Category: News

Caribbean Curiosities

Dive into the wild world of St. Martin wildlife and nature. Caribbean Curiosities explores all kinds of unique nature stories happening all around us on St. Martin.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Caribbean Curiosities

Take a deeper dive into some of the amazing plants and animals of St. Martin. St. Martin is full of unique animals. Many are found only in the Caribbean, and some are found only on St. Martin. Each species has its own story, and exploring this rich natural heritage is a fascinating way to explore the island. Learning how our wildlife became so unique is also a great way to understand the way all life has evolved and diversified. From prehistoric times to the present day, one of the most important ways humans have impacted St. Martin is by introducing new animal and plant species. Discover them through tales of animals that were brought to St. Martin by people and how these new species have changed the island. How has the island been changed forever by these new arrivals and what are they doing right now to change the island’s future?
Buy the book.
Download the book (PDF, 86 pages, 10MB).

Curiosités des Caraïbes

Caribbean Curiosities examine de plus près certains des animaux et plantes fascinants, qui met en valeur l’histoire naturelle de St. Martin et des Caraïbes.
Téléchargez une copie gratuite.
Achetez une copie.

Shadow of a Drought

Have you ever wondered why St. Martin can seem so lush and green in November and so dry in April? How is climate change impacting nature and people? Shadow of a Drought uses striking images of the 2015 drought to explore some of these questions.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Shadow of a Drought

Shadow-of-a-Drought-web

During 2015 drought conditions impacted much of the Caribbean. This photo essay documents some of the impacts of drought on St. Martin. It was produced by Les Fruits de Mer as a companion piece to the 2015 Migratory Bird Festival. All photos and text by Mark Yokoyama. Translation into French by Jennifer Yerkes.
Buy the book.
Download it as an ebook: English (PDF, 30 Pages)French (PDF, 30 pages)

En 2015, les conditions de sécheresse ont touché une grande partie des Caraïbes. Cet essai photographique documente certains des effets de la sécheresse sur Saint-Martin.
Téléchargez une copie gratuite.
Achetez une copie.

Eye on Endemics

St. Martin and the Caribbean are special because there are many unique animals that live here and nowhere else. Get to know them and learn how adaptation and survival created these exceptional animals.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Eye on Endemics: Caribbean Originals

This book showcases over a dozen animal species that are found only on the island of St. Martin or only in the Caribbean region. Get to know two species of lizard that live only on St. Martin. Discover insects you can’t see anywhere else. Find out which common birds on the island are Caribbean originals. And learn why there are so many unique animals on St. Martin!
Buy the book.
Download the book (PDF, 64 pages, 5MB).

Regard sur les Espèces Endémiques : Uniques aux Caraïbes

Ce livre présente plus d’une douzaine d’espèces animales que l’on ne trouve que sur l’île de Saint-Martin ou dans la région des Caraïbes. Apprenez à connaître deux espèces de lézards qui vivent uniquement à Saint-Martin. Rencontrez des insectes que vous ne pouvez voir nulle part ailleurs. Découvrez quels oiseaux communs sur l’île sont uniques aux Caraïbes. Et apprenez pourquoi il y a tant d’animaux uniques à Saint-Martin!
Téléchargez une copie gratuite.
Achetez une copie.

Pond Life

Ponds on St. Martin are amazing places full of birds and other life. Take a closer look at our amazing ponds and all the creatures that live there in the book Pond Life.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Pond Life

If you like your ecosystems wet and wild, then you will love Pond Life. Each chapter explores a different view into these ever-changing wild spaces. How do they transform with the seasons? What has changed in recent years? How do they reflect centuries of history? Like St. Martin itself, life on the pond is rich and always in motion. Ponds connect sea and land, human and nature, past and present: dive in, and discover.
Buy the book.
Download the book (PDF, 70 pages, 9MB).

