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Sunday, March 20, 2011

A bit of interesting Statia history

Remaining bits of walls from the old warehouses
Now for something completely different! How about some info about Statia? They  really have a lot of significant history for such a tiny island! During the 1700s, the major European countries were at war with one another: the English were fighting the French, the French were fighting the Spanish, the Spanish were fighting the French, and oh yes, the English were fighting to keep their rebellious colonies in America under control. During this time, the Dutch, who owned Statia, were neutral, so they set up Statia as a free port that would accept trade from all nations without tariffs. Countries not allowed to deal with each other could deal with St. Eustatius (or with one another while in port at St. Eustatius) and soon the majority of Caribbean commerce flowed through here. Weapons, plantation supplies, cotton, fine fabrics, slaves, tobacco, silver, gold and sugar flowed through the Oranjestad’s Lower Town, enabling Statia’s mixed Dutch, English and Jewish inhabitants to prosper. Their wealth and the island’s commerce coined Statia’s nickname: “The Golden Rock”. Trade reached its zenith in 1756 when the island boasted about 21,000 inhabitants.

In November 1776, the Andrew Doria, an American vessel under the command of an officer of the fledgling American Navy, came into the Oranjestad harbor and gave a full gun salute. While uncertain what to do, the Dutch governor decided to fired off a return salute -- and thus Statia became the first foreign nation to recognize an American naval vessel, and the newly established United States! Needless to say, the British were not amused, and were even less enthralled when they lost a ship to the Americans in the area. These events, along with the fact that Statia sold weapons to the upstart American colonists, led to a war between Holland and Britain, during which Statia suffered terribly.

Britain’s Admiral Rodney came in and brutally crushed the tiny island, confiscating all ships and warehouses, seeking out all goods, coins and jewels -- even searching coffins and digging up the graveyard, taking all the goods he found buried and hidden there. (Very ingenious, these Statians!) Rodney even rounded up a hundred Jewish merchants for deportation to St. Kitts, before searching them and stripping them of all the monies found hidden in their clothes, some 8000 pounds sterling. Rodney then held an auction that made himself and his crew an enormous fortune, while completely destroying Statia’s commerce and way of life. The island’s trade never recovered; its sea wall fell into disrepair and sank back into the sand, and hurricanes destroyed much of the lower town thereafter. Since then, Statia has remained small, quiet and unspoiled by development-- truly one of the quintessential low-key Caribbean islands, and is indeed, a hidden gem!


Statia history aside, we've continued to have fun here. We've spent the last couple of days diving, diving, diving and diving! We've done quite a few of the best dives here, from the wall dive off the south end of the island with its clouds of black coral and sprawling rope sponges, to old wrecks and new, to a fabulous night dive replete with several huge Hawksbill turtles, lobster and crab. It's been absolutely great, and we've thoroughly enjoyed our time here. It'll be hard to say good-bye!


Aboard EZ-Goin' before diving
Ron chilling out, en-route to the dive site


2 comments:

  1. Hi Rothsteins,
    WOW is all I can say. This website is amazing! Between the photos, the music and the blog postings, I feel like I'm on the journey with you!! (Although I do wish I could really feel the sun on my face and hear the waves lapping against the ship.
    Miss you and think about your often,
    Helene

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  2. Hi!! I loved reading your post! I am a local of Statia, but currently reside in Florida. I am so glad you enjoyed your stay at my lovely island!

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