Author: Mark Yokoyama

Amuseum Naturalis Celebrates a Year at The Old House

Amuseum Naturalis is hosting a happy hour on Saturday to celebrate one year of operations at The Old House.

The public is invited to stop by Amuseum Naturalis for an end-of-season happy hour from 4-6pm this Saturday, July 20th. The Amuseum will be celebrating one year at The Old House in French Quarter and the end of the season. After Saturday, the Amuseum will be closed until October.

“It’s hard to believe we launched Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House just a year ago,” said Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer, the association behind the Amuseum. “So many people helped transform the place into a museum, and we’ve had so many great experiences with visitors, school groups and summer camps. We look forward to finishing this fantastic year with a fun happy hour!”

Amuseum Naturalis opened at The Old House on July 22, 2018. Since then, the Amuseum has had over 6,000 visitors. Over 2,000 kids visited with schools, youth groups and summer camps. 

Amuseum Naturalis has welcomed over 6,000 visitors to The Old House over the last year.

Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum of the nature, history and culture of St. Martin and the Caribbean, created by the Les Fruits de Mer association. It is located at the historic Old House in French Quarter on the hill above Le Galion. It is an all-volunteer project, and over 300 people have spent over 5,000 hours to create and operate the Amuseum.

Over 300 people have volunteered to help build Amuseum Naturalis.

Amuseum Naturalis will be open from 9am to noon Tuesday to Saturday until July 20th, and admission is free. It is located at The Old House, on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. It will re-open in October. More information is available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com. Join the happy hour on Facebook.

Bad Medicines

If you lived in St. Martin in the 1800s, hopefully you didn’t get sick very often. For that matter, if you lived in many places in the 1800s, the odds of getting good medical treatment were pretty slim. A visit to the doctor could easily leave you worse off than you were.

In a little brown notebook full of 19th century medical cures used on St. Martin, we encounter a number of medicinal substances used at the time. Many of them are recorded in a list of medicines ordered from New York by Lucas Percival.

One of the first medicines on the list is corrosive sublimate. If you think it sounds bad, you are right. It is a white, crystalline substance made of mercury and chlorine. Mercury itself is very toxic, but this particular preparation is also corrosive. It burned the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines. In large doses it caused kidney failure and death. It was such a dangerous poison it was used to murder people.

A deadly shopping list.

Also on the list was calomel. Calomel is also made of mercury and chloride. Thankfully, it wouldn’t burn you. But it would still give you mercury poisoning. It was used to make people vomit or evacuate their bowels, and it worked because it was poison.

Sugar of lead was on the shopping list, too. Lead acetate is sweet, and was used as a sweetener and a medicine. But we don’t use it today because lead is toxic. Also on the list was tartar emetic, which contains antimony. Its effects are similar to arsenic poisoning.

By comparison, other items on the list were not nearly so bad. Flowers of sulphur act as a fungicide and may have some uses. Opium can be abused, but we still use its active ingredient—morphine—as a pain reliever. Snake oil has become a term for fake medicine, but at least it didn’t do anything, which is better than can be said for corrosive sublimate.

Rounding out the shopping list were a variety of plants and plant preparations: rhubarb, chamomile, camphor, sassafras, sarsaparilla, jalap, lavender and more. It is hard to say if they were used effectively, but most of these plants have some medicinal properties. Better still, they aren’t deadly poisons.

Although medical science wasn’t much of a science back then, western doctors had adopted some plant cures. Most of these came from other parts of the world with more developed plant medicine traditions. Some of the medicinal recipes in this book also combine purchased medicines with local plants. Perhaps European doctors on St. Martin were learning plant medicine from St. Martiners of African descent. And hopefully using that knowledge to provide better care.

Do you know any local remedies? Share them by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Cast of Characters

In a little brown notebook full of 18th century medical cures and other valuable information, many people are mentioned. Some are patients, some are doctors. Some are notable figures in St. Martin history, others we may never know.

Some remind us that there was a patient behind each treatment, like the woman Judy. She appears in the title of a remedy: “For the dry Belly ache such as the woman Judy had.” Others invoke family names still common on St. Martin, like the pills to J.B. Gumbs “to act on the liver.”

Some tell a story of inter-island connection. A number of cures are recorded from a Dr. Griffin from St. Kitts, and one from “the French Doctor Laguionie.” Others help us place the notebook in history. One medical recipe was “recommended for the man Will belonging to the Estate Mary’s Fancy.” This seems to show that this was written during the time of slavery.

Parson Hodge is better known for spreading Methodism than curing cough.

Early in the notebook is a list of medicines delivered from New York to Mr. Lucas Percival. He was born around 1809 and died in 1877. He is best known as the owner of the Diamond Estate in Cole Bay. Just after emancipation was announced by the French, 26 enslaved persons left the estate to gain their freedom across the border. This escape showed that slaveholders on the Dutch side could not sustain slavery as it was. They were forced to make changes long before it was finally abolished by the Dutch in 1863.

Most of the cures in the first part of the book come from Dr. Allaway. Peter Welles Allaway was a surgeon who bought the Union plantation in Colombier in 1832. After French emancipation in 1848, Dr. Allaway was the first planter to sign a contract with free workers. Despite being a doctor, Allaway’s contract has a clause noting that he makes no commitment to providing medical care to the workers.

The “Remedy by Parson Hodge of Anguilla for cough and digestion” is noted as “good.” He is the Reverend John Hodge, who introduced Methodism to Anguilla and St. Martin. He was a free man of mixed race — a black mother and white father. He was also the first Caribbean person ordained by the Methodist Church. At the time, there was no doctor on Anguilla, so medicines were provided by the Methodist Missionary Society and care was given by missionaries.

The author of the book is revealed by their daughter’s name.

One more name found in the book is not tied to the major historical changes in 19th century St. Martin, but is still important. Tucked at the bottom of the page is a short recipe: “Pills (by Doctor Allaway) prescribed by him for my daughter Anna Gumbes who had a catarrh, bilious fever and obstinate.”

Do you have an idea who the parents of Anna Gumbes are? Share it by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Get Your Photo Published in Statia Wildlife Book

The Red-billed Tropicbird is one of Statia’s most beautiful animals.

The upcoming book The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Statia is being finalized this summer. The book will be the first wildlife guide for the island. The authors, Hannah Madden and Mark Yokoyama invite Statians to submit photos of wildlife for inclusion in the book.

“Right now, the book has about 500 photos,” explained co-author Mark Yokoyama. “It will be a beautiful way to learn about Statia’s unique wildlife. But we still have a little time to make it even better. If anyone has some great wildlife pictures from Statia, we’d love to see them.”

The Panther Anole is also known as the Green Tree Lizard and the St. Eustatius Anole.

The wildlife book will feature all kinds of animals from Statia, from bats and birds to bugs and snails. The co-authors have been researching and writing the book for the last several years and planning to go to print this summer for a release this winter. The book project has been financed by the generous support of Nustar and is being published by the St. Martin-based nonprofit Les Fruits de Mer.

Co-author Hannah Madden looks out over Statia.

“We are very excited to publish this book,” said co-author Hannah Madden. “Statia’s wildlife is rich and unique. It deserves to be showcased beautifully. We especially hope the book helps youth learn about and love their natural heritage.”

