Butterfly Farm, St. Thomas Virgin Islands

Miss Vals Preschool Class on Last Day of the School Year
Miss Val's Preschool Class on Last Day of the School Year

Well, it’s that time of the year again. School is out and the kids are either home or going to camp and perhaps you’re looking for something to do with the kids (or without them.) Here’s a suggestion if you don’t mind the trip over to St. Thomas:


Check out the Butterfly Farm at the Havensight Cruise Ship dock.

There’s waterfalls and ponds and tropical flowers and friendly guides to explain the fascinating facts about butterflies, caterpillars and their life cycles and metamorphoses.

(Jacob met his classmate, Pierce, at the Butterfly Farm and the two of them just loved it and so will kids of all ages, even grown up ones.)

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Sovereignty of the Heart

“What I am starting to believe is that an island doesn’t belong only to the people who are born on it or claim the right to own or sell it. An island belongs to the people who think and care about it, though they cast no votes or own no land. That is the sovereignty of the heart. Everything else is money and noise.”
P.F Kluge, The Edge of Paradise

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St. John Virgin Islands:Marketplace Complex Evacuated

St. John’s Marketplace complex was closed for several hours today, the result of a propane gas leak.

It seems that the 1,000-pound gas tank was overfilled and when the gas expanded in the late morning sunshine a valve blew off and a jet of the  highly flammable propane was sent spewing into the air.

All businesses and offices were closed and everyone inside and in the general vicinity were asked to leave out of concerns that the gas would explode.

After the damaged valve was repaired and the gas contained, the Marketplace was reopened for business.

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Virgin Islands Stories: The Tooth

Some years ago I sporadically worked as a boat captain for Delbert Parsons when he owned Ocean Runner. On one occasion I served as captain for a family of five, mom, dad and their three children. a boy age 13 and two girls ages 9 and 11.

We checked in at Jost Van Dyke and from there went to Norman Island to snorkel the caves.

I stayed aboard while the others snorkeled.

The family must have loved the snorkeling because they were gone quite some time. When they returned, they told me that coincidentally both of the girls had lost a baby tooth on the snorkel.

When they got aboard I asked the girls what happened to the teeth.

The father answered for them saying that the teeth had been committed to the sea.

“Don’t you believe in the tooth fairy?” I asked the girls. Again the father answered for his girls, Not in this family, we don’t,” he said.

A few weeks later I received a letter from the dad. It seems that the older of the two girls had written a story for school concerning lost baby teeth and belief in the tooth fairy, which he wanted to share with me.

The little girl’s story…

Once there were two ten-year-old girls who lived in the same town. One night both girls lost a baby tooth.

One of the girls had nice parents that believed in the tooth fairy. She put her tooth under her pillow that night and when she awoke the tooth was gone but there was a quarter in its place.

The other little girl had cheap, mean, stingy parents who didn’t believe in the tooth fairy. They told the little girl to throw the worthless tooth in the garbage.

The next day both little girls went with the other school children to an outing at the zoo. The two of them, being friends, stayed together. They were fascinated by all the animals and they strayed off to the farthest part of the zoo. They didn’t pay attention to the time and the rest of the class left without them.

The two girls walked together to the zoo entrance and waited for the bus that was going back to their neighborhood.

The one little girl, who had the quarter from the tooth fairy was able to board the bus and go home, but the other little girl didn’t have a quarter because her parents were mean and stingy and cheap and she couldn’t get on the bus. To make matters worse it began to rain… hard!

The little girl had to walk all the way home in the pouring rain, and she got pneumonia and died and her cheap parents were to blame.

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Tales of St. John & the Caribbean: Book People

The Ghost
"The Ghost"

The First Time I Saw A White Person
By Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery
From Tales of St. John & the Caribbean

When it comes to tourists, I as a child saw very few. Reason being is because in those days, which were the 50s and 60s, not many yachtsmen would venture across to Jost Van Dyke. I for one used to call white folk “Book People,” for that’s the only place I used to see them, in books or magazines.

I remember one day in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, a little before where Foxy’s is today. It was the first time I came in physical contact with a white person. It happened one day while a white boy and girl were playing ball. I was asked to join in, this for me was a great privilege, and, happy as can be I played with them. From the paleness of their skin, and due to the fact that I could see the blue veins beneath their skin, the thought was placed in my mind that they were soft and fragile. This in turn created a sense of fear about touching or grabbing them too hard.

When the fellow’s sister hit the beach ball in the air, both him and I chased after it. He tripped and fell, causing me to fall directly on top of him. Fearing I might have hurt him I screamed with a feeling of fear mixed with sorrow. Immediately I rolled off him asking, “Are you okay?” In any case, seeing he wasn’t harmed I asked him with a little shyness, “Can I touch your hand?” He looked me in the eye and got serious. Then he answered without a smile, “Sure, but only if I can touch you next.”

The situation reminds me of a saying: Judging a book by its cover.

