flag ceremony, the various uniformed groups, school children, the speeches, games, sports, local food and drinks during the day. Easter Sunday, Easter Monday beach party, selling several types of creole food and drinks. Statia Carnival, middle of July, Emancipation Day July 1st, and Statia Day celebration November 16th.
These events are celebrated at the various locations, such as; Carnival Village, Wilhelmina Park, and Fort Oranje. At these events you have different types of bush tea, fried johnny cakes, bake johnny cakes, with saltfish, saltfish and eggs, saltfish and eggplant, saltfish and dumplin, saltfish and yams, cornmeal and okra, served with boiled fish, friedfish, stewedfish, bakedfish. Also served are; goat meat peas and rice, bullfoot soup, red peas soup, and meat soup. The events also serve various local drinks namely; tamarine juice, lime juice, guava juice, sorrel juice, passion fruit juice, knip juice, black berry juice, soursop juice, and mango juice.
There are also many other delicacies made such as; cup-cakes, coconut tarts, guava tarts, coconut sugar-cakes, peanut sugar-cakes, cashew sugar-cakes, prune tarts, apple tarts, and boya made from cornmeal. Christmas and New Years are a special time where family and friends celebrate together. Around this time there are special Christmas cakes of various sorts, bread pudding, potatoe pudding, particularly sorrel drink, and mauby. Turkey, chicken, goat meat, mutton and baked ham are the meats of the season. You have the carollers that go from house to house singing on Christmas Eve night until the wee hours of the morning. The island culture must be continued and passed on to other generations to keep the traditions and natural talents of the island people and community alive.
St. Eustatius Tourism
NATURE ON STATIA
Welcome to Statia! Nature on Statia is unique . St. Eustatius National Parks protect the high biodiversity and unique tropical ecosystems present on both land and sea. The total protected area covers 33 square kilometers, almost twice the size of the island itself. The national parks system was initiated in 1996 to protect the pristine coral reefs, century old shipwrecks, and fragile rainforest and woodland on the slopes, as well as the crater, of the dormant volcano “The Quill”. Take your time and enjoy the natural beauty of our tropical island. Statia Marine Park is one of the top five sites in the Caribbean in terms of healthy corals and fish populations.
The Quill / Boven National Park was pronounced the first national park of the Netherlands Antilles in 1998. The Park was created to protect unique biodiversity and ensure the sustainable use of all stakeholders. This 5.4 square kilometers area consists of two sectors: the dormant volcano “The “Quill” (600m); approximately 2000 feet and the weathered remains of the northern extinct volcano, that includes Boven (289m), Bergje (223m), Gilboa Hill, Signal Hill and Pilot Hill. The volcanic cone of the Quill dominates Statia’s landscape. The highest point is Mazinga. This strato-volcano was built by magma that was violently ejected and deposited on earth to form layers of material which created a perfect cone. The eruption of the Quill dates to around 400AD and the Quill is considered to be dormant. The Quill is a lush tropical rain forest. The crater inside, is a depth of 275 meters below sea level.
A number of different vegetation zones vary with altitude, ranging from evergreen seasonal forest inside the crater to elfin forest on the rim The forest in the crater is closely related to tropical rainforest with the highest trees reaching 40m, including the Silk Cotton Tree, Yellow Plum and Trumpet Wood. Begonias and Bromeliads are common. The 16 species of orchid are harder to find. Activities in the National Park include creation and maintenance of a network of ten trails, display of information boards and research and monitoring. The Park organizes guided hikes and visitors are requested to purchase a trail tag.
Information: St. Eustatius National Parks.
DIVING & SNORKELING IN STATIA MARINE PARK
Welcome to St. Eustatius Marine Park. The park was established in 1996 with the objective of conserving and managing the marine resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and future generations. The Marine Park extends from the shore to 30m depth contour, encompassing the entire coast and covering 27.5 square kilometers. Within the Park are two actively managed reserves in which no fishing or anchoring is allowed to protect pristine coral reef. The reserves were set up to conserve marine biodiversity, protect fish stocks and promote sustainable tourism. Statia’s marine life has been described as the best kept secret of the Caribbean. Divers can explore beautiful coral reefs and numerous wrecks with an abundance of fish, lobster and sea turtles. There are an estimated 200 shipwrecks resulting from hurricanes, fires, war, and poor maintenance.
The coral reefs have largely developed on the remains of an extinct volcano (Boven area) and dormant volcano the (Quill). Corals have colonized a range of volcanic substrates including bombs, lava blocks and solidified lava flows shaped like fingers. Since the establishment of the Park, the number of fish species at certain sites has increased ten fold. Juvenile turtles are frequently seen while diving and snorkeling the coral reefs and wrecks around Statia, especially during night dives. Living amongst the pristine reefs are a host of tropical reef creatures, including Angelfish, Butterfly-fish, flying Gurnard, Moray Eels, Spotted Drums, Frogfish, Sea Horses, Octopus, Lobster, Rays, Sharks and turtles. Divers may hear the calls of Dolphins and Whales as they migrate through the Marine Park (January – April). A favourite viewpoint for Humpbacks is from the Botanical Garden.
Close to shore, divers and snorkellers can swim along the old stone city wall that once protected the warehouses along the water front. Several wrecks form dive sites in deeper water. There are deep dives and shallow dives ranging from 10 meters to 30 meters. This is especially interesting for the inexperience diver and the experience diver. There are also archaeological dives, computer dives and night dives. Blue Beads are unique gems found on Statia. They were manufactured from the 1660’s by the West Indian Company in Amsterdam for the purpose of global trade. After emancipation in 1863, it is said that the slaves threw their beads into the sea as a sign of joy and release from slavery. Perhaps this is why most of the beads are found by divers.
The reefs of Statia introduce snorkellers to archaeology and marine life. Oranje Bay is a great snorkel opportunity to appreciate the underwater history and view canons, anchors, submerged sea walls, crumbling warehouses and the remains of the old piers. Other snorkel sites are accessible by boat: Blind Shoal and Twelve Guns in the Southern Reserve and inner Jenkins Bay in the Northern Reserve. Snorkellers are requested to purchase a tag when using the Marina Park mooring. Why not purchase one anyway to show your appreciation and support for the coral reefs of Statia.