Photo submissions can be made to info@lesfruitsdemer.com. Photographers who have a photo selected for inclusion will receive a copy of the book. More information about the project, including a free ebook, can be found at http://statiawildlife.com.

Salt Blowing

You don’t need a lot to make salt. It takes seawater, a shallow pond and sunlight to evaporate the water. It takes a few months that are dry enough for evaporation to outpace whatever rain is falling.

When salt was an industry on St. Martin, other things were added to basics of salt making. People controlled the timing and amount of seawater flowing into ponds. Canals were built to keep rainwater out of drying salt pans. Levees were built to section salt ponds.

A dusting of white salt surrounds the last water of Chevrise pond.

The management of salt ponds increased yields. It also kept unseasonal rains from ruining a harvest. Levees in salt ponds allowed easier access to the salt pans. All of these things were critical to the industry of salt production, but the basic conditions that produce salt were here naturally.

The Amerindians who lived on St. Martin named it Soualiga, or “land of salt” in the Arawak language. They were harvesting salt on the island long before the first Europeans arrived. But as far as we know, they were simply taking advantage of the salt production happening naturally.

Although much has changed on St. Martin, some ponds still produce salt under the right conditions. This dry year has been perfect. While ponds connected to the sea have remained full, several are dry or nearly so. Chevrise and the airport pond of Grand Case are two of them.

Salt crystals in Grand Case.

On Chevrise, there is just a tiny bit of water left. The pond bed around it is dusted in a white coating of salt. Beyond that white area is cracked brown dirt. This mud dried before the salt was concentrated enough to crystalize.

In Grand Case, the area of the pond near the airport road has quite a bit of salt. Some areas are pretty dry, with large crystals in a crust on damp mud. In other parts, salt crystals and the last of the pond’s water make a salty slush. The crystals glint in the late afternoon sunlight.

Salt slush in the airport pond at Grand Case.

Less than 100 years ago, thousands of tons of salt were being produced in Grand Case each year. It is within the living memory of some on the island, but it feels like another world to most. St. Martin has been made and remade since then.

Somehow, amidst a million modern crises and concerns, the salt itself has returned. It has returned of its own accord. It sparkles in the sun as if to remind us that no matter what we do, no matter what we change or destroy, St. Martin is still a land of salt.

Do you have memories or pictures of salt on St. Martin? Share them by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Salt forms around a stone in Grand Case.

Cure for the Locked Jaw

Lockjaw is a terrifying disease with a terrifying name. Also known as tetanus, it is caused by a toxin that is made by a bacteria. It causes a variety of symptoms, including muscle spasms that can be strong enough to break bones. It can kill, and in the past it killed a lot.

Tetanus was common in tropical areas like the Caribbean. Perhaps the warmth helped tetanus bacteria stay viable when lying dormant in tropical soils. Or maybe people just had more contact with the dirt, working barefoot. Review of historical records from Brazil found that tetanus rates were higher for enslaved persons. This was likely to be true on St. Martin as well. Enslaved persons were doing dangerous jobs and in constant contact with soil.

In a little brown notebook Pierre Beauperthuy’s collection at The Old House, a cure for tetanus is described: “Make the wild tobacco in a strong bath, take out a little of it to make injections, which must be given frequently.” This herbal treatment was combined with some of the popular medicines of the day: “Give the child two grains of calomel immediately, with a grain of antimonial powder.”

A 19th century cure for tetanus.

This cure reflects another terror of tetanus: it was often a killer of infants. In the 19th century, when this cure was likely written, we did not yet understand germs. There was no vaccine for tetanus, and the umbilical cord was often a site of infection. Today, tetanus in infants is much less common. Most mothers are vaccinated, which gives immunity to newborns.

The handwritten cure for tetanus continues with a variety of other measures. Oil is taken to evacuate the bowels. Camphor, opium and candle grease are mixed together and spread along the spine, from the throat to the temples, and around the wrists. The bath and injections are repeated five or six times a day. “Remember to keep the child sitting in the bath until it appears sick at its stomach, but great care taken that it does not take cold.”

Would any of this have worked? Probably not. Even today there is no cure for tetanus. The toxin created by the tetanus bacteria is one of the deadliest and most powerful toxins in the world. Both then and now, working to ease the symptoms during months of recovery is a big part of treatment. Luckily, today we are much less likely to get tetanus in the first place, as long as we are up to date with our vaccinations.

Have you heard stories of diseases or conditions that were once more common on St. Martin? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Festival Celebrates Unique Birds in Unique Ways All Over the Caribbean

Students learn while playing a game from the BirdSleuth Caribbean program. (Photo by Otto Williamson)

At dozens of events on more than 20 islands, people of all ages came together to celebrate and protect their birds. The events were part of the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival, organized by BirdsCaribbean. The festival highlights endemic birds—the ones found only in the region—and how to protect them.

There are over 170 kinds of bird that live only in the Caribbean. Many of these live only on a single island, and many are rare. The events celebrating these unique birds are also unique. Groups all over the region find different ways to celebrate and learn about these birds.

In Puerto Rico, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources took part in several events, including walks, talks and crafts. At the Ponce Museum of Art, a special guided tour shared birds and nature in the museum’s artwork. This was the first tour of its kind in the 60 years since the museum was founded.

Visitors learn about nature in art during a guided tour of Ponce Museum of Art in Puerto Rico. (Photo: Adrianne G. Tossas)

This year’s festival theme was Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution, and many activities featured cleanups and learning about plastic waste. In Jamaica, the National Environment and Planning Agency led activities and games from the BirdSleuth Caribbean program. These activities help kids learn about the problems that birds face, like plastic debris. In Venezuela, the group Ave Zona held a beach cleanup on Isla de Coche. On the island of St. Martin, kids decorated bird feeders made from reused plastic bottles.

Youth decorate bird feeders made from plastic bottles at the Endemic Animal Festival on St. Martin. (Photo by Mark Yokoyama)

“We are so happy that our 18th Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival reached so many people,” said festival coordinator Eduardo Llegus. “We are especially happy to see the many creative ways people have found to share, honor and help our birds. Our birds are unique symbols of our region. To protect them is to protect our heritage, our nature and our communities.”

The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival is organized by BirdsCaribbean. Thousands of youth and adults participate each year in activities hosted by dozens of local groups on over 20 islands. For more information, visit http://birdscaribbean.org.

Analysis of Soils

The method for analyzing soil.

During St. Martin’s agricultural past, people had to understand the land. Much farming knowledge in the Caribbean was passed down from African and Amerindian traditions. These two cultures had experience with tropical crops, and their methods are still used today.

In a little brown notebook Pierre Beauperthuy’s collection at The Old House we find another approach to understanding the land. It is a description of a process of analyzing soil. The method is simple, and could be performed by anyone with just a few items on hand:

The following is a method of analysing soils for ordinary agricultural purposes: Weigh a convenient quantity of earth to be analysed say one thousand grains dried in the open air; dry the same before a fire on paper, so as not to scorch the paper; re-weigh and the difference will be the moisture. Roast the residue, re-weigh, and the difference will be the organic matter. Pour a convenient quantity of muriatic acid on the remainder; when stirred and settled pour it off, and add oxalate of ammonia, the precipitate will be the lime. Mix the remainder with water and stir it well, when a little settled, pour off the turbid mixture and the suspended contents are argillaceous and the deposit siliceous.

