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Ruin on Great Thatch British Virgin Islands

Ruin on Great Thatch, British Virgin Islands

Great Thatch BVI

Great Thatch

Great Thatch Island lies just to the north of St. John.  The approximately half-mile passage between Great Thatch and the St. John coast from the rocky cliffs of Mary Point and the steep tyre palm covered hillsides between there and Leinster Bay form “the Narrows,” characterized by gusty winds and strong tidal currents.

I’ve snorkeled there and once camped out on the beach, but I always thought of the interior of the island to be impenetrable bush on cliff-like hillsides, maybe suitable for goats, but not people. I was wrong.

Guided by a good friend and knowledgeable Virgin Islander, I took the opportunity to explore for the first time, the island’s interior.

Unfinished Building on Great Thatch, British Virgin IslandsWe began our adventure at the site of an unfinished building on the far eastern corner of the long beach on the southern coast. Rumor has it that this was to be a built as a restaurant. Work started about 1997, but was plagued by misfortune. Supposedly a dump truck full of gravel arriving by barge got stuck in the sand and remained stuck for quite some time. It was eventually removed, but I never heard how. The same sand that the truck got stuck in, made the site look like a desirable beach location, but that was an anomaly, the natural state of that section of beach is gravel, to which it returned and is to this day. So much for rumor.

old road on Great Thatch, British Virgin islands

stone retaining wall on lower side of road

We headed straight up the hill in back of the building through a forest of mostly genip trees growing very close together. The vegetation was thick, but passable and we soon came to an old road bed running gradually up along the hillside. We followed the road until my friend inexplicably decided that we should leave the road and continue straight up again towards the ridge, which we did, and which led us to the first of a series of ruins.

Great Thatch, British Virgin Islands

outbuilding above the road

cook house great thatch bvi

cook house

animal corral, great thatch, british virgin islands

animal corral

cistern

cistern

cookhouse doorway

cookhouse doorway

view from great thatch

view from ruin

Smuggling and Great Thatch
I came across this little tidbit of historical information, which gives, among other things, a little picture of life on this island that I always thought to be either uninhabited or at least sparsely so.

“On being informed on November 24 (1856) that a boat belonging to an inhabitant of (Great) Thatch Island was trading without a license, the sub-treasurer of Tortola proceeded to seize it. He soon had to abandon the seizure, however, when he was assaulted and the crew of his boat badly beaten. Two days later, a force consisting of four constables was dispatched by the stipendiary magistrate to arrest the offenders. On landing they were obstructed by 40 or 50 people, and when the persevered and made their arrest were also severely beaten. On the following day, a larger force comprising 30 men, principally rural constables, 12 of whom were armed, was dispatched to quell the spirit of insubordination and to apprehend the offenders. Despite this show of force, it was only the assistance of the Wesleyan missionaries who were influential among the inhabitants, which enabled 16 arrests to be made without active opposition.” From “A History of the British Virgin islands” by Issac Dookhan

Great Thatch’s connection with smuggling may not be confined to the nineteenth century as rumors abound about bales of illicit drugs being found washed up on the shoreline there.

The name of the island itself suggests something nefarious. It is said that Thatch is a corruption of the name Teach and that the islands given the Thatch name, Thatch Cay in the US Virgins, and Great and Little Thatch in the British were named after the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

Bottles
On our walk we encountered many old bottles as well as other artifacts. It seems that this might help to date how recently people were still living on the island. Many of the bottles it turns out were manufactured by the Portobello bottle company in Edinburgh, Scotland after 1907.

One More T’ing
All during our walk we could hear the bleating of a goat, but we could never see him. Just as I was leaving a spotted him…


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Mary Bartolucci of Island Style Weddings and Katherine Steinborn of Katilady Events are pleased to announce the formation of the Virgin Island Chapter of the Association for Wedding Professionals International.  The first social mixer will be held on April 13, 210 @ 6PM on St Thomas at Norbu.  Norbu, located in Peterborg, St Thomas is the most elegant of wedding venues.  “We are thrilled that the owners of Norbu have offered their amazing location for our first mixer.” The purpose of starting a local chapter of the Association is to bring together ALL wedding professionals for networking and educational purposes.  Anyone in the wedding industry within the US Virgin Island is most welcome to become a member and to attend our bimonthly get together.