La vie des étangs

Si vous aimez découvrir d’incroyables écosystèmes, vous allez adorer La vie des étangs. Chaque chapitre explore une vision différente de ces espaces sauvages en constante évolution. Comment se transforment-ils avec les saisons? Qu’est-ce qui a changé ces dernières années? Comment reflètent-ils des siècles d’histoire? Comme Saint-Martin lui-même, la vie sur l’étang est riche et toujours en mouvement. Les étangs relient la mer et la terre, les humains et la nature, le passé et le présent–et vous invitent à la découverte!
Téléchargez une copie gratuite.
Achetez une copie.

The Book of Cures

Take a unique journey into St. Martin’s past through the pages of a notebook full of medical recipes. Find out what this unique artifact can tell us about life in the 19th century Caribbean.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

The Book of Cures

In a small notebook, an unknown 19th-century author on the island of St. Martin recorded medical remedies and other useful information. Preserved for perhaps 200 years, through hurricanes and other calamities, this book of cures provides a unique window into life on St. Martin. Dive into this unique artifact on a page-by-page journey of discovery.
Buy the book.
Download the book for free. (PDF, 38 pages)

 

Le Cahier de Remèdes

Au 19ème siècle, sur l’île de Saint-Martin, un auteur inconnu a consigné des remèdes et autres informations utiles dans un petit cahier. Préservé pendant quelque 200 ans, après avoir survécu aux ouragans et autres calamités, ce cahier de remèdes offre une fenêtre unique sur la vie de l’époque à Saint-Martin. Page après page, plongez dans ce cahier extraordinaire et partez pour un voyage de découverte.
Achetez une copie.
Téléchargez une copie gratuite.

Wild Things!

Wild Things! is a book that tells some amazing stories about animals on St. Martin. Learn which animals are found only on this island and nowhere else in the world. Explore caves and freshwater habitats. Find out how animals introduced by people are transforming the island.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Wild Things! Animals of St. Martin

Get to know the wild things of St. Martin! This entertaining overview of St. Martin’s land and freshwater wildlife will take you all over the island. Discover the unique animals living on the island of St. Martin. Learn about animals that live nowhere else in the world, explore caves and freshwater streams and find out how recently arrived species are changing the island.
Buy the book.
Download the book! (PDF, 46 pages).

Le Côté Sauvage!: Les Animaux de Saint-Martin

Découvrez les histoires incroyables de la faune de Saint-Martin! Apprenez à connaître les animaux qui ne vivent qu’ici, les nouveaux arrivants qui changent l’île, les bestioles qui crient la nuit et bien plus encore!
Téléchargez une copie gratuite.
Achetez une copie.

Bugs in Paradise

Enjoy exciting images and amusing verses about some of St. Martin’s littlest critters in the book Bugs in Paradise.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Bugs in Paradise

Bugs-in-Paradise-web

For our coming festival
We thought it would be nice
To make an ebook just for kids
Called Bugs in Paradise.
With photos to astound the eye
Of creatures where they dwell
The text is written all in verse
And will delight as well.
Buy the book.
Download the ebook (PDF, 24 pages, 3.2MB).

St. Martin Wildlife Guide

Are you curious about the wildlife of St. Martin? Get to know many of the creatures great and small that share the island with us. The St. Martin wildlife book is available in English and French.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Van Dorp in Madame Estate or Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin

2nd-ed-guide-cover-web
Called “the best, and most complete, natural history book I have read about any single Caribbean island” by Dr. James “Skip” Lazell, the updated and expanded second edition of this wildlife guide is a unique volume covering all the terrestrial wildlife of St. Martin, from mammals and birds to reptiles and insects. It includes over 500 color photographs, and features hundreds of species, including those which are found only on St. Martin. The text includes detailed information about both the biology and the local history of the animals featured and is written to be accessible to persons of all ages and backgrounds.
Buy the book.
Download the book for free. (PDF, 130 pages)

 

Guide incomplet a la faune sauvage de Saint-Martin

edition-francaise-cover-web

Le Guide incomplet de la faune sauvage de Saint-Martin présente la faune terrestre de l’ile, des mammifères aux oiseaux sans oublier les insectes et araignées. Ce guide décrit des centaines d’espèces et comprend plus de 500 photos en couleur. En plus de décrire les animaux sauvages, ce livre fournit des informations sur l’écologie des espèces et leurs habitats. Ce livre constitue un guide de terrain unique sur les animaux sauvages de Saint Martin et de la région Caraïbe.
Téléchargez une copie gratuite.
Achetez une copie.