By this process, the user can find out the relative amounts of moisture, organic matter, lime, clay and silica in the in a soil sample. These traits can help understand the richness, acidity and drainage of soils. In turn, these factors can help determine which crops may grow best, or how valuable the land is for farming.

While the process for analyzing soil is given in detail, there are no notes about what the results mean. Were St. Martiners making farming decisions based on soil analysis in the 19th century? At the very least, we know they had at least some of the skills to do so.

In the early 1950s, soil analysis was done here using more modern methods. As one could have done with the method in the notebook, organic matter and calcium carbonate were measured. Many other attributes were measured as well, like pH and the levels of nitrogen and phosphate. A report was published in 1955 about soils of St. Martin and the geology beneath them.

A field in the Lowlands prepared for planting in the mid-20th century.

Soil studies in the 1800s may have decided which crop enslaved people were forced to cultivate: cotton, sugarcane or tobacco. The 1955 report told how well crops for the dinner plate and grass for livestock were growing in local soils. We could do better soil analysis today, but the need seems less urgent. Frequent droughts and crop-eating invasive animals like monkeys and iguanas are bigger farming challenges than soil quality. Sadly, our most dire need may be to find out how much we have poisoned and polluted St. Martin’s soils.

What is the soil like in your area? What grows best there? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

For Improving Rum

Instructions for improving rum.

The little brown book from Pierre Beauperthuy’s collection at The Old House is full of old knowledge. It contains recipes for medicines and techniques for making glue. It was carefully written. The pages were numbered. It contained very important things that had to be remembered. Like how to make rum better.

There are some clues to suggest that this book dates from the early 1800s. This is a time when sugarcane was grown on St. Martin and rum was made from it. The sugarcane industry was not very successful here and it didn’t last very long. But during this brief window, knowing how to improve rum was surely useful.

The little brown book.

The first method starts with Balsam of Peru. The instructions call for adding 35 grains—about a third of a teaspoon—for every five gallons of rum. Balsam of Peru is a resin made from the sap of a tree that grows in Central and South America. It was used as a flavoring, a fragrance and a medicine. Many people have an allergic reaction to it, so it is not widely used today.

The Balsam of Peru was added after being dissolved or pulverized, and left in the rum for eight days. The next step was to construct a filter with a hoop, a flannel bag and charcoal. Impurities are removed by passing the rum through the charcoal. This is a process that is still done today to many spirits. The instructions specify that the charcoal should be made from White Oak.

Directly below these instructions, a second process is recorded under the simple heading “Another.” This method starts with 30 Tonka Beans, well-pulverized. Tonka Beans com from another South American tree, and they were also used as both a flavoring and a fragrance. The bean powder is to be added to a demijohn of rum taken from a puncheon cask and left in the sun for a day before being shaken and dumped back in the cask. A puncheon is a size of cask, about 85 gallons.

The next step is to take some gunpowder tea and a half stick of finely chipped licorice and steep them in boiling water, closed for “24 hours or even a day.” This is then strained into the cask as well. The final touch is some burnt sugar to add color to the rum. Although the burnt sugar—or caramel— tastes bitter, only a tiny bit is used to color rum and it is still used today.

An old rum bottle.

Could we try using these instructions to re-create the flavor of rum that was made in St. Martin 200 years ago? Perhaps, but maybe we don’t need to. Many of these steps are still used in rum making today. Do you have a secret for improving rum? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

For Mending Coppers

A recipe for curd cement.

A little brown book from Pierre Beauperthuy’s collection at The Old House is full of handwritten recipes for cures. Various entries indicate it is from St. Martin in the 1800s, although we don’t yet know exactly when it is from, or who wrote it. Entries in different handwritings, using both English and French, show that it may have been used for quite a while.

Many of the pages contain recipes for medicines. Between those, the book also has other useful information. There are instructions about how to make essential oil from flowers, and how to test soil. Each page is a reminder of a time when this knowledge was precious. It was a time when people needed a huge variety of skills were needed to survive.

Boiling coppers from sugarcane days are still seen on St. Martin.

One recipe is titled: “For mending coppers or any other broken vessel.” In the Caribbean, a copper or boiling copper is the giant round vat where sugarcane juice is boiled down. They were also heavy and surely very expensive. They were a key part of sugar processing. After the decline of sugarcane, they were often still used to hold water. On Tintamarre they were placed around a well as troughs for livestock to drink from.

Boiling coppers around a well on Tintamarre, reused as animal troughs.

The recipe for mending giant metal cauldrons seems a bit odd at first. It requires boiling half a pint of milk, adding a bit of vinegar to make the milk curdle and then adding a well beaten egg-white. Next, one must sprinkle in a little “very fine boiling lime” and “take care not to let it be too dry when employed to mend anything and it will last very long.”

Though it may seem strange, this basic recipe appears in books as curd cement. It is claimed to be waterproof and long-lasting, but does not seem to be something that would stand up to high heat. Perhaps by the time this recipe was recorded, the coppers were already being reused for things other than boiling cane juice.

It’s hard to say what seems more strange today: a recipe for superglue made mostly from food items, or the idea of mending a vessel at all. But back when this was written, the recipe for a glue was as valuable as the recipe for a medicine. In fact, the very next item in the book is a recipe for “another cement” based on isinglass, a kind of gelatin made from fish swim bladders!

Can you remember a bit of local wisdom passed down from elder generations? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Be the Change Foundation Funds Citizens of Change Project

Melanie Choisy (center) of Be the Change Foundation presents a check to Les Fruits de Mer to fund the Citizens of Change project.

The Be the Change Foundation has provided $800 in funding for Les Fruits de Mer’s Citizens of Change project. The project will highlight St. Martiners who have made a difference on the island. The stories of their work will be featured in an exhibit at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, and also online.

“We are thrilled that Be the Change and their local donors have supported this project,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Local kids need a place where they can see the faces and read the stories of the people that made St. Martin what it is. It is one of our goals for Amuseum Naturalis and something this project will do.”

The first installment of the project will feature about a dozen people. The project aims to spotlight a variety of people, including teachers, writers, artists, builders, farmers, craftsmen, cooks, parents and storytellers. During March, Les Fruits de Mer requested nominations from the public. Based on those nominations, the association decided to focus first on St. Martiners who have passed.

“As we started researching, we realized it’s already difficult to find information and images of St. Martiners from the past,” explained project leader Mark Yokoyama. “In many cases, we feel like we’re racing against the clock to find and document these exceptional lives.”

The first installment of exhibits from Citizens of Change project will debut later this year at Amuseum Naturalis. The museum welcomes further submissions of people to feature, and information and photos that can help tell their stories.

Amuseum Naturalis is open from 9am to Noon Tuesday to Saturday and admission is free. It is located at The Old House, on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. More information is available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

A Book of Cures

The little brown notebook is warped with water damage. It’s small enough to fit into a coat pocket and about 100 pages thick. Inside is local medical knowledge from a long time ago. It is all carefully written in script that is mostly still legible today.

A few 19th century cures and a list of medical ingredients ordered from New York.

On the inside front cover is a quick primer on the apothecaries’ system of measurement: 20 grains in a scruple, three scruples in a dram, eight drams in an ounce. This is handy because most of the recipes for cures are given in grains.

