Tag Archives: USVI

Margaret Hill Overlook

Shortcut to the Margaret Hill Overlook
If all you want to do is get to the Margaret Hill Overlook and prefer not to take such a long hike, you can begin your walk at the entrance to the Water Catchment Trail at Centerline Road. Walk down to the spur trail. From there it’s a much shorter walk to the overlook…. read more about the Caneel and Margaret Hills Trail

Margaret Hill Overlook, St. John USVI
Margaret Hill Overlook

Videographer Poses at Margaret Hill Overlook

Margaret Hill Overlook, St. John US Virgin Islands
View from Overlook

St. John Events

St. John Historical Society
Leayle Robinson, CGL Board Member, give a presentation on his book “From Mary’s Point to John’s Folly – the Petrus Family Tree” at the January membership meeting of the St. John Historical Society. He will also present a slide show highlighting prominent family members and their connections and contributions to St. John history. Mr. Robinson is an experienced and knowledgeable genealogist and has much to share. Bethany Moravian Church at 7:00 p.m.

St. John Weather

Scattered showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 81. East wind 16 to 23 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Virgin Islands News

V.I. wins fight to keep report on ‘urgent’ conditions at Golden Grove from public
By JOY BLACKBURN (Daily News Staff)
Published: January 13, 2014

ST. CROIX – The territory has successfully blocked the public from seeing an expert’s report on “urgent” conditions at Golden Grove prison, the same week a stabbing and at least one other reported assault occurred inside the facility.

A federal court has found that the conditions inside Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility violate the protection against cruel and unusual punishment afforded to U.S. citizens in the 8th Amendment of the Constitution. Those findings are part of an ongoing case that has been litigated by federal civil rights lawyers for more than 27 years in an attempt to get the territory to treat its prisoners humanely.

Court documents that the public can see suggest that the conditions at the prison that the expert was warning of were serious.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed a notice with the court that said it was attaching correspondence and a report on “Urgent Conditions of Confinement Concerns at GGACF.” GGACF is Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility. The report, according to the notice, was filed on behalf of the independent monitor, Kenneth Ray.

Ray’s job includes monitoring conditions inside the prison, as well as the V.I. Corrections Bureau’s implementation of the provisions of a settlement agreement aimed at bringing conditions at Golden Grove up to constitutional standards….

His job also requires him to report the information he gathers and his observations to the court on a quarterly basis under a certain procedure that gives the parties a two-week review period and an opportunity for input before a report is made public….

…Later on Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department opposed that motion, arguing that the monitor must be able to alert the court to “emergency conditions in Golden Grove that are placing prisoners’ lives in danger.”

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Wilma Lewis agreed with the territory and ordered that the notice to the court and the attached correspondence and report be stricken from the record….

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St. John USVI Environment: St. John’s Sandy Beaches

St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI) Beaches

tropical sand close up
Tropical Beach Sand Close Up – Photo by WP Armstrong

Where does the sand come from?
The satiny soft coral sand found on the majority of St. John’s beaches comes, almost entirely, from the coral reef community. This is the main reason why our sand is so much finer and softer then the sand found on most continental beaches, which comes from terrestrial sources, such as the weathering of rocks.

Sea Urchin
Sea Urchin

Most of our sand is produced by the force of waves and currents acting on the coral reef as coral, calcareous algae, (algae with a hard exoskeleton) the shells of various sea creatures and sea urchin spines (which make up those little black grains of sand) are gradually broken down into sand sized grains.

Parrotfish
Parrotfish

In addition, reef-grazing fish, such as parrotfish, produce a significant amount of the sand found on our beaches. Parrotfish exist on a diet of algae, which they scrape off the surface of coral rock with their fused teeth that look like a parrot’s beak. They then grind this coral and algae mixture to a fine powder. The algae covering the coral are absorbed as food. The remainder of their meal passes through their digestive tracts and is excreted in the form of sand.

Parrotfish are not shy and by donning a mask fin and snorkel, you can easily observe them at work and even hear the sound of their beaks scraping against the coral, then every so often you may witness them relieving themselves of the indigestible portions of their meal in the form of a fine sand that will settle slowly to the bottom of the reef.

blue tang
Blue Tang

Other grazing fish, such as the blue tang, perform the same function. The amount of sand produced in this manner is considerable – about one ton of sand per acre of reef per year.