Association for Wedding Professionals International (AFWPI) is an international organization dedicated to providing quality service and a central source of information and referrals – for those planning weddings and those who service weddings. We have a fully staffed Association office dedicated to the support of our members and the brides. We have been providing services for the wedding industry since 1995.

Members receive benefits through networking and discounted services. Brides and grooms receive free referrals to wedding professionals. Members have agreed to a set code of ethics, assuring greater confidence in shopping with them.

Mary and Kati have been members of the International Association  for the past two yrs. Mary has travelled to the Philippines and Mexico on AFWPI on FAM (Familiarization) trips.  Kati also participated in the Mexico FAM trip.  The FAM trips offer not only an educational experience in another location for destination weddings but also a great opportunity to network with other wedding professionals.  “The experience that we have received from traveling to other destination wedding locations has been immeasurable.  We have been able to expand our knowledge by learning from other destinations.  More Fam trips are planned one being in Tobago soon.”

For more information on joining the Association or the upcoming event- contact  mary@islandstyleweddings.com or kati@katilady.com

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Virgin islands View Magazine 1966

Virgin Islands View August 1966

Air France Promotion St. Thomas Virgin Islands 1966

click to enlarge

Maureen Anderson, who worked at the Virgin Islands Hotel in 1966 was kind enough to lend me this edition of the Virgin Islands View Magazine published in August of 1966. The photo on the left was taken in 1966 during an Air France promotion at the Virgin Islands Hotel on St. Thomas.  The cute young lady in the first row is Maureen and the black man in the last row is Tiger Haynes.

“Tiger Haynes (December 13, 1914 – February 14, 1994) was an American actor and musical performer. He was born as George Haynes in Frederiksted, St. Croix, and moved to New York when he was a boy. An ex-boxer, Haynes played guitar with The Three Flames from 1945 to 1956, a group which had its own NBC radio show in the mid-1940s and a television show on NBC television in 1949. He made his mainstream Broadway debut in Leonard Sillman’s musical revue New Faces of 1956.[3] He is best known for his portrayal of the Tin Man in the original Broadway cast of the the Wiz. He also made several television appearances on programs such as The Cosby Show (1989) and In the Heat of the Night (1989), as well as numerous minor film appearances in films such as All That Jazz (1979) and Ratboy (1986)” From the Wikipedia website.

Virgin Islands View

A.H. Riise St. Thomas Virgin Islands

A.H. Riise, St. Thomas 1966

Scott Hotel St. Thomas USVI

Scott Hotel St. Thomas Virgin islands 1966

Virgin islands View Magazine St. Thomas US Virgin Islands

Scooter Rental

A lot has changed since 1966., one of the most the most obvious being prices. Check it out.

At A.H. Riise offered Johnie walker Red Label Scotch for $2.75/bottle, Mateus Rose wine for $1.50/bottle.

At the Scott Hotel off season rates were as low as $9.00/night for a single and $16.00/night for a double. High season rates were $14.00 to $18.00/night for a single and $22.00 to $28.00/night for a double. Swimming pool and a shower in every room!

And a Honda 90 could be rented for $7.00/day or $38.00 for the whole week.

Parachutte Jumpers St. Thomas Virgin Islands

Parachute Jumpers, St. Thomas 1966

Frenchman's Bay St. Thomas Virgin Islands

Frenchman's Bay St. Thomas 1966

Here’s some more images. On the left were the parachute jumpers who jumped every Sunday. The instructor in the center is Don Dewerd from Hull Bay. On the right is the view from Frenchman’s Bay before development

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Press Release:

St. Thomas Blues Festival St. Thomas Virgin Islands

St. Thomas Blues Festival

FRIDAY – JANUARY 22nd – 8:00 pm
At the Reichhold Center at the University of the Virgin Islands

Starring
Curtis Salgado, Trampled Under Foot & Eden Brent

Tickets for the 1st Annual Johnnie Walker St. Thomas Blues Festival are now available at the following locations:

Reichhold Center Box Office
VI Bridal & Tuxedo – Tutu Park Mall
Home Again – Red Hook Plaza
Eccentric Shoe Boutique – Town
Urban Threadz – Buccaneer Mall @ Havensight
Connections – St. John

Please note that tickets are going quite fast so make sure you get yours.