Plantilles: Plants of St. Martin

Curious about St. Martin plants and their role in history and culture? Check out Plantilles: Plants of St. Martin, a brand new book all about St. Martin’s plants.

Use the links below to download it for free, or order it online if you’re not on St. Martin. If you are on St. Martin and would like to get a print copy, visit Librarie du Bord de Mer in Marigot, or send a message to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

If you are a teacher or work with kids, contact us and we will do our best to provide copies for your class or group. If you or your business want to help us provide copies to schools, let us know!

Plantilles: Plants of St. Martin

Plantilles is a book about plants and plant traditions on St. Martin. It tells the stories of native plants and how they survive on the island, farming and bush medicine traditions and the importance of plants in culture. It also includes a guide to local flowers.
Buy the book.
Download the book! (PDF, 95 pages).

 

Plantilles: Plantes de Saint-Martin

Saint-Martin est recouverte de plantes, et Plantilles vous donne l’opportunité d’en apprendre plus sur elles! Les plantes indigènes de l’île sont vitales pour toute vie à Saint-Martin, et elles ont des pouvoirs étonnants pour survivre aux sécheresses et aux tempêtes. Les gens dépendent aussi des plantes. Elles sont cultivées pour la nourriture et la médecine. Les traditions végétales de Saint-Martin remontent à des milliers d’années. Ces traditions proviennent de cultures différentes, notamment Amérindiennes et Africaines. Découvrez ces plantes et traditions fascinantes, et apprenez à reconnaître plusieurs des belles plantes que vous voyez chaque jour! Traduit de l’anglais par Jenn Yerkes, Amandine Vaslet et Julie Quéau.
Achetez une copie.
Download the book! (PDF, 95 pages).

Free Bird Coloring Book Offers Virtual Tour of the Caribbean

Free copies of the coloring book Endemic Birds of the West Indies are available at Amuseum Naturalis.

There are almost 200 birds that live only in the Caribbean. Some live only in a certain part of the region, and some live only on a single island. A new coloring book, Endemic Birds of the West Indies, features 50 of these special birds. Copies are available for free at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter.


“Kids are often amazed to learn that there are birds and other animals that live only on their island,” commented the writer, Mark Yokoyama. “These birds, and this book, can help them discover how special their home is. It is also a chance to take a bird tour of the Caribbean and see some of the incredible birds from other islands.”


“Endemic” means found only in a specific place. In the Caribbean that can mean just one island, like the Sisserou parrot in Dominica. Or it can be birds special to a region, like our Sugar Bird and the hummingbirds that live on St. Martin. The book features five birds that are found on St. Martin.


St. Martin’s Antillean Crested Hummingbird is one of the birds featured in the book.

The coloring book features beautiful illustrations by artist Christine Elder, and text by Mark Yokoyama. It was published by BirdsCaribbean. There are 50 coloring pages and fun activities. The book also explains why there are so many unique birds here, and how we can help them.


Anyone who wants a free copy can pick one up in the exhibit hall at Amuseum Naturalis on the hill above Galion beach in French Quarter. Teachers or youth leaders interested in multiple copies can email info@lesfruitdemer.com. The book can also be downloaded for free at: lesfruitsdemer.com/resources/books/

Amuseum Naturalis Announces July 7th Reopening

Amuseum Naturalis is located at The Old House in French Quarter.