The one of the first medicines in the book is “for a swelling from cold.” It contains 30 grains of calomel, a chemical containing mercury, and 40 grains of jalap, a medicine made from the powdered root of a type of morning glory vine. Both were fairly popular drugs in the 19th century, and neither are in common use today. These drugs were to be “made in 24 pills for a person 14 to 16 years, three pills given every morning.”

Many of the medicines noted in the book are oddly specific, like a dosage specifically for people 14-16 years old. In fact, the very next cure is for “the dry belly ache such as the woman Judy had.” Many of the early cures are attributed to a Dr. Allaway. Many combine chemicals with plant remedies.

What is this odd book? Who wrote it? When is it from? The book contains a list of medicines sent to Mr. Lucas Percival, who lived on St. Martin from 1809 to 1877. This would date it to perhaps the mid-1800s on St. Martin. Later in the book, though, the handwriting changes and the language switches from English to French. Perhaps it is the work of multiple people recording cures over a longer period of time.

The cures themselves are mostly not things one would recommend today. Many include things we now known are poisons, like mercury and lead. But it is a unique window into life on the island in the past. This little book tells us what ills bedeviled residents at that time. And it tells us that doctors had little to offer that would help. Back then medicines were mixed at home from ingredients ordered from New York, and it was wise to write down medical recipes in case a doctor wasn’t around for the next obstinate fever or case of jaundice.

Every single page of this book may have something unique to tell us about the history of St. Martin and how life was lived here. We will continue to explore its pages. Have you ever seen a book like this? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Fruits of the Land

Sea grapes have been a tasty treat for generations of St. Martiners.

The first foods on St. Martin were here long before the first people. Many different native fruits were already part of the landscape when the first people came. Before the first people, these fruits were food for native birds and other animals. We can thank the birds for eating these fruits and then spreading the seeds from island to island.

Sea grape and coco plum are often found near the sea, and still grow wild near many of our beaches. Guava and guavaberry do well in valleys with rich soil and plenty of water. Soursop and sugar apple were once found in almost every yard.

Today, some native fruits, like the water lemon, are rarely seen. The water lemon is a close relative of the passion fruit. Both plants are vines with beautiful flowers. The fruit of the water lemon is oval-shaped, and soft and fuzzy on the outside. Inside, the fruit looks like a passion fruit, with edible seeds in sweet, juicy pulp. Though delicious, they are not widely grown.

The water lemon is delicious, but not widely known.

Sea Grapes are still loved for their shade and beauty, but now much of their fruit goes uneaten. Over the years, many new, non-native fruits like mango, banana and kinnip became local favorites after they were brought to St. Martin from other parts of the world.

Other native fruits still have a strong place in local diet and culture. Guavaberry is a favorite flavor for rum, jam and tarts eaten at Christmas time. Soursop trees are still found beside many houses. Their fruit are enjoyed as juice, smoothies or sorbet and their leaves are used as a bush tea.

When we enjoy native fruits — especially from trees growing in the wild — we can imagine what it was like for the first people who arrived here. They’re a true taste of paradise and a rich part of our natural heritage.

What are your favorite local fruits? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Learn, Help and Share at Amuseum Naturalis on International Museum Day

Amuseum Naturalis is an all-volunteer museum, and you can join in on Saturday from 3-5pm.

International Museum Day is Saturday, May 18th, and all are invited to participate at Amuseum Naturalis. Visit the Amuseum 9am to noon for free to celebrate and learn about the island’s nature and heritage. Join in as a volunteer from 3-5pm to help make the Amuseum better. Come share your knowledge and talent, or just enjoy, at the free Cultural Happy Hour from 5-8pm.

“Have you been to a museum lately?” asks Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. She can think of two good reasons why you should go: “I think everyone can learn something new at Amuseum Naturalis, even people who know the island very well. We’re also a community museum. We record and share information from the community so this culture and heritage isn’t lost.”

Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum of nature and heritage located at The Old House in French Quarter. It features over two dozen exhibits covering many local topics, from animals to architecture and poetry to bush tea. The Amuseum has attracted over 5,000 guests since it opened at its current location in July 2018.

The Amuseum is created entirely by volunteers, and monthly volunteer days typically attract 25-50 people. Many of the volunteers enjoy the chance to make new friends while gardening, building or cleaning. The Amuseum has hosted several Cultural Happy Hours, featuring acoustic music, poetry readings and other performances. These events are a great chance to enjoy the grounds and gardens of The Old House, a place that feels very remote for busy St. Martin, especially on a full moon night.

Guests share songs around a campfire at one of the Amuseum’s previous Cultural Happy Hours. (Photo by Marc Petrelluzzi)

International Museum Day is celebrated by museums all over the world, on or around May 18th. The annual event’s goal is to raise awareness that “Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.” In 2018, more than 40,000 museums participated in the event, in some 158 countries.

“It’s really exciting to be part of International Museum Day,” said Amuseum co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “St. Martin has its own wildlife, culture, history and language. There is no big national museum here, but St. Martin needs and deserves museums as much as anywhere else in the world. On the plus side, anyone can help the museums we do have. Anyone can have a voice in how the story of St. Martin is being told.”

People can also take part in Museum Day activities at the St. Maarten Museum on Front Street in Philipsburg. It will be open from 9am to noon, and they will celebrate with the 2019 International Museum Day theme: Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition. There will be games for the children and informative presentations.

Amuseum Naturalis is open from 9am to noon Tuesday to Saturday and admission is free. The Museum Day volunteering will be from 3-5pm on Saturday, May 18th and the free Cultural Happy Hour will follow from 5-8pm. The Amuseum is located at The Old House, on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. More information and a map is available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Beyond a Drought

It’s not your imagination, St. Martin is very dry right now.

Why is it so dry right now on St. Martin? The answer is pretty pretty complex, and a bit scary, too.

For starters, spring is the dry season. This time of year, the island is usually as dry as it gets. That’s why people go camping on Easter and why you should never schedule an outdoor event in November. Usually, November is the wettest month and things get drier until April. Starting in May, rain gradually increases through the fall.

But it also seems drier than usual, and it is. St. Martin was rated “severely dry” for the first part of 2019 and the forecast for the coming months is drier than usual. It isn’t necessarily unusual to have a dry year, this often comes in phases with bigger weather cycles like El Niño and La Niña.

Today’s dry weather isn’t just about rainfall. Higher temperatures are also making a difference. Higher temperatures increase evaporation, from the ground and from plants. Many plants adapted to the local climate lose their leaves to conserve water in dry times. Plants less suited to the climate may just die. Either way, St. Martin looks quite brown and barren.

Dry pond bed exposed at Chevrise Pond.

There are reasons to believe that things are getting drier around here. New studies found that the Caribbean drought of 2013-2016 was the worst on record. Climate models also predict less rainfall in the northeast Caribbean in the future.

Things could be worse. Although they are still used, the island no longer depends on cisterns and wells for water. Agriculture is also a tiny part of the economy now. This is in part because so many livestock died in the droughts of 1974-77 and 1986-87. With a tourism economy and a desalination plant, drought may be an eyesore and a fire risk, but it isn’t a threat to survival.