With my pointing finger I reached out at his arm. At first softly I poked his skin. He did the same, but to my chest. It seemed to me that he might have had thoughts of me being fragile, the same way I though of him. Something like me thinking he was soft as a jellyfish and his thoughts that I may be soft as chocolate pudding.

It was my first touching a being in the company of someone white. A twist of fate made it to be the same for that boy. It was exactly the same. The kid and I became friends that moment. When the yacht left Great Harbour, I watched with the hope that they would return someday. For almost two months, I would make my way to the bay in order to check if their vessel had returned.

That was my first dealing with the so-called white man.

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Virgin Islands Stories: Dr. Paul Erdmann Isert

Labor and the Plantation Economy of the West Indies
Failing to find gold, the Europeans who originally came to the West Indies endeavored to make their fortunes as masters of plantations exporting sugar and other valuable tropical products. However, these West Indian plantations would require a great number of low paid laborers.

As other Europeans would not consider relocating to this hot and unhealthy part of the world, working long hours (from sunup to sundown) all to be paid an abysmally low wage, the answer to this labor problem was to procure enslaved workers, who would have no choice in the matter.

As a result, Africans, captured by slave traders, were chained and shackled, and brought to European slave-processing stations on the west coast of Africa. These unfortunates were then crammed into slave ships under the most horrible conditions imaginable, and transported across thousands of miles of ocean to labor in a strange land controlled by cruel and barbaric overseers.

Dr. Paul Erdmann Isert
Dr. Paul Erdmann Isert, a German national who had studied and lived in Denmark, came to the west coast of Africa in 1783. He was appointed Chief Surgeon at the fortified Danish settlement of Christianborg, which today would be in the nation of Ghana. He obtained this position even though he was very young, because it was a job no one wanted.

After a few years in Christianborg, Isert signed on as a physician aboard a slave ship, where he observed first hand a glimpse of the horrifying reality of what had become a large and lucrative ongoing business .

Inherent Stupidity of the System and a Reasonable Alternative
Sickened by the horror and human misery he saw, both in the slave-processing bins of Christianborg and aboard the ship, Isert came up with an alternative. The use of enslaved laborers on West Indian colonial plantations, Isert reasoned, was not only inhumane, cruel and immoral, but also absurdly stupid.

In a letter sent from St. Croix in 1787 to his father, Isert asked these questions:

“Why did our forefathers not have the sense to found plantations right there on the fertile continent of Africa; plantations for sugar, coffee, cacao, cotton and other articles that had become so necessary in Europe?

“Had we gone to Africa with the leaf of the olive tree in our hands rather than weapons of murder, willingly would the natives have given us access to the best and most fertile parts of their lands, areas which for untold years had been lying desolate. Why was not our approach more Christian, more intelligent and humane? Why?

“These African people would have helped us in freedom and, for low wages would have given us greatness and riches with no offense against nature, or our personal and national consciences.

“Why did we have to uproot vast numbers of people from their homelands, subject them to agony, torture, humiliation, and death; transplant them to alien continents, Caribbean islands, big and small? Why?”

Friends in High Places
Isert wanted to demonstrate that the establishment of working plantations on the continent of Africa could be practical and profitable. To this end, he enlisted the aid of Ernest Schimmelmann who was then the Danish Minister of Finance.

Schimmelmann, a well-known and well-off liberal, who was instrumental in the passage of the law ending the Danish Atlantic slave trade, agreed to finance Isert’s endeavor.

Isert also had an important ally in Africa, the Asante king, Osei Kwame. The two had become friends after Dr. Isert had treated an cured the king’s ailing sister.

Isert sailed to Africa in the summer of 1788 and established a plantation at the base of the Awapim Mountains, purchasing the land from Osei Kwame, on behalf of the king of Denmark.

With the help of Osei Kwame, who shared Isert’s enthusiasm about the plan, paid workers cleared the land and began cultivation of sugar and coffee.

On January 16, 1789, Isert wrote a report for the King of Denmark in which he expressed the fine initial success that he was enjoying.

Enemies in High Places
On January 21, 1789, just five days after writing the report, Dr. Isert was found dead on his African plantation reportedly a victim of a tropical fever.

Other information that surfaced later indicated, however, that he had been murdered in a conspiracy that was instigated by European financiers of the slave trade and powerful plantation owners on St. Croix in the Danish West Indies. Isert’s actual assassination was said to have been carried out by corrupt government officials at Christianborg and their henchmen.

Project Abandoned
After Isert’s death, the African plantation project was abandoned.

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The Right Way, The Wrong Way & the Virgin Island Way

An example of how things work in the Virgin Islands
A letter sent to me addressed to my PO Box at the Cruz Bay Post Office from Jolly Dog is deposited in the “local mail” slot at the same Cruz Bay Post Office. The letter is taken to St. Thomas, put on a plane to San Juan, processed and sent back to St. Thomas on another flight, put on a mail truck which takes the barge over to St. John where the mail is sorted and the letter placed in my box at the Cruz Bay Post Office. Call me silly, but wouldn’t it have been more efficient to put in in my PO Box, which is less than three feet away from the mail slot by the way, in the first place?