After closing for lockdown, St. Martin’s free nature and heritage museum Amuseum Naturalis will be reopening in “park mode” for the public to enjoy safely! Starting Tuesday, July 7th, guests are invited to make self-guided visits during daylight hours to the outdoor areas, including the open-air Amuseum exhibit hall, and outside exhibit areas, viewpoints and gardens including the agriculture heritage displays, bush tea garden, and the St. Martin poetry exhibits. 

Amuseum Naturalis is located at the historic Old House in French Quarter. It is created and run by the all-volunteer Les Fruits de Mer association, and presents more than 40 fascinating exhibits showcasing the unique wildlife, culture and history of St. Martin. 

“With outdoor exhibits and beautiful views, we hope that the Amuseum can be a fun and safe place to enjoy nature and heritage during a tough time,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Our top concern is the safety of the community, so we ask that visitors follow safety instructions so we can stay open.”

The Amuseum features outdoor exhibits and scenic views.

To keep the community safe, properly worn masks are required for all visitors, as well as respecting physical distance of 2 meters between non-household members. Hand sanitizer will be available. Visitors will need to bring their own drinking water.

For now, guided group visits and activities are not available, to protect the community. However, teachers and youth group leaders are encouraged to contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com to find out about the many things that are currently offered to schools and youth groups, including free books and other free, fun educational resources. 

Access to the indoor areas and services of the Amuseum is now available by appointment on a case-by-case basis. These include Soualibra, the free research library about St. Martin, and the free Heritage Preservation services. Those interested are invited to contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com for more information.

St. Martin poetry exhibits showcase local authors.

The Amuseum can also be visited virtually at any time at http://amuseumnaturalis.com/. The Amuseum@Home program of free ebooks, activities, short films and games based on St. Martin nature and heritage are available at http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/category/athome/ or by visiting Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook. The free Heritage Backup program and tools are available at http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/projects/heritage-backup/.

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is located on the hill above Le Galion. Entry is free to all. More information and a map are available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com/.

Les Fruits de Mer Launch Amuseum@Home for Local Learning

Free ebooks about nature are included in Amuseum@Home.

The Les Fruits de Mer association has launched a free at-home learning program. Amuseum@Home shares several fun learning resources each day via social media and the Les Fruits de Mer website. The program supports local learning while schools are shut down and St. Martiners of all ages are staying at home to avoid spreading coronavirus. 

“With the acceleration of this global pandemic we knew we had to act,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Sharing these free learning tools and activities can help kids stay engaged and entertained during this difficult time, while also learning about their island. It can help parents and teachers too. We hope that it also makes it easier for people to stay at home to slow the potential spread of coronavirus.”

The Amuseum@Home program launched on Sunday with an ebook about pond birds, a set of coloring pages and a short documentary film about flamingos on St. Martin. The theme for the day was wetlands. Les Fruits de Mer plans to share several resources each day.

Coloring pages and other activities are being shared for free.

“This is a very hard time, but the rich nature and heritage of St. Martin have a way of lifting spirits,” said Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “Let’s find inspiration in the stories of St. Martiners and in the amazing plants and animals that have survived countless droughts and tempests. It is a good time to explore and celebrate what makes this island special.” 

All of the Amuseum@Home materials are offered for free. To access them, visit Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook, or go to http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/category/athome/ for daily collections of books, activities, videos and more.

The St. Martin 100

Where can you look if you want to learn more about St. Martin? If you want to know about hotels, restaurant and tourist attractions, head to the internet. If you want to know what commanders were in charge of the colonies and how many barrels of salt were produced in the 19th century, look in various government archives. If you want to know foreigners saw the island, many of the history books written in the 20th century will tell you.

But what if you want to learn about life on St. Martin—how it is and how it was? What about local culture? What about local events that weren’t “historical” enough to make it into the permanent record? What about the knowledge passed down from generations?

