The story goes like this:
Once upon a time, back in the early days of Caribbean colonialism, the captain of a British warship, patrolling at night mistook what is now known as Carval Rock for an actual Spanish caravelle. The captain ordered his men to fire upon the ship, which in the light of dawn proved to be, not the sailing ship with two or three masts and lateen sails used by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries, but a big unsinkable rock. It is also part of the story that cannonballs can be found in the vicinity of the rock testifying to the night long battle.
My friend Ed Gibney, just sent me some photos he took on Carval Rock. I had mentioned in a previous blog how the balanced rock on top of the cay was not as precariously balanced as it might seem at first glance. Seeing is believing and here’s the photos to illustrate how firmly planted the balanced rock is.
In another blog I expressed my disbelief about the popular legend that the rock was mistaken for a Spanish caravel by British sailors who shelled it over the course of a night. A “caravel” being a class of sailing ship often used by Spanish and Portuguese sailors in the 15th and 16th century.
A video by Captain Brandi in an on-stjohn.com blog presents another, more plausible, explanation for the name is given to the cay. He says that Sir Francis Drake used the rock for target practice on his way to attack San Juan.
Ed and Radha approached the seemingly inaccessible cay in kayaks and climbed up on a low small ledge on the south side. Radha made it as far as the balanced rock on the west side, while Ed, a veritable mountain goat, climbed to the higher east side from where he took these remarkable photos.
This boulder which appears to be somewhat precariously balanced on top of Carval Rock has been there since anyone can remember. It has survived hurricanes and earthquakes.
My friend Ed Gibney tell me that he once climbed up to the rock and reports that it’s much more firmly placed than it would seem.
It always amazes me how life can find a way in even the most extreme circumstances. Here on Carval Rock are two small fig trees that have found a way to root themselves into whatever soil has found its way into the rock crevices, withstand the wind, sun and dry conditions and yet hang on to life.
I remember once seeing a tomato plant with ripe cherry tomatoes growing in the accumulated dirt on the edge of the West Side Highway in New York City. The fig tree on Carval Rock seems even more improbable.
For more information about Carval Rock see this earlier blog entry, The Shelling of Carval Rock.
It has been said that Carval Rock, the small Cay located off the north shore of St. John and just northeast of Lovango Cay, got its name because a one night long ago, a British warship fired cannon balls at the rock all night long, the crew believing it to be a Spanish Carval. Rumors also exist that these cannonballs can either still be found at the base of rock some 80 feet below the sea or that someone somewhere has found cannonballs there.
Thinking about it. It’s a nice story, but almost certainly not true. The rock can be plainly seen even at night. It doesn’t move like a ship and it doesn’t return fire. What must the gunners have been drinking to have waged war on this innocuous foe?
About Carval Rock
Fig Tree Wedged into Rock Face
The cay is consists of large limestone boulders that are continually exposed to the sun, wins and surf. During periods of heavy ground seas waves hitting the north side of the cay will spray the whole cliff face, sometimes rising higher than the cay itself.
The only lasting vegetation on the cay are two small trees wedged into the eastern cliff face.
Carval Rock is used as a rookery for seabirds who lay their eggs in crevices on the rock face.
Fishing off Carval Rock
The cay is also a popular dive spot, fishing destination and venue for burials at sea.
All about St John in the beautiful US Virgin Islands (USVI) American Paradise