Post Marked San Juan
Post Marked "San Juan"

This is how an express mail package goes from St. John to America. It gets there, in a rather timely fashion, but in the same rather roundabout manner. It goes from St. John to Puerto Rico then from Puerto Rico back to St. Thomas and then into custom on St. Thomas and than out to the United States proper. It’s the Island way! To demonstrate that I’m not making this up I have added the  USPS website tracking information to the narrative, shown in red.

I print my shipping label
Electronic Shipping Info Received, June 02, 2009

I bring package to the Post Office in Cruz Bay and the USPS acknowledges acceptance
Acceptance, June 02, 2009, 2:42 pm, ST JOHN, VI 00830

Package is processed in Cruz Bay
Processed through Sort Facility, June 02, 2009, 3:43 pm, ST JOHN, VI 00830

Package is sent to San Juan Puerto Rico and processed
Processed through Sort Facility, June 02, 2009, 4:40 pm, CAROLINA, PR 00979

Package is sent to St. Thomas back in the good old Virgin Islands and processed again
Processed through Sort Facility, June 02, 2009, 5:27 pm, ST THOMAS, VI 00802

Package goes to customs in St. Thomas
Inbound Into Customs

Package clears customs in St. Thomas
Inbound Out of Customs, June 02, 2009, 9:05 pm

Package sent to America
Arrival at Unit, June 04, 2009, 9:17 am, DOWNERS GROVE, IL 60515

Again my question, an answer for which I’m sure must exist, is “why not just send the mail that’s bound for St. Thomas over to St. Thomas in the first place?”

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St. John Virgin Islands: Press Release


Sports Banquet- Friday June 5th 6:00 p.m. at JESS School in the cafeteria on St. John.  Students from 3 St. John Schools will be recognized for their participation in sporting programs and awards will be given. This banquet will highlight the positive side of the sporting programs here on St. John in lieu of the recent cancellations of sporting programs on St. Thomas. There are a lot of individuals and groups making sure our kids have a safe and enjoyable time playing sports here on St. John.  Many programs are now in place and more will occur during the summer months.  Contact Lecia Richmond at 626-1871 for more info.

USFSC- using sports for social change, a local St. John group will be in attendance and will distribute sporting balls to the 3 schools present. Nike, in conjunction with benefactor Dean Doeling, a senior design production Artist for Nike, has been sending sporting balls and equipment to St. John for our local youth. The intent of this group is to assist any sporting programs that are all ready in place and to donate sporting equipment to them and our schools and to our youth. To date there have been over 230 sporting balls shipped to St. John, many are still in route. The first donation from USFSC was 20 baseball gloves to the Ruby Rutnik Softball Tournament this year which afterwards distributed them to 3 various schools. Some fun events for our youth are also in the planning for early October. Please contact me, info below, or Dean Doeling at Nike, 503-532-6756  for further info.

Thank you and Be Well

Luigi Costello
Cell: 340-344-5492

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Margaret Hill Overlook, St. John USVI

Margaret Hill Overlook
The highlights of the Caneel and Margaret Hill Trail are the summits of the two hill from where magnificent views can be enjoyed. At the top of Caneel Hill there is a viewing platform, but the view at the summit of Margaret Hill, lacking any man-made structures, is obscured by bush. Nonetheless a little bit east of the actual summit there is a short spur trail that leads to a large flat rock from where there are commanding views to the west and south.

If your destination is the Margaret Hill Overlook the shortest and easiest way to access it is by taking the spur trail off the Water Catchment Trail at the Centerline Road trailhead.

It is really a specially beautiful place to be. If you’re hiking the Caneel Margaret Hill Trail, keep an eye out for the spur trail to the rock outcropping. Don’t miss this one!

On that beautiful clear weekend afternoon, I took the easy way up to the overlook and shot the following video:

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America Hill Spur Trail: St. John Virgin Islands

As I’m now in the process of updating my best selling book, St. John Off the Beaten Track, I am revisiting the trails of St. John looking for any changes.

Reading Debbie Hime’s account of the America Hill Spur Trail in the St. John Sun Times, I find that the trail is no longer the struggle it used to be.

The main Cinnamon Bay Trail is pretty much unchanged since my last printing, except that the trees at the top of the trail have grown taller and the overlook near the Centerline trailhead is now obscured.

The America Hill Spur, which leads to the America Hill Estate House, on the other hand, has been significantly improved, thanks to the efforts of Friends of the Park trail volunteers. The scratchy sweet lime that lined the narrow path is no more and the bush at the top of the hill has been removed so that once again there is a spectacular view.

America Hill Estate House

View from the Sea

Old Photo by Dean Hulse

Ruins in Unstable Condition

South Corner

View to the West

Old Photo by Dean Hulse

Bake Oven

Sugar Boiling Pot

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