How does sand get to the beach?
Sand is basically a waste product of the coral reef. This waste, which would otherwise suffocate the coral, is removed by the action of waves and currents over the reef. This sand collects in a kind of storage area around the perimeter of the reef.

During the winter, storms and cold fronts coming from North America and from over the central Atlantic generate large ocean swells. When these reach the north shore of St. John, they become steeper and break on the shore. This winter phenomenon is called ground sea and it serves to move the sand from the storage areas around the reef deposited it on the beach.

In the summer the same process can occur on the southern coasts, caused by the action of the trade winds or by tropical storms or hurricanes coming from the southeast.

How is sand lost from beaches?
Although sand is regularly brought to the beach from the sea, it is also consistently being lost from the beach. Because most St John beaches are found within bays protected by headlands or points on both sides of the beach, sand is not washed laterally along the coast and lost in this manner, as is the case on the beaches of the continental United States.

However, sand from the drier upper portion of the beach is often blown by winds past the line of vegetation where it will stay forever in the form of soil.

On the wetter lower beach, sand is constantly washed back and forth by waves. This makes the grains get smaller and smaller. When they get so fine that they go into suspension, they are washed back out to sea and lost.

Hurricanes or strong tropical storms are other natural phenomena that could result in sand loss. Large storms may either take away or add sand to existing beaches. They may even create new beaches. In general, extremely high ground seas and hurricanes accompanied by high tides will send large amounts of sand past the vegetation line or wash it back out to sea so far that the depth of the water will be too deep for the sand to be recycled by ordinary ground seas. Moreover, these storms often destroy large sections of reef, reducing the sand supply for years to come.

The balance
The lost sand will be replaced reef community and the beaches will remain in their sandy state. That is, as long as the dynamics of sand production and sand loss are in balance. This balance can be disturbed by natural causes such as hurricanes or coral diseases or as a result of interference by human beings in the natural order of nature. This interference can create a more insidious and continual imbalance, then imbalances caused by natural factors.

Removing sand from the beach or the sea floor can have extremely long lasting effects. For example, dredging operations take sand from sand storage areas, preventing it from reaching the beaches in times of ground seas or tropical storms.

Taking sand from the beach can also be irreversible. When St. John first began to experience the boom of tourism with the resultant construction of roads and buildings, a great deal of sand was taken from the beaches to make concrete. The loss of sand in this manner was so dramatic that the beaches never recovered and some of north shore beaches are now considerably narrower than they used to be. (For instance the now narrow Big Maho Bay used to be on of the widest beaches on St. John.) The process of recovery from this interference is extremely slow, and if the dredging or the mining of sand is continual, the sand beach will be replaced by rocky shoreline.

The worst threat to beaches comes from damage to the coral reef.

It is important to remember that a healthy coral reef is responsible for the continued existence of our beaches, and those factors that negatively impact the reef, such as pollution or runoff caused by irresponsible development will eventually lead to the disappearance of our beaches, which are, perhaps, St. John’s the most valuable resource.

st john sunrise

St. John Weather

Scattered showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 81. East northeast wind 20 to 22 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

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St. John Underwater Environment: Seagrass

St. John Marine Life: seagrass
Shoal Grass at Maho Bay

seagrass001Local seagrass species include shoal grass, turtle grass and manatee grass. These underwater grasses are commonly found on the sandy bottoms of calm bays and between coral reefs. They reproduce and grow by means of an underground root called a rhizome, which lies down horizontally just beneath the sand. From this rhizome the blades of grass grow up and the roots grow down, forming a mat of root fibers that hold the seagrass to the ocean floor. Seagrass is dependent on sunlight and therefore, cannot tolerate cloudy water for extended periods of time.

Seagrasses control erosion by holding down loose sandy soils with their mat of roots, thus protecting our beautiful beaches. Moreover, they help prevent turbidity, or water cloudiness. This is an important function because cloudy water blocks out sunlight.

Seagrasses control turbidity by trapping sediments washed down from land during rains and ultimately incorporating them into a seabed soil that is held securely by the seagrass roots. The blades of grass also slow down bottom currents and keep loose sediments from getting churned up.