The best, and often only, source of this knowledge is direct conversation with St. Martiners. At this very moment, the people of the island know more about St. Martin than all the sites on the web and all the archives in Europe. This is a tremendous resource. It is the most vast and valuable part of St. Martin’s heritage.

There is a line that has been slipping away for a long time. It is a fuzzy line drawn somewhere in the early 1960s when the age of tourism began in earnest. It is a line that divides those that remember the island’s traditional period and those who never knew it. It is a line edging close to the horizon.

It is time to act while a different era is still remembered. (Barbara Cannegieter postcard collection)

St. Martin’s unique cultural legacy will endure, as it has for hundreds of years. But the depth and richness of that legacy will depend largely on what we are able to record today and in the coming few years. It will depend in part on how we protect and preserve what has already been documented. But most of all, it will depend on how many people we can speak to and how many stories we can record right now.

With time working against us, perhaps we can start by identifying the St. Martin 100. Who are the 100 St. Martiners who need to be interviewed most urgently? Perhaps their oral histories are of special value because of their experience or role in the community. Perhaps the perfect St. Martin 100 simply captures a diversity of experience: people from all walks of life from all over the island. Certainly it includes elders who can still remember life when it was very different here.

Of course, the St. Martin 100 is just a start. If 100 oral histories could be recorded a year, a library of 1,000 interviews could exist in a decade. So many stories would be saved and so many traditions described from different points of view. This would be a true library of culture and heritage.

Who would you suggest for the St. Martin 100? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

St. Martin Nature Books Available at Amuseum Naturalis

Ten different local nature books are available at Amuseum Naturalis.

Nature lovers and book lovers have something to celebrate on St. Martin. Ten different books about local wildlife are now available at Amuseum Naturalis, including eight in English and two in French. All of the books are full of vivid color images and great stories about the island’s unique nature. They are published by the Les Fruits de Mer association.

“The last edition of our wildlife guide was completely sold out. So it’s great to have it available again–plus a bunch of other beautiful books!” said author Mark Yokoyama. “Most of them are available in print for the first time, and it’s really nice to sit down and flip through the pages. We’re especially excited to have the long-awaited French edition of the St. Martin wildlife guide!”

The first French edition of The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of St. Martin has been published thanks to a micro-project grant from the French Agency for Biodiversity’s Te Me Um resource center and its members. The project financed the French translation by Amandine Vaslet and the printing of 200 copies for schools. Teachers who would like a free copy for their classrooms can pick it up at Amuseum Naturalis.

The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of St. Martin is now available in French.

Copies of the French and English versions of the wildlife guide are also available to teachers from French Quarter thanks to the Quartier + Musée project funded by CGET and the Collectivité de Saint-Martin under the Politique de la Ville program. Teachers from French Quarter are encouraged to stop by the Amuseum to pick up their copies.

For the general public, books are available for purchase at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House for $10 to $20. They are also available on Amazon for those not on the island.  As always, digital versions can be downloaded for free at lesfruitsdemer.com. Amuseum Naturalis is on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. It is open 9am to noon, Tuesday to Saturday, and entry is free to all.

Les Fruits de Mer Donates Exhibit Panels to French Quarter School

Some Les Fruits de Mer volunteers with the panels that were donated to Omer Arrondell Primary School.

Classroom walls at Omer Arrondell Primary School in French Quarter have gotten a lot more exciting. The Les Fruits de Mer association donated copies of 24 panels from Amuseum Naturalis to the school. The educational panels cover a variety of local nature and heritage topics and will rotate through the different classes.

“Our association’s mission is to share all the things that make St. Martin special,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “A lot of that is missing from school lesson plans, so this was a great opportunity to literally get this information into the classroom in a fun and colorful way.”

The panels were made as part of Les Fruits de Mer’s project Quartier+Museé. The project goal is to extend the connection between Amuseum Naturalis and French Quarter by featuring French Quarter topics at the Amuseum and sharing Amuseum content with the town. The project is funded by CGET and the Collectivité of Saint-Martin under the Politique de la Ville program.