At least, not completely. For wildlife and native vegetation, a shift to a drier climate may become deadly. Especially when wild spaces are already pushed to the limit. A dry future may also spell doom for cultural traditions connected to plants and livestock.

Do you remember a drought from back in the day and how St. Martiners dealt with it? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

New Signs and New Stories at Amuseum Naturalis

Signs that highlight farming history are mounted on planters.

In the last few months, Amuseum Naturalis has added over 60 educational signs and panels. The new signs tell a wide variety of stories about the island’s nature and heritage. The bilingual signage was created and installed by the Les Fruits de Mer association, with funding from France’s Fonds pour le Développement de la Vie Associative.

“Amuseum Naturalis has been telling St. Martin’s most fascinating nature stories since we started,” explained co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “By tripling the number of displays, we’re able to dig deeper into nature and explore many other areas. You can learn about the animals that live only on St. Martin, but also about the roots of traditional agriculture and how St. Martiners designed their buildings to beat the tropical heat.”

The signage includes panels for an exhibit featuring the poetry of acclaimed St. Martin author Lasana M. Sekou.

Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum located at The Old House in French Quarter. It has been open less than a year, but has already attracted over 5,000 visitors. Over 2,000 students have visited the Amuseum with school classes or youth groups. The Amuseum is created and operated entirely by volunteers.

“We’re thrilled to showcase more facets of local heritage,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Many kids who come to the Amuseum don’t know about the African roots of Caribbean bush medicine, the history behind St. Martin’s stone walls or why the flamboyant tree is so important on the island. The additional exhibits and our great volunteers help local youth connect with their heritage.”

The new displays are located all around the Amuseum grounds.

With the latest signage in place, the Amuseum is already looking towards the future. The association is currently developing signage to highlight the lives and works of St. Martiners with their Citizens of Change project, funded by the Be the Change Foundation. They also welcome topic suggestions from the community and are eager to work with local experts to develop displays on new topics.

Smaller signs tell the stories of individual plant species.

People interested in volunteering opportunities at the Amuseum can contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com. Amuseum Naturalis is open from 9am to noon Tuesday to Saturday, and admission is free. It is located at The Old House, on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. More information is available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Rice and Peas

The combination of rice and peas or beans is loved all over the Caribbean and has many variations. What are the roots of rice and peas on St. Martin, and why is this dish so popular?

In St. Martin and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean, the Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajan) is typically used in this dish. It was brought to the Caribbean from Africa, and grows well in our climate. It can survive the dry season and produces lots of food with little care. They are still grown in backyards all over the island.

Rice also has a long history in the Caribbean. African Rice (Oryza glaberrima) was domesticated in Africa and was brought to the Caribbean by enslaved Africans. But it was not widely grown on St. Martin or nearby small islands. Here, available land and labor were focused on sugarcane, and rice was imported from Africa. Rice was one of few dry provisions able to survive the trip across the Atlantic.

Rice and peas from Yvette’s Restaurant in French Quarter.

During the 20th century, rice consumption in the region tripled. Perhaps this is because fewer people grew traditional ground provisions like cassava and sweet potatoes. Immigration to St. Martin brought new recipes featuring red beans, black beans and black eyed peas. Yet on this multicultural island, rice and peas is a traditional recipe that still satisfies.

What’s your recipe for rice and peas? What other dishes are most important to the culinary cultural heritage of St. Martin? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Dream Team of Volunteers Shares Local Heritage at Endemic Animal Festival

A fantastic team of 45 volunteers hosted the festival.

A great team of 45 volunteers came together on Sunday to host the Endemic Animal Festival. The event is a showcase for the animals that live only on St. Martin. This year, the festival used the theme Survivors to celebrate many different aspects of local heritage and culture.

“In six years of hosting this event, this was our most amazing team of volunteers yet,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “People of all ages and backgrounds worked together to share the things that make this island so special. Thanks to this team, we were able to offer more fun activities and interact more with the kids and families that came out to the festival.”

Guests get up close with animals that live only on St. Martin.

The Endemic Animal Discovery Station has been a feature of the event since the beginning. Guests learn about the critters that live here and nowhere else, and why St. Martin’s nature is so special and unique. Art and craft activities are also a mainstay of the event. This year, guests enjoyed painting bird feeders made from upcycled plastic bottles.

Plastic water bottles were transformed into colorful bird feeders.
BirdSleuth Caribbean activities combined fun and learning.

Many exhibits and activities used the Suvivors theme to share other parts of local heritage. At the Story Survival station, guests recorded oral histories about life on St. Martin. A special exhibit of poems, from the recent Lasana M. Sekou book Hurricane Protocol, explored trauma, loss and survival. At the Plantilles Station, guests received seedlings of native trees that can boost survival of native animals. They also took home plants used in bush medicine, which is the island’s oldest healing tradition.

Guests took home native trees and other plants.

“The festival weaves local nature and culture together in new ways each year,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “This island is beautiful and fascinating. It is a joy to share that wonder with young St. Martiners. It’s also a chance for us to learn new things from the guests who come. Listening, recording and sharing are all part of the magic.”

The Hurricane Protocol exhibit gave guests a new way to read and hear the poems of Lasana M. Sekou.

The Endemic Animal Festival was created by the Les Fruits de Mer association. This year’s event was held at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter. The Hurricane Protocol and 5,000 Years of Eco exhibits are still on display during museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 9am to noon. The 2019 festival was made possible by the support of Gold Sponsor Delta Petroleum and sponsors 97150, BirdsCaribbean, Buzz, IZI Light, L’Auberge Gourmande, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, L’Esperance Hotel, St. Martin’s Sweetness and Tri-Sport.

Survivors

Nature on St. Martin is precious. It’s precious because it’s unique. It’s precious because it lives on through drought and hurricane. It’s precious because it protects us from floods and landslides. It’s precious because it is the natural heritage of everyone on the island. It’s precious because there isn’t so much of it left. It’s precious because it still holds treasures yet to be discovered.

Nothing represents this better than the animals that live only on St. Martin. These species are true St. Martiners, and true survivors. They arrived on the island by chance in the distant past, and they made this island their home.

This lizard’s ancestors crossed a sea.

Each one of these species has a different story, and all of them are lost to time. The ancestors of our Bearded Anole likely arrived on St. Martin before modern humans even existed. Perhaps they held tightly to the limbs of a giant tree that was torn from the ground and washed to sea by a hurricane. They were storm survivors.

Carried by the currents, they crossed the sea, from their home island to ours. They were lucky enough to arrive on St. Martin before dying of hunger or thirst. They were seafaring survivors.

Suddenly, they were in a new place. The landscape was not the same as their old home. The forest was not the same. The insects they eat were not the same. The lizards they compete with for food were not the same. The birds that eat them were not the same. Most of these things were similar, but the Bearded Anole ancestors had spent millions of years becoming perfect for their old home. Here, everything was different.

Like other local species, the Bearded Anole had to adapt to survive dry times.

What’s a lizard to do in a situation like this? Adapt. Or perish. The ancestors of the Bearded Anole adapted and they survived. They transformed into something new. They become something unique in all the world. They perfected themselves for this place. They were St. Martin survivors.

The story of these amazing animals should be known. Because they are amazing. Because they should be protected. Because they are a metaphor for everyone and everything that has adapted to St. Martin rather than trying to change St. Martin. Because they are unique in all the world and they are St. Martin’s.