For further information go to stthomasbluesfestival.com
or contact Steve Simon at stevesimonlive@yahoo.com or at 340-643-6475

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Virgin Islands Holidays
New Years Day January 1 Friday
Three Kings Day January 6 Wednesday
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day January 18 Monday (3rd Monday)
President’s Day February 15 Monday (3rd Monday)
Transfer Day March 31 Wednesday
Holy Thursday April 1 Thursday
Good Friday April 2 Friday
Easter Monday April 5 Monday
Children’s Parade * April 30 Friday
Adult’s Parade* May 1 Saturday
Memorial Day May 31 Monday
VI Emancipation Day July 3 Saturday
Independence Day July 4 Sunday
Labor Day September 6 Monday (1st Monday)
Columbus Day/ VI-PR Friendship Day October 11 Monday (2nd Monday
D. Hamilton Jackson Day November 1 Monday
Veterans Day November 11 Thursday
Thanksgiving Day November 25 Thursday (4th Thursday
Christmas Day December 25 Saturday
Boxing Day December 26 Sunday

*The Children’s and Adult Parade Days are days when administrative leave is granted, although they are not legal holidays

Information from the Virgin Islands Department of Education website

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Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Good friends at he Bubbly Pool on Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

Christmas Day 2009 – Chin, Boopy, Michelle, Zi and G take off to Jost Van Dyke somewhat crowded into the 15-foot inflatable. Although the morning started off with heavy rains, flash flood warnings and a rain probability of 90%, the seas are calm. We make a straight shot to Jost, leaving two heavy squalls one on the port the other on the starboard. We arrive fairly dry.

Jost Van Dyke, BVI: Bubbly Pool Christmas Day 2009

Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Michelle, Ezius and I at the bakery on the way to the Bubble Pool offering free ham for Christmas

Sage Mountain, Tortola, BVI

Clouds lie on top of Sage Mountain, the hight peak in the Virgin Islands, almost qualifying it as a rain forest

Bubbly Pool, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Mario, Boopy, Michelle and Ezius watch as a giant wave breaks over the rocks at the entrance to the Bubbly Pool

Bubbly Pool, JVD, BVI

the broken wave enters the pool

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin islands

the pool settles, the crew awaits the next swell

Abe's by the Sea, Little Harbor, Jost Van Dyke BVI

Dinner at Abe's by the Sea, Little Harbor, Jost Van Dyke BVI

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The photo below came from the book “The Virgin Islands, Pleasure Spots in the Caribbean,” by Bruce G. Lynn. It was published in 1970. The photo below is mine taken a few days ago.

1970 (From the book Virgin Islands

1970

11/27/2009

11/27/2009

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It started with a book sent to me by Joe Jackson, “Virgin Islands, Pleasure Spots in the Caribbean” by Bruce Lynn published in 1970. On Tuesday, with book in hand, my friends and I left St. John and motored over to Jost Van Dyke with the mission of trying to set up photos that matched the ones of Jost Van Dyke in the book.

View of Great Harbor seen from the road running up the hillside towards White Bay.

Great Harbour from the book Virgin Islands published 1970

Great Harbour from the book "Virgin Islands" published 1970

A view Great Harbor from the road leading to White Bay

Same View 11/25/ 2009

Looking toward the Methodist Church from the road that runs along the Great Harbour coastline

A view of the methodist Church from the dirt track running alongside the beachfront

Photo from the book "The Virgin Islands" published 1970

Same View 11/25/2009

Same View 11/25/2009

The Customs House in Great Harbour

hhhh

Photo from the book "The Virgin Islands" published 1970

Same View 11/25/2009

Same View 11/25/2009

Government Dock, Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke

xxxx

Photo from the book "The Virgin Islands" published 1970

xxx

Same View 11/25/2009

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White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Yesterday I headed over to Jost Van Dyke, carrying with me two old friends, whom I haven’t seen in many years, and a copy of an book given to me by Joe Jackson, a book of photos of the Virgin Islands published in 1970, several of which were taken in Jost Van Dyke.

The mission of the day, besides just having a good time and enjoying a lobster dinner over at Abe’s in Little harbor, was to try to take photographs from  same positions as the 1970 photographer and present them side by side. Images changed only by some 38 years of time. (I was fairly successful and am working on a blog presentation of these photos – soon come)

The trip turned nostalgic as I presented the book to the Jost Van Dyke natives and residents all of whom were fascinated with the old studies of Jost Van Dyke. My friend, Steve Coakley, took us in his taxi to some of the spots that I need to access.