The teachers were excited to receive the bilingual English-French panels. Each panel tells a unique story about St. Martin and is illustrated with vivid photos. Topics include the animals that live only on St. Martin, the bear-sized rodent that once lived here, the origins of bush medicine plants and techniques and the native tree with the hardest wood in the world.

Les Fruits de Mer hopes to find the funds to print panels for as many schools as possible. The association is also happy to share the panel designs with any school or organization interested in printing their own copies. Amuseum Naturalis offers free school and youth group visits as well. Contact Les Fruits de Mer at info@lesfruitsdemer.com to find out more.

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

Find Stories in Your Family Photos at Free Workshop

Family photos are rich in meaning.

Do you ever wish you knew more about your family history? Are you looking for something special to share this holiday season? Sign up for the free Family Photo Workshop and you can do both these things. The workshop will be held at Amuseum Naturalis from 9am to noon on Saturday, December 7th.

Every photo also tells a story. When we learn how to read the story in a photo, that story comes alive and can be a part of history. Cesar Escalona is an expert at finding the meaning in photos, and he will help you find the story in one of your own family photos at the workshop. Cesar is an anthropologist and photographer who specializes in finding culture and history in photos.

“Photos show us many things about the past,” said Escalona. “We can see who our ancestors were, what they were doing, how they dressed and the landscape around them. They hold details about culture, everyday life and historical events. Photography also has a visual language, just like painting and other arts. By learning the basics of this language, we can find out what the photographer’s choices tell us.”

Each person will find the story in their own family photo using what they learn in the workshop. They will also receive a high-resolution scan of their photo so they can share their photo and story with family and friends for the holidays. It’s a great chance to discover and connect with your own family history, and share what you learn with your loved ones.

Even informal photos can tell us a lot about family and culture.

This workshop can also be a first step towards studying your family history in more detail and connecting it to the history of the island. Future workshops will cover topics like digitizing photos and how to protect and preserve family photos. 

To sign up for this workshop, email info@lesfruitsdemer.com or send a message to Les Fruits de Mer by Facebook. You will need to bring at least one family photo to work with during the workshop. All other materials will be provided. The workshop is free, but space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot!

Cesar Escalona is an anthropologist specializing in the study of photos. (Photo by Kristin DeFalco)

About the Workshop Leader
Cesar Escalona is an anthropologist from Central University of Venezuela. Since 2007 he has specialized in the study and audiovisual documentation of Venezuelan cultural diversity as expressed in the rituals and festivities of indigenous, Afro-Caribbean and Catholic people. He has also completed specialized studies in gender and sexual diversity (2013) and visual anthropology (2014). He is dedicated to development of visual methodologies and investigation of photographic image as narrative and construction of the past. As a university instructor and community teacher, he taught audiovisual methodologies and forms of research of the past in the rural communities of western Venezuela.

Amuseum Naturalis Reopens for the 2019-2020 Season

Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum about St. Martin’s nature and heritage.

Amuseum Naturalis has reopened after its break and is ready for visitors! The free museum of St. Martin’s nature, heritage and culture is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to noon. The Amuseum is located at The Old House in French Quarter, on the hill above Galion Beach. Amuseum visitors of all ages enjoy special exhibits, gardens, viewpoints and fun activities.

“We’re very excited to announce our fall reopening!” said Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer, the association behind the Amuseum. “We invite everyone to come visit the Amuseum. If you’re a teacher or youth group leader, please get in touch to schedule a free visit!”

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

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 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 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.

Upcoming events at the Amuseum include a volunteer day from 9am to noon on Saturday, October 19th with lunch served after. The seventh annual Migratory Bird Festival will be held at the Amuseum on November 9th.

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

St. Martin and the Caribbean Celebrate World Migratory Bird Day This Fall

The seventh annual Migratory Bird Festival will be held at Amuseum Naturalis on November 9th.