Today this lizard must adapt itself to the ways humans are changing the island.

You can discover the Bearded Anole and other animals found only on St. Martin at the Endemic Animal Festival. The free festival is Sunday, April 28th from 9am-noon at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House on the hill above Galion beach in French Quarter. There will be fun activities and fascinating exhibits about these special animals and much more. For more information visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

Free Festival Celebrates Local Animals and More This Sunday

Guests can decorate and bring home a bird feeder.

The Les Fruits de Mer association welcomes everyone to the 6th annual Endemic Animal Festival this Sunday, April 28th from 9am to noon. The free festival will be held at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter. The event celebrates the animals that live only on St. Martin, with special exhibits and fun activities.

The Spotted Woodslave is one of the animals found only on St. Martin.

“Our theme this year is Survivors,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “Our endemic animals are the ultimate survivors. By adapting to survive on St. Martin, they became unique species that are found nowhere else on earth.”

The free Endemic Animal Festival is this Sunday, April 28th from 9am-noon at Amuseum Naturalis.

The festival’s Endemic Animal Discovery Station will feature many of the special critters that live only on St. Martin. They are a key part of the heritage of the island. If they were lost here, they would disappear from the world. Kids and adults can also learn about birds that live only in our region with fun games and activities from the BirdSleuth Caribbean program.

BirdSleuth Caribbean activities are a fun way to learn about birds on St. Martin.

The festival will also use the theme Survivors to explore local heritage in other ways. A special exhibit of poems from the new book Hurricane Protocol by renowned writer Lasana M. Sekou tells stories of survival in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Visitors will get a preview of Soualibra, a new research library that collects and shares knowledge about St. Martin. A special exhibit will highlight 5,000 years of eco-friendly traditions on St. Martin.

Les Fruits de Mer volunteers have been busy growing native trees and other plants to give away at the event.

“At this festival, guests can help St. Martin’s survival,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “You can decorate a bird feeder made from a re-used plastic bottle, and take it home to feed birds in your backyard. You can also take home free seedlings of native trees and other plants. You’ll learn about some of the threats we all face here, but also take steps to make the island stronger.”

The Endemic Animal Festival is great for all ages, especially kids. Festival guests will also be able to enjoy all the regular exhibits at Amuseum Naturalis, which is located on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. The 2019 festival is completely free thanks to the generous support of Gold Sponsor Delta Petroleum and sponsors 97150, BirdsCaribbean, Buzz, IZI Light, L’Auberge Gourmande, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, L’Esperance Hotel, St. Martin’s Sweetness and Tri-Sport.

Thank You 2019 EAF Sponsors!

Sponsorship is what makes the Endemic Animal Festival possible. We are able to create and share great exhibits and activities with the public for free, thanks to the local businesses that contribute to this event. We hope you support them!

2019 Gold Sponsor

Delta Petroleum
Founded in 1985, Delta serves the Caribbean with superior performance diesel, gasoline and LPG meeting U.S. and European standards. Delta is a proud and growing member of the communities from the Virgin Islands to Martinique. Delta Petroleum has sponsored Les Fruits de Mer events since 2013.
http://deltapetroleum.com


2019 Sponsors

97150
97150 is St. Martin’s most popular bi-weekly newspaper in French. Get all the latest news, find out about upcoming events and much more! Available for free every Tuesday and Friday all over the island and online, too!
97150


BirdsCaribbean
BirdsCaribbean is a vibrant international network of members and partners committed to conserving Caribbean birds and their habitats. They raise awareness, promote sound science, and empower local partners to build a region where people appreciate, conserve and benefit from thriving bird populations and ecosystems. They are a non-profit (501 (c) 3) membership organization. More than 100,000 people participate in their programmes each year, making BirdsCaribbean the most broad-based conservation organization in the region.
http://www.birdscaribbean.org


Buzz
If you need the latest in tech and electronics, head to Buzz. You’ll find computers, phones, entertainment, cameras and more. They are an official Apple reseller and they have two convenient locations: Buzz in Hope Estate and the Ti Buzz boutique in Howell Center.
https://buzzsxm.fr


IZI Light
Do you need to brighten your home or business for security or convenience? IZI Light offers innovative solar lighting solutions from streetlights to landscape lighting. Solar lighting is easily installed with no wiring needed, and a variety of long-lasting LED lights are available.
IZI Light


L’Auberge Gourmande
Auberge Gourmande, in the center of restaurant row in Grand Case, serves fine French cuisine in an intimate dining room in one of the oldest Créole houses on the island. Lovingly remodeled in subtle browns and yellows, the wood and stone of the old house harken back to a time of slower pleasures. Enjoy an evening on their terrace or step inside to find your favorite alcove.
L’Auberge Gourmande


LagooniesLagoonies Bistro and Bar
Lagoonies Bistro and Bar serves food that is crazy good for breakfast, lunch and dinner and hosts some of the hottest live music on the island several nights a week. Located at Lagoon Marina in Cole Bay, they are easily accessible by land or sea.
Lagoonies Bistro and Bar


L’Esperance Hotel
Conveniently located in Cay Hill with easy access to both Philipsburg and Simpson Bay, L’Esperance Hotel features 22 spacious and luxurious one and two bedroom suites appointed in tropical rattan. Features include our beautiful pool with a sun deck, air-conditioning, cable TV, direct dial telephones, in-room safes, full kitchens, private balconies, and free Wifi.
http://www.lesperancehotel.com


St. Martin’s Sweetness
St. Martin’s Sweetness is a home grown company on the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten that produces and sells high-end baked traditional St. Martin pastries, juices, confectioneries, foods and goods to retail and wholesale customers. We sell premade as well as made-to-order products using local and Caribbean ingredients. St. Martin’s Sweetness makes every day sweet with products ranging from coconut tarts and sugar cakes to tamarind juices and stewed gooseberry jam.


Tri-Sport-Logo-webTri-Sport
Tri-Sport is the go-to shop for the active community of St. Maarten/St. Martin and the neighboring islands of Anguilla, Saba, Statia, and St. Barths. They run ecologically-friendly tours that get people out and moving – kayaking, bicycling, hiking, boogie boarding, and snorkeling. Tri-Sport’s retail shops carry all the necessities for triathlons with an emphasis on bicycles.
http://trisportsxm.com

Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival Takes Aim at Plastic Pollution

Save birds by fighting plastic pollution in the Caribbean.

Every spring, groups on islands all over the Caribbean celebrate the birds that live only in the region. These events are all part of the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival, organized by BirdsCaribbean. This year, the theme of the festival is Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution.

“Plastic pollution is a global problem, and it hurts the Caribbean in many ways,” explained festival coordinator Sheylda Diaz Mendez. “Our islands are home to over 170 birds found nowhere else in the world. They depend on clean wild spaces to live.”

On St. Martin, the Les Fruits de Mer association hosts the Endemic Animal Festival on Sunday, April 28th from 9am to noon at Amuseum Naturalis. The free festival will feature the animals that live only on St. Martin. Other parts of local nature and heritage will also be explored using the theme Survivors.

Learn to love the amazing animals that live only on St. Martin.