Seagrass beds support a great deal of marine life. They provide nutrition for the green turtle and queen conch, and serve as a habitat for many species of juvenile fish and other sea creatures that are small enough to hide between the blades of grass.

Although not quite as sensitive as corals, seagrasses are also threatened by turbidity. They are currently in grave danger from the exponential increase in residential and commercial development on St. John. The prime turbidity-causing culprit is the failure to pave roads. Other enemies of clear water include unprotected and irresponsible excavation, especially on steep slopes, and improper sewage treatment.

A more immediate threat to seagrass comes from the proliferation of boat anchoring. The act of setting down and then pulling up an anchor tears the seagrass up by the roots and destroys the rhizomes, making recovery slow and difficult. Worse yet, when anchors are set improperly, they may drag, causing widespread damage that often includes injury to nearby coral reefs. Moreover, as an anchored boat swings around in the wind, the anchor chain is dragged over the sea floor in an arc, destroying all the grass in its path.

St. John Sea Creatures: Turtle
Sea Turtle Grazes Seagrass

Years ago, harbors such as Caneel, Maho and Francis Bays had extensive seagrass cover. In those days literally hundreds of conch ambled slowly through the seagrass leaves at the bottom of the bays. With the advent of modern tourism and the great increase in the number of boats anchoring in these picturesque and well-protected harbors, the seagrass has all but disappeared and the conch population has plummeted.

Today a mooring program has been instituted whereby mariners enjoying many of the most popular bays in St. John may secure their vessels to moorings as an alternative to anchoring. The mooring program is a powerful step towards the preservation of seagrass and coral reefs. Unlike anchors, moorings are relatively permanent fixtures. This minimizes the disruption of the seabed. Moreover, moorings do not depend on heavy chains lying on the sea bottom for a secure bite, nor are they subject to dragging.

Excerpted from St. John Off the Beaten Track by Gerald Singer

St. John Weather

Isolated showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 81. East wind 21 to 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

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St. John Happenings: Francis Bay Trail Update

Friends of the National Park Needs Construction Volunteers

St. John Source
By Lynda Lohr — February 23, 2012
Help wanted. The Friends of V.I. National Park needs volunteers to help with building an extension on the park’s Francis Bay accessible trail. Work starts at 8 a.m. Monday and is expected to last up to about six days.

Friends President Joe Kessler is calling “as many as would like to come out.” Volunteers should meet in the Francis Bay parking lot adjacent to the beach…. read more

St. John Live Music Schedule for tonight, Friday, February 24

Aqua Bistro – Mark Wallace & Rich Greengold- 5:30 – 8:30 – 776-5336
Beach Bar
– The ISH with John Magne & the Subdudes – 9:00 – 777-4220
Castaways – Mikey P – 9:00 – 777-3316
Driftwood Dave’s – John W Lee – 7:00 – 10:00 – 777-4015
Island Blues – Long Lost Friend – 8:00 – 11:00 – 776-6800
Miss Lucy’s – David Reed – 6:00 – 9:00 – 693-5354
Morgan’s Mango– Lauren – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-8141
Ocean Gril
l – T-Bird – 6:30 – 9:00 – 693-3304
Shipwreck Landing
– Woody Lissauer – 6:00 – 9:30

See the weekly St. John live music schedule

Events

St. John Folklife Festival
Annaberg Plantation – 10:00 – 3:00 … more information

Hassel Island USVI

The above photo was taken from Fort Shipley on Hassel Island. See more Hassel Island photos

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St. John Makes top Destination Lists for Fromers and Lonley Planet

St. John makes the Frommer’s Top 10 Favorite Spots list
The recently released Frommer’s top 10 favorite spots list includes: Sanibel Island, Florida; Island of Bali, Indonesia; Paris; St. John in the U.S. Virgin Island; Cairo, Egypt; Bonaire, one of the ‘ABC” islands of the southern Caribbean; Chiang Rai, Thailand; New York’s Greenwich Village and Kenya’s wildlife….
Read More