The arrival of fall heralds a change in the seasons—even in the Caribbean. The days grow shorter and the fierce heat of the sun lessens. Countless birds journey to their winter homes in the tropics. All over the region, Caribbean people celebrate World Migratory Bird Day and the birds that come here every year.

In the Caribbean, about a third of the 500 often seen species of birds are summer or winter visitors. More than 60 events on 20 Caribbean islands are already lined up to celebrate these amazing birds. More than 80,000 residents and visitors will join in the activities, led by Environment for the Americas and BirdsCaribbean.

On St. Martin, the seventh annual Migratory Bird Festival will be held at Amuseum Naturalis on Saturday, November 9th from 9am to noon. The free festival tells the story of these amazing birds with expositions, discovery stations, art activities and more. People of all ages can get to know these birds and learn why St. Martin is so important to them.

Learning what migratory birds eat at the 2018 Migratory Bird Festival.

The 2019 theme for World Migratory Bird Day is Protect birds: Be the solution to plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem and a great threat to birds. Since the 1950s, we have made an estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic. Over 90% of plastic is not recycled and ends up in our landfills and natural spaces.

Plastic can hurt birds in many ways. Birds mistake floating plastics like bags, drinking straws and bottles for food. Parent birds feed plastic to their chicks. Swallowing sharp plastic can kill birds by piercing organs. Birds can starve with stomachs full of plastic, and birds can die after being trapped in plastic waste or fishing line.

A young Brown Booby caught on a fishing lure. Many kinds of plastic are dangerous to Caribbean birds. (Photo by Michiel Oversteegen)

Residents and visitors of all ages are invited to the Migratory Bird Festival from 9am to noon on November 9th at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter. The festival is made each year by the Les Fruits de Mer association. Contact the Les Fruits de Mer to volunteer or become a sponsor. To learn more about the festival and see photos and videos from previous years, visit: http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/events/migratory-bird-festival/

Decorating cotton totes to use in place of plastic bags at the 2018 Migratory Bird Festival.

Les Fruits de Mer to Present at International Bird Conference

Hundreds of bird specialists from the Caribbean and beyond attend the BirdsCaribbean International Conference.

Every two years, BirdsCaribbean holds its international conference on Caribbean birds and their habitats. The meeting is the largest of its kind, attracting hundreds of delegates from the region and beyond. This year, it will be held in Guadeloupe from July 25-29. St. Martin will be represented by Jenn Yerkes, Mark Yokoyama and William Allanic of the Les Fruits de Mer association.

Jenn Yerkes will be delivering two presentations: Jumbie Trees and Spirit Birds: Connecting Cultural and Natural Heritage to Engage the Public and Helping People Engage with Nature After a Natural Disaster. Both presentations will highlight work done on St. Martin in the last two years. Mark Yokoyama will be leading a workshop on working with local media. William Allanic will be attending as a youth delegate.

BirdsCaribbean is the largest conservation group in the region. Its members come from nonprofits, forestry departments and universities all over the region. They do research, save wild spaces and share the magic of birds and nature all over the Caribbean. At the conference, over 200 members will gather in one place to share the latest in research and more.

Les Fruits de Mer has been a partner of BirdsCaribbean since 2013. The association became the first institutional member of BirdsCaribbean in the entire French Caribbean in 2015. Les Fruits de Mer members have presented at international BirdsCaribbean conferences in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

Mark Yokoyama leads a writing workshop during the 2017 BirdsCaribbean conference in Cuba.

The conference is important because it is the one time when people working in bird science, conservation and education all over the Caribbean come together to learn and share. Training workshops teach skills like how to do a bird survey. New research and techniques for helping birds are shared. Les Fruits de Mer members will bring know-how back to St. Martin where it can be used to raise awareness, improve nature education and protect valuable habitats.

This year’s conference is “Keeping Caribbean Birds Aloft” (or “An nou poté mannèv pou zozio karayib volé” in Créole). In keeping with the theme, the conference will feature many ways to help birds in the Caribbean.