“The animals and plants that live only on St. Martin are survivors,” explained Les Fruits de Mer president Jenn Yerkes. “The people that lived here throughout history and prehistory are survivors, too. And for us to survive in the future, we need to take care of our island and our planet. Plastic pollution is one of the big problems we need to solve.”

Endemic Animal Festival guests can decorate a bird feeder made out of a plastic water bottle. They can also see how 5,000 years of recycling traditions on St. Martin might hold the key to a more eco-friendly future. The free event also includes fun bird activities, a poetry exhibit and much more.

St. Martin’s Endemic Animal Festival will be April 28th from 9am-noon at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter.

Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival events are held between Earth Day on April 22nd and International Biodiversity Day on May 22nd. The Endemic Animal Festival on St. Martin is Sunday, April 28th from 9am to noon at Amuseum Naturalis. To learn more about this free event, visit lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

Caribbean Cool

Traditional Caribbean houses were designed to stay cool in the tropical heat. There was no air conditioning, so builders used wind, shade and stone to make houses cool. The location of a home, the direction it faced and what was built around it could all make a difference. There were also many design elements that kept houses cool and you can see them right here.

A thick foundation can absorb heat and cool the home.

The Old House was built with a massive stone foundation, this keeps the floor dry and protected in storms or floods. It also keeps the house cool. The foundation acts as a thermal mass, absorbing the heat from the house.

High ceilings give hot air space to rise, leaving it cooler below. Openings between rooms allow air to flow all around the house in any direction. The kitchen was not part of the house, so the heat from cooking fires was not near the living space.

High ceilings and openings between rooms help hot air escape.

The Old House is designed with windows and doors across from each other, so wind can blow through the house. This design can have ten times the air flow compared to a window on only one side. The windows are at human height so people can enjoy the cooling breeze.

Windows were made with louvers—slats of wood that can be tilted. These allowed air to pass, while still providing shade. Residents could change the angle of the louvers to direct the incoming breeze where they wanted it.

Louvers let wind pass through while providing shade.

Many of these heat beating strategies were developed over time, right here in the Caribbean. Today we see these features as part of the unique style of Caribbean architecture. But many of these design decisions were made for very specific reasons.

Over time, we have developed new building materials and techniques. We also have electric fans and air conditioning. But relearning some old school Caribbean design tricks can still help us today. Modern designers are looking at how we can use these methods to keep homes comfy while using less energy. Perhaps the Caribbean home of the future will start to look a bit like the homes of the past.

What parts of your home design help keep it cool? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Amuseum Naturalis to Launch Research Library and Poetry Exhibit

The Hurricane Protocol exhibit will launch at the Endemic Animal Festival.

The Les Fruits de Mer association will be showcasing two new projects at Amuseum Naturalis this month. One is Soualibra, a free research library focused on St. Martin. The other is an exhibit of poems from Hurricane Protocol, the latest book by acclaimed St. Martin author Lasana M. Sekou.

“We’re excited to launch two projects related to the written word and St. Martin,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “The Hurricane Protocol exhibit will be a new way to experience the work of this renowned St. Martin poet.”

The poems in Hurricane Protocol were written during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. They explore the impact of the destruction on individuals, families and communities. Selections will be presented in a large format outdoor installation, the first museum exhibit for Sekou and the first poetry exhibit at Amuseum Naturalis.

Soualibra is a free research library focused on St. Martin.

Soualibra is a research library collecting books and other materials from and about St. Martin. The library catalog, including links to digital resources, is at http://soualibra.com. The physical library is at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter. It contains over 100 books about nature, history, culture and literature. Soualibra’s wishlist contains many more. Susanne van Mierlo is Soualibra’s head librarian.

“When the libraries on the island closed after Hurricane Irma, it was a wake-up call,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “We can’t offer the range of services of a public library, but a resource focused just on St. Martin that is open to the public is something we think will have lasting value. Only a tiny fraction of this information is available online.”

Susanne van Mierlo is Soualibra’s head librarian.

The launch of the Hurricane Protocol exhibit and a special preview of Soualibra will take place at the Endemic Animal Festival at Amuseum Naturalis. The festival is a free public event for all ages that celebrates the unique wildlife and natural heritage of St. Martin. The 2019 event will take place at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter on Sunday, April 28th from 9am to noon. This year’s event is made possible by Gold Sponsor Delta Petroleum and sponsors 97150, BirdsCaribbean, Buzz, IZI Light, L’Auberge Gourmande, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, L’Esperance Hotel, St. Martin’s Sweetness and Tri-Sport.

5,000 Years of Eco

Glass bottles were often reused, this demijohn was protected by wicker basketwork.

The idea of being eco-friendly is spreading on St. Martin. We can see images from around the world of birds, sea turtles, and even whales that died after eating plastics. We find litter on our own beaches, and the eternal fire of the Philipsburg dump is a constant reminder that we are making more waste than we can handle.

Progress seems slow at times. Recycling on a small island is a little harder, because those materials usually have to go somewhere else to be recycled. It also takes time to build awareness. Promotion of recycling and other eco practices took decades to become established in Europe and North America.

On the other hand, St. Martin has a deep history of reusing and recycling. In fact, it stretches all the way back to prehistory. Visit an archaeological site and you can see the evidence. Conch shells were made into a variety of tools: axes, scrapers, awls and more. This may be first example of reusing a “single-use food container” on St. Martin.

A conch shell tool made by Amerindians on St. Martin.

During the colonial era, St. Martin was a remote outpost. Goods arrived slowly by boat and nothing went to waste. Metalwork was done by hand-powered forge so St. Martiners could make their own nails and horseshoes. Old or broken items could be melted down to make new things.

A forge blower for backyard metalworking.

In the early 20th century, there were few jobs on the island. Some St. Martiners living today remember wearing dresses made from cloth flour sacks. In an interview, Delphine David explained that her mother “used to take the flour bag, wash it good, put it in the sun and let the sun draw out the marks…she would take that bag and measure us and crochet right around, tie our waist with a string and that would be our outfit.”

There was recycling in the kitchen, with graters made by hammering holes in a tin can. On the docks even today you can see fish scalers made from bottle caps nailed into a wooden handle. Perhaps the most elegant examples of Caribbean recycling is the steel pan drum. It transforms waste into art.

A new handle extends the life of this rake.

Waste on St. Martin is a modern problem, and will require many solutions. We need to generate less trash and adopt alternatives to plastic. We need to process our waste better. In some ways these are new skills and habits. Some of the ideas and expertise may come from outside. But when it comes to reusing and recycling, there are deep traditions on St. Martin that we can tap into. This creativity and ingenuity is a part of local culture we can all celebrate and embrace.

What is your favorite historical or recent example of reusing or recycling on St. Martin? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Metal hinges often outlasted wooden shutters and were reused.
This old hinge, along with a wire, was used to ground an electrical line.

Thank You Endemic Animal Festival Sponsors!

We are incredibly lucky to have the support of some great local businesses. Their contributions allow us to do amazing things and keep the Endemic Animal Festival free so everyone can enjoy it!

2019 Gold Sponsor

Delta Petroleum
Founded in 1985, Delta serves the Caribbean with superior performance diesel, gasoline and LPG meeting U.S. and European standards. Delta is a proud and growing member of the communities from the Virgin Islands to Martinique. Delta Petroleum has sponsored Les Fruits de Mer events since 2013.
http://deltapetroleum.com


2019 Sponsors

97150
97150 is St. Martin’s most popular bi-weekly newspaper in French. Get all the latest news, find out about upcoming events and much more! Available for free every Tuesday and Friday all over the island and online, too!
97150


BirdsCaribbean
BirdsCaribbean is a vibrant international network of members and partners committed to conserving Caribbean birds and their habitats. They raise awareness, promote sound science, and empower local partners to build a region where people appreciate, conserve and benefit from thriving bird populations and ecosystems. They are a non-profit (501 (c) 3) membership organization. More than 100,000 people participate in their programmes each year, making BirdsCaribbean the most broad-based conservation organization in the region.
http://www.birdscaribbean.org


Buzz
If you need the latest in tech and electronics, head to Buzz. You’ll find computers, phones, entertainment, cameras and more. They are an official Apple reseller and they have two convenient locations: Buzz in Hope Estate and the Ti Buzz boutique in Howell Center.
https://buzzsxm.fr


IZI Light
Do you need to brighten your home or business for security or convenience? IZI Light offers innovative solar lighting solutions from streetlights to landscape lighting. Solar lighting is easily installed with no wiring needed, and a variety of long-lasting LED lights are available.
IZI Light


L’Auberge Gourmande
Auberge Gourmande, in the center of restaurant row in Grand Case, serves fine French cuisine in an intimate dining room in one of the oldest Créole houses on the island. Lovingly remodeled in subtle browns and yellows, the wood and stone of the old house harken back to a time of slower pleasures. Enjoy an evening on their terrace or step inside to find your favorite alcove.
L’Auberge Gourmande


LagooniesLagoonies Bistro and Bar
Lagoonies Bistro and Bar serves food that is crazy good for breakfast, lunch and dinner and hosts some of the hottest live music on the island several nights a week. Located at Lagoon Marina in Cole Bay, they are easily accessible by land or sea.
Lagoonies Bistro and Bar


L’Esperance Hotel
Conveniently located in Cay Hill with easy access to both Philipsburg and Simpson Bay, L’Esperance Hotel features 22 spacious and luxurious one and two bedroom suites appointed in tropical rattan. Features include our beautiful pool with a sun deck, air-conditioning, cable TV, direct dial telephones, in-room safes, full kitchens, private balconies, and free Wifi.
http://www.lesperancehotel.com


St. Martin’s Sweetness
St. Martin’s Sweetness is a home grown company on the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten that produces and sells high-end baked traditional St. Martin pastries, juices, confectioneries, foods and goods to retail and wholesale customers. We sell premade as well as made-to-order products using local and Caribbean ingredients. St. Martin’s Sweetness makes every day sweet with products ranging from coconut tarts and sugar cakes to tamarind juices and stewed gooseberry jam.


Tri-Sport-Logo-webTri-Sport
Tri-Sport is the go-to shop for the active community of St. Maarten/St. Martin and the neighboring islands of Anguilla, Saba, Statia, and St. Barths. They run ecologically-friendly tours that get people out and moving – kayaking, bicycling, hiking, boogie boarding, and snorkeling. Tri-Sport’s retail shops carry all the necessities for triathlons with an emphasis on bicycles.
http://trisportsxm.com


Endemic Animal Festival Gets Big Boost from Delta Petroleum

The Les Fruits de Mer association is hard at work on the annual Endemic Animal Festival, coming up on Sunday, April 28th from 9am to noon at Amuseum Naturalis. This year’s theme is Survivors. The festival will feature more activities and special exhibits than ever, but it will still be free to the public thanks to a Gold Sponsorship from Delta Petroleum and sponsorships from nine other local business.

“The Endemic Animal Festival celebrates the animals that live only on St. Martin,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “These species are true survivors who have adapted to this island. We’ll also explore survival in other ways: how plants survive drought, how people survived on St. Martin in the past and how we all can help St. Martin survive in the future.”

The festival will feature native plant giveways, a bottle recycling art activity, and fun games about local birds. Special exhibits will include an outdoor poetry installation and a display highlighting 5,000 years of reusing and recycling on St. Martin. There will also be a station where guests can see some of the amazing animals that live only here.

This year’s festivities are bigger than ever, but it won’t cost a penny to enjoy them. Long-time sponsor Delta Petroleum became a Gold Sponsor this year so everyone can attend. Sponsorship funds will keep the festival free and also provide buses to the event for youth groups.

“We love supporting our community through this festival,” said Delta Petroleum General Manager Christian Papaliolios. “Local nature and heritage are things that everyone on the island should have a chance to learn about and treasure. You can’t put a price on them.”

Les Fruits de Mer’s annual Endemic Animal Festival is a free public event for all ages that celebrates the unique wildlife and natural heritage of St. Martin. The 2019 event will take place at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter on Sunday, April 28th from 9am to noon. This year’s event is made possible by Gold Sponsor Delta Petroleum and sponsors 97150, BirdsCaribbean, Buzz, IZI Light, L’Auberge Gourmande, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, L’Esperance Hotel and Tri-Sport.

Delta Petroleum is the Gold Sponsor of the 2019 Endemic Animal Festival.

The Skinks of Tintamarre

Skinks are small, shiny lizards. With their sleek bodies and small legs they look like they want to be snakes, and maybe could be in a million years or so. For most of history, the skinks of the eastern Caribbean were all lumped into one species.

Herpetologists—scientists who study reptiles and amphibians—knew that these skinks were probably different from island to island. Even in 1862, the famous scientist E.D. Cope mentioned that American skinks were “in a state of some confusion.” But it took 150 years for someone to take a closer look. In 2012, a groundbreaking paper by Blair Hedges and Caitlin Conn described 24 new skink species from Caribbean islands.

The St. Martin Skink, Spondylurus martinae, was one of these new species. It was described from museum specimens, including ones collected by Dr. Hendrik van Rijgersma in the 1860s. Sadly, it had not been seen for a long time. The mongoose in was introduced 1888 and may have eaten them to extinction.

A few years ago, skinks were seen on Tintamarre, living in the stone walls left over from D.C. van Romondt’s farming days there in the early 20th century. Were they St. Martin Skinks? Could they be the last survivors of a species that was wiped out on St. Martin?

Stone walls, the final refuge of the skinks of Tintamarre.

In fact, further research revealed that they were actually a very similar species, the Anguilla Bank Skink, Spondylurus powelli. This is the species that also lives on Anguilla and St. Barts. This wasn’t a complete surprise. Tintamarre is closest to St. Martin, but the ground lizards there are the variety found on Anguilla and St. Barts, not the variety on St. Martin.

Discoveries like this show that the evolutionary history on St. Martin is very complicated. We share many species with Anguilla and St. Barts because our islands were connected during the last ice age. Yet there are also species found only on St. Martin. Finding out why could tell us more about how evolution works in general.

So close, yet so far! St. Martin seen from Tintamarre.

And what about our St. Martin Skinks? It seems that the last specimen was collected in Little Bay around 1963. Perhaps they have died out since then. Perhaps, like on Tintamarre, a few have survived unseen. Keep your eyes open for them!

Have you ever seen a skink on St. Martin? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Learn more about the skinks of Tintamarre at Caribbean Herpetology.