Second week starts and we have our first batch of volunteers. The first day is spent giving them a run-down on the island history, types of artefacts likely to find, etc. Second day we go out to site.
Now a thing you have to realise about Statia is that, since the golden days that ended about 1800, there hasnt been much of an economy here. Most of the white people left, and those that stayed on were slaves, free black people, and their descendants. Whereas in 1790 there were between 20 and 30 thousand people on this tiny speck, by 1816 there were only 3 thousand left. They had a pretty rough time trying to make any money here, but stayed all the same because it was home I guess, and money aint everyone’s number-one-concern.
So (haha) about 1970 along comes big oil. There had been a refinery in Aruba and Curucao already, and a lot of young people had been leaving Statia to go work at them. So Statia wants a piece of the action. Now it has the second biggest oil terminal in the world, with the biggest tankers in the world stopping here to offload their oil. Mostly the come from the middle east. Statia is well suited to this because it gets real deep, real quick, just offshore, so the big tankers can get close.
The oil is then picked up by smaller tankers and distributed. So it is a funny sight, always oil tankers in the bay, another thing I didnt expect coming to the Caribbean! There is a big concern here to balance the benefits of some industry, with preserving the nature and archaeology on the island, so its not too bad at the moment. But I fear for the future. No matter how many regulations you have in place, it seems that big cash usually wins over time. One thing I dont mind about it is that it seems to be a continuation of Statias history: in the golden days this was essentially a big storehouse for goods, that would be dropped off from all over the world, stored in warehouses, and picked up by others. But where once it was Gold, Guns, Rum, Sugar and Slaves, now its just a shitload of oilly oil.
So anyway, we got to digging. The place we are excavating first was the ‘Big House’ of one of the old plantations. One of the rich merchants from the trading centre of town would have had this as his country estate, and would have come out for the weekends and had raucous parties dedicated to conspicuous consumption of the highest order.
Now the place is on Oil Terminal owned land, and they want to get rid of it because they need to expand the airport. So the way it goes is that we will dig it up over a couple of years, read the artefacts, see what life was like for a rich merchant on Statia, and see just what they got up to on those raucous weekends. And then they will destroy the site. Thats the way it goes. But the actual building has been taken apart systematically and might even be put together again on the side of the volcano and turned into a boutique hotel. Send me an email if you have experience running one and would like to give it a try! We can hook you up.
OK, a lot to write about, and Im going to employ the principle of mystery here: Here is a sneek peak of what we have been digging. I wont bore you with the details at this stage, but more I promise when I can build up a picture of life’s imperfections in the 17th and 18th century!
OK, just about Statia, island time!
But damn, there’s been plenty going on here but work.
Fauna and flora. Lots of stuff around, havent really tried eating any of it yet coz I have done got too lazy being here. But I have observed some things. I spotted a fruit growing outside our door a while ago, and have been watching it mature, getting ready to eat it. But just the other night, I was beaten to it.
Also went to see one hundred baby turtles dig out of a nest and take their first steps into the sea. Was damn inpiring to see the supreme effort they went to actually. I can highly recommend seeing this event, and also a tip: dont be one of those people who takes a million photos and doesnt ever look at things with their eyes. Look at the world, and hold your eyelids apart if thats what it takes to get some wide eyed wonder into you!
Stay tuned for more clues to those wild parties at the country estates people.
Im going to bring them out in the open.