Frommer’s favorites
1. Sanibel Island: “Idyllic haven of white-sand beaches …excellent restaurants, good shopping” and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
2. The Island of Bali, in Indonesia: “Inhabited by some of the most gracious people on Earth, who invite you to witness their religious processions, wedding ceremonies and joyous funerals.”
3. Paris: “I can never get enough of this glorious capital, whose beauty has been so well-captured in Woody Allen’s recent ‘Midnight in Paris’ film.”
?4. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands: “One of the Caribbean’s less developed islands (90 percent of it is a national park).”
5. Cairo, Egypt: Sites such as the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum with its relics of Tut, the Nile and its river trips to Upper Egypt “come as close to being indispensable destinations as any I know.”
6. Bonaire, southern Caribbean: A “scuba diving capital” and “a small, laid-back and lightly populated island.”
7. Yachats, Oregon coast: “A tiny seaside town, and yet with several gourmet restaurants.”
8. Chiang Rai, Thailand: “The Hill Tribes, living much as people did during the Stone Age, are fascinating.”
9. New York City’s Greenwich Village (and its off-Broadway theaters): “Many of the most important new trends and causes in America …got their first hearing in these small theaters.”
10. Kenya: “You are guaranteed to see tens of thousands of animals — wildebeest, giraffes, lions, elephants, rhinoceros and more.”
SOURCE: frommers.com

Lonely Planet Ranks U.S. Virgin Islands as top U.S. Travel Destination for 2012
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism is pleased to start the New Year with news that the Territory has been ranked number one on Lonely Planet’s list of “Top 10 US travel destinations for 2012.”…
Read article from South Florida News

St. John Music Schedule for tonight Wednesday 1/18

Castaways – Kenny Floyd – 8:00 – 777-3316
Coconut Coast Studios – St. John Flutes – 5:30-7:00 – 776-6944
Driftwood Dave’s– Carly Powell’s Caribbean Band – 7:00 – 10:00 – 777-4015
Sun Dog Cafe – Wednesday Night Jam – 7:30-10:00 – 244-9713

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St John Virgin Islands Memories: Great Thatch Scorpion

Soon after coming to the Virgin Islands in 1969, I made two major purchases, a 1954 Mercedes Benz with running boards and a four speed shift on the steering column and a 16-foot fiberglass runabout with a 35-horsepower Johnson engine.

I have loved boats for as long as I can remember, which goes back to being about four years old, with my mom and dad, who had a small boat named after me, which they kept on City Island in the Bronx.

But now, I was in boat heaven, the Virgin Islands, venturing farther and farther from the home port, Charlotte Amalie Harbor on St. Thomas.

One day I met a nice young couple who suggested a camping trip to one of the many “deserted tropical islands,” which beckoned to be savored and explored. Sounded like a great idea to me!

Let me say, that although I had a great deal of experience with small boats, it was all on the American mainland. Tropical-island-wise and camping-wise, I was a complete novice. However, my new friends expressed a proficiency with camping out, needing only bare bones equipment and supplies, and we soon resolved to put together an overnight camp on a deserted tropical Virgin Island.

We headed out one morning not long afterward. For a reason that I can’t remember, probably no real reason at all, we chose the island of Great Thatch as our camping venue, ignorant of the fact that it was in the British and not the American Virgins, but in those days it hardly mattered.

We made it in to the beach through the shallow reef that extends the full length of the beach on the island’s south coast without incident (to this day I don’t know how) and set up a rudimentary camp, which consisted of a lean-to covered by a piece of canvas. We spent the day snorkeling, fishing, picnicking and walking around the beach, the interior of the island being for the most part inaccessible to us either because of the thick bush or the steep hillsides. At night we made a fire, cooked up a fish and some potatoes and retired for a night that I remember as being somewhat uncomfortable, due to lack of a soft mattress, the occasional rats that boldly approached wherever there was any food and the not so occasional mosquitoes and sand flies against which chemical warfare was declared.

On the positive side, the night sky on that moonless night, which in those days was almost completely unchallenged by the loom of electric lights from Tortola, St. John, or the east end of St. Thomas, provided us with a sky that contained more stars than I had ever seen before or have ever seen since.