Ivan and Steve check out the 1970 Virgin Islands book

Ivan and Steve check out the 1970 Virgin Islands book

We drove up the road to the west of Great Harbour for one of the locations, and Steve decided to continue over the ridge and down into White Bay to check out Ivan at the campground. Heading down into the valley I shot the above photo of White Bay, which brought back memories of my first visit to that bay back in the same year that our book was published, 1970.

White Bay Nostalgia
My girlfriend at the time and I were over at Foxy’s when we first heard about the beautiful beach just over the hill to the west. We headed up the rugged jeep trail on the western side of Great Harbour, in the bright morning sunshine. At the top of the hill, a narrow shaded footpath led down through thick bush into the next bay. At the bottom of the trail there was a small opening through a thicket of sea grape trees. We stepped through and were greated by one of the most magnificent sights I have ever experienced. This long pristine white sand beach, backed by coconut palms and sea grapes was totally untouched. Not a soul or a house could be seen anywhere. The waters within the bay were crystal clear, with the characteristic mix of blues found in our shallow indented bays. Not far offshore were the reddish tints created by the coral reef that protected the bay from the open sea.

The beach extended to a rocky outcropping around which was another stretch of coral sand beach. We had passed through a portal into a tropical paradise more beautiful and romantic than even the imagination could conjur up.

I told Steve this story and he told me that he, although born and bred on Jost van Dyke, had the same feeling of awe when he first encountered that beach lying beyond the opening in the sea grape trees.

White Bay Today
Today, White Bay, is not quite the same. It’s still beautiful, but fairly well developed. Whereas a sailing publication advised mariners that there was swinging room behind the reef within the two bays for two or three vessels and if you encountered that many you were advised to head back to Great Harbor and anchor there, today that concept is a joke. In addition to the many, many more than three vessels one can find at any given time at anchor in the bay, mini cruise ships such as the five masted Club Med often anchor just outside the reef ferrying passengers back and forth to the shore. There are now bars and restaurants, campgrounds and guest houses and villas. In general it’s a bustling party atmosphere, still cool, just very different.

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Ice on St. Thomas, Danish West Indies 1856
“The use of ice in St. Thomas, as in all large tropical towns, has become so common that ice is considered an indispensable article in daily housekeeping; every day all reasonably prosperous families receive certain quantity of ice from the Ice House. Only he who has felt the burning rays of the the tropical sun is able to comprehend the refreshing and invigorating experience of enjoying ice chilled beverages, it is generally agreed among doctors that the large consumption of ice has contributed greatly towards improving health conditions. But how is it possible to procure such large quantities of ice when the temperature rarely goes below 25 degrees C., (77 degrees F.) or to keep water frozen here when it so readily evaporates?

“In order to understand this, we must request that the reader accompany us to Wenham Lake near Boston. It has been freezing hard for several days and hundreds of people are busily working on the thick, glacial surface of the ice. Some are engaged in sweeping away the snow, others in sawing six inch deep furrows in the ice into regular blocks. After receiving a strong blow, they fall apart and are transported by horses to the large ice storage house by the shore. When spring arrives, these large blocks of ice are transported in railroad cars to dispatch terminals in Boston. The ships carrying ice are lined with hay or sawdust, and into these are loaded one block right next to another so that the entire cargo forms one large connected mass of ice. In St. Thomas, the ice is kept in local ice houses, large wooden structures with double or triple layered walls, the intervening space filled with ashes or sawdust, which protect completely against the effect of the burning sun rays. In this manner, over 200,00 tons of ice are exported annually from Wenham to the West Indies, Calcutta, Manila, Canton and other places. In Calcutta, a cargo of ice is paid for with a corresponding weight in cotton. There is hardly any place able to compete with Boston over this export commodity, as the ice of this lake resists to an unusual degree the effect of heat. The reason is that the lake receives no effluence of rivers but only that of springs; therefore, the water is extraordinarily clean, and moreover holds a lot of cold as it freezes at a very low temperature. This supply of ice has also brought along another advantage  for the inhabitants of St. Thomas. The prosperous merchant can now, in addition to the produce of the tropics, also provide for his table North American vegetable, fruits. oysters, newly churned butter, etc.”

From: Islands of Beauty and Bounty Translated by Nina York from the publication, “Dansk Vestindien,” 1856

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas DWI 1856

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas DWI 1856

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Brought to you by Gerald Singer, St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI)