Saint Eustatius, known affectionately to the locals as Statia or Statius is a special
municipality (officially a "public
body") of the Netherlands.
It lies in the northern Leeward
Islands portion of the West Indies, southeast of the Virgin
Islands and immediately to the northwest of Saint
Kitts and Nevis
and to the southeast of Saba.
The island is named after the legendary Christian
Eustace. The regional capital is Oranjestad.
Formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, Saint Eustatius became a public body
(often referred to as "special municipality") within the country of the
Netherlands on the 10th of October 2010. The island has an area eight square miles. In 2004, the population was
estimated at 2,498 inhabitants. During the 18th century the island had the
sobriquet 'Rock of Gold' with a population of 8000 - the days of wealth.
The official language is Dutch,
is mostly spoken. A local English-based creole
is also spoken informally. Travel to the island by air is through F.D.
History: The island was seen by Christopher
Columbus in 1493 and claimed by many different nations over the
course of the next 150 years. In 1636, it was colonised by the chamber of Zeeland,
and as of 1678, the islands of St. Eustatius, Sint
Maarten and Saba
fell under direct command of the Dutch
West India Company, with a commander stationed on St. Eustatius to
govern all three. At the time, the island was of some importance for sugar
cultivation. In the 18th century, St. Estatius's geographical placement – at the
fulcrum between the Leeward and Windward
Islands of the Lesser
Antilles, in the middle of Danish (Virgin
Islands), English (Jamaica,
and Spanish (Cuba,
territories – its large harborage, neutrality
and status from 1756 as a free
port with no customs
duties were all factors in it becoming a major point of transhipment of goods,
and a locus for trade in contraband.
The island was known as The Golden Rock and its economy flourished by
ignoring the trade embargoes between the great powers. Edmund Burke said of the island in 1781 “It has no produce, no
fortifications for its defense, nor martial spirit nor military regulations ...
Its utility was its defense. The universality of its use, the neutrality of its
nature was its security and its safeguard. Its proprietors had, in the spirit of
commerce, made it an emporium for all the world. ... Its wealth was prodigious,
arising from its industry and the nature of its commerce”.
"First Salute": Since the island sold arms
to anyone willing to pay, it was one of the few places from which the rebellious
colonies could obtain weaponry. This good relationship between St.
Eustatius and the United
States resulted in the noted "First Salute" of the 16th November
1776, when Commander Johannes de Graaff of St. Eustatius decided to
return the salute
fire of the visiting American brig Andrew
Doria by firing the cannons of Fort
Oranje, the first international acknowledgment of the independence of the
United States. The gesture provided the title for Barbara
W. Tuchman's 1988 book The First Salute: A View of the American
took the incident seriously, and protested against the continuous trade between
the United States and St. Eustatius. In 1778, Lord
Stormont claimed in Parliament
that, "if Sint Eustatius had sunk into the sea three years before, the United
Kingdom would already have dealt with George
Washington". The trade between St. Eustatius and the United States
was the main reason for the Fourth
Anglo-Dutch War, which was disastrous for the Dutch economy.
As a result of the war, St. Eustatius was taken (pillaged) by British
Brydges Rodney on the 3rd of February 1781. Commander De
Graaff, who at the time did not know about the declaration
of war, saw that he was facing superior forces and surrendered the
island after firing two rounds as a show of resistance for the honor of Dutch
Admiral Lodewijk van Bylandt, who commanded ships of the Dutch Navy which were
in the harbour. Ten months later, the island was conquered by the French,
allies of the Dutch
in this war. The Dutch regained command over the island in 1784. This all
marked the decline of the island, also it was eclipsed by other Dutch ports, such as those on the islands of
Maarten, and the population gradually reduced in number.
Jewish population: The island was home to a Jewish settlement, mainly merchants and
plantation owners. Within two days of the island being surrendered to the
British in February 1781, part of the Jewish community – all the men
– together with governor de Graaff, were forcibly deported, being given
only 24 hours notice. The Honen Dalim Synagogue, the
second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, built in 1739, and many of
the Jewish homes, were burned down by the British Admiral Rodney. The synagogue stood in ruins from 1781 until 2001, when its walls were
restored as part of the Historic
Core Restoration Project. Now funds are being sought from private
donors to construct a modern roof on the ancient ruins. There are no images
showing what the synagogue looked like when it was in use, therefore a proper
'restoration' of the structure to its former condition is not
Dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles: Unlike the other member islands of the Netherlands Antilles, the people
of St Eustatius did not vote to leave. In an 8th of April 2005,
referendum, 77% of voters voted to remain within the Netherlands Antilles,
compared to 21% who voted for closer ties with the Netherlands. However, once
the other islands decided to leave, meaning that the Netherlands Antilles would
become defunct, the island council opted to become a public body of the
Netherlands like Saba and Bonaire.
Geography: Geographically, the island is saddle-shaped, with the 602 meter-high dormant volcano Quill, (from Dutch kuil, meaning 'pit' - because of its crater) to the southeast and the
smaller pair Signal Hill/Little Mountain (or Bergje) and Boven Mountain to the
northwest. The Quill crater is a popular tourist attraction on the island. The
bulk of the island's population lives in the "dip" between the two areas, which
crosses the center of the island. The Great
Hurricane of 1780 caused cataclysmic damage and the loss of over
4,000 lives on St. Eustatius. The national parks of St. Eustatius, comprising the Quill/Boven park,
the Botanical Garden, and the Marine Park, are all under the control of the non
profit foundation STENAPA.
ALL IN ALL NOT REALLY A HOLIDAY