Virgin Islands Scorpion
Virgin Islands Scorpion

I awoke early in the morning to a powerful stinging sensation on my leg. Looking down I saw that I had been stung by a rather large and evil-looking scorpion. I had never even seen a scorpion before and I was, shall we say, “concerned.”

I didn’t know what to do, if anything, and I woke up my new friends hoping that they would know something.

The guy was like me, clueless, but his girlfriend seemed to know something about scorpions.

“They’re poisonous,” she explained, “very poisonous!

“Are you sure?” I asked the girl.

“Absolutely,” she answered.

“Oh great,” I thought to myself. “This is one hell of a place to get stung by a poisonous scorpion.

“What should I do?” I asked.

“You need to get to a hospital right away or you’ll die,” she answered.

On the one hand, I don’t feel like I’m dying, but on the other, I’m staring to feel panicky.

“OK, lets go!” I say.

We loaded the boat and hastily head back to St. Thomas where supposedly, doctors would give me some rare anti venom and save my life. But by the time we reach Caneel Bay on the north shore of St. John, I’m feeling fine. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m not poisoned and “every little thing is gonna be all right.”

“Let’s stop on St. John,” I announce, “I really feel fine. I want to talk with someone there, someone who knows what to do.”

Well on St. John, I found out a bit about scorpions, which is that unlike some other varieties found in the desserts, Virgin Islands scorpions, do sting, (haa’d me son) but, unless you are allergic to them, don’t cause much harm, let alone kill you.

That was that. I was out of the woods. Nonetheless, even though it was still morning, I knocked down a shot of rum, to cool out.

We hung around Cruz Bay for the rest of the morning, had lunch at Eric’s Hilltop (now the Virgin Islands legislature offices) and returned to St. Thomas in the afternoon, my supposedly fatal scorpion sting reduced to a small red bump on my leg that maybe itched a little.

And so ended my first experience with camping out. All in all, good memories.

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St. John Virgin islands: Caribbean Travel News

USVI to Receive Economic Aid from the President’s Stimulus Package
President Obama’s economic stimulus package, which has been passed by the US House of Representatives, includes funding for the USVI.

The package includes significant tax cuts for the middle class and working families. As these tax cuts would negatively impact the Virgin Islands’ revenues, a provision has been included in the bill to reimburse the Virgin Islands for this loss.

Read article in Caribbean Net News

Largest Cruise Ship Ever will Include the Virgin Islands in its Itinerary

The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic will sail to St. Thomas beginning in 2010. Read article…

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Caribbean Travel: Caribbean Resorts Ready to Deal

The economic recession has been hitting the Caribbean rather hard. After all, when times are tough and people feel they need to tighten their financial belt, I would think that travel and vacation spending would be one of the first things to go. Statistics from the Virgin Islands for October visits are down some 39% and in order to mitigate this trend, the Virgin Islands, like other Caribbean destinations are offering deals, discounts and incentives.

On St. John, the Westin Resort and the Estate Concordia Campground are participating in the USVI’s Winter Escape incentive, which includes $300.00 in Travelers Checks, $50 credit on meals and attractions, $1500.00 worth of discount coupons, a fifth night free and the SPF100 Sunshine Protection Plan, which reads : If it rains on your vacation, we’ll give you $100.

You’ll have to book before January 31,  for travel until March 31, 2009

New York Time, Sunday Travel Section

By MICHELLE HIGGINS
Published: January 25, 2009

“…Entire islands are on sale. The United States Virgin Islands, where visitors dropped 39 percent to 104,969 for the month of October, has an Extended Winter Escape promotion for travel through March that includes $300 in American Express traveler’s checks, $100 in vouchers toward island attractions and restaurants and a fifth night free at various hotels including the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott on St. Thomas and the Westin on St. John…”

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Virgin Islanders and the Right to Vote

It is interesting to note that a United States citizen living in any part of the world, be it on the remote banks of the Amazon, in the mountains of Tibet, the North Pole or, I would imagine, in a submarine hundreds of fathoms below the surface of the ocean or circling the Earth in a space station, all can cast their ballot to decide who will be the next president of the United States.

Except, that is, if that citizen happens to reside in the United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico or in another United States territory or possession. United States citizens living in these territories, commonwealths or possessions do, however, retain the right to be drafted into the US military.

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