“Our birds face many challenges, and we want to address them,” noted Lisa Sorensen, the Executive Director of BirdsCaribbean. “We will work on how to protect birds from threats like plastic pollution or habitat destruction. We are also working to promote birds for their value as a tourism attraction and the benefits they provide to people.”

You can learn more about the conference at http://birdscaribbean.org/bc2019/, including keynote speakers, workshop themes and field trips. Registration is open now.

The Guadeloupe Conference Poster features five special birds—four that are resident in Guadeloupe and one that migrates to the island. (Artwork by Guillaume Zbinden)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Les Fruits de Mer Design World’s First Octomaran for Marine Research

An interior schematic of the octomaran Calamari.

Move over, boring old catamarans—make way for the octomaran! The Les Fruits de Mer association is finalizing its design for the world’s first eight-hull sailing ship. The ship, to be named the Calamari, will serve as a traveling laboratory for ocean research.

“How much more stable is the octomaran compared to a single-hull ship? Obviously, eight times more stable,” explained conceptual designer Mark Yokoyama. “There are also significant safety benefits. The Calamari will be partially unsinkable. Our computer modeling shows at least one hull remains afloat in every possible scenario. In a real-world disaster, a substantial portion of the passengers are likely to survive.”

The Calamari is the first octomaran ever designed. Each hull will have its own sleeping quarters, laboratory space and kitchen. The research team will be able to conduct up to eight experiments at the same time. They will also be able to cook up to eight different kinds of food simultaneously.

A maritime artist’s rendering of the Calamari at sea.

“The Calamari will be a platform for conducting research that has never been attempted,” declared Les Fruits de Mer expedition chief Jenn Yerkes. “We’ll also be able to feed a crew with any combination of dietary restrictions and food allergies imaginable. It will truly be a new age of exploration.”

Its groundbreaking design will give the Calamari eight times the typical buoyancy, making it suitable for extremely shallow areas as well as the profound depths of the big blue. “We’ll be able to deploy teams of extreme shallow snorkelers as easily as deep-sea divers. We’re thrilled to develop this truly unique craft to discover and share the natural heritage of St. Martin’s seas!”

Once the design is finalized, construction will begin at shipyards in Halifax, Newark, Sheffield, Mumbai, Nagasaki, St. Petersburg, Stroobos and Saint-Nazaire. The components will be assembled on St. Martin.

In addition to the Calamari, the association has already created initial designs for a nine-hull octomaran to be called the Octoplus.

Citizens of Change Project Celebrates St. Martiners Who Made a Difference

Citizens of Change is a project celebrating ordinary people who made a difference on St. Martin.

Citizens of Change is a new project to celebrate St. Martiners who have made a difference on the island. The public is invited to nominate people they would like to recognize. The stories of their work will be featured in an exhibit at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, and also online. The Les Fruits de Mer association and Be the Change Foundation are partners in this project.

“Amuseum Naturalis is a place to share all the stories of St. Martin,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Citizens of Change is an opportunity to share the stories of everyday people who made a difference. It’s also a chance for the community to tell us what they want to see in the Amuseum.”

People are encouraged to nominate anyone, living or dead, who made a difference on St. Martin. Nominations for teachers, writers, artists, builders, farmers, craftsmen, cooks, parents and storytellers are encouraged. By “citizen” we refer to ordinary members of the community, rather than political leaders. Nominees may be of any nationality.

Nominations can be made by email to info@lesfruitsdemer.com, on the Les Fruits de Mer Facebook page, or in person at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House. Nominations should include the name of the person nominated and a description of their contribution to the island. 

“The success and survival of St. Martin has always depended on ordinary people making a difference,” said Be the Change Foundation Director Melanie Choisy. “Our organization is dedicated to the kind of giving, sharing and volunteering that is part of St. Martin culture. We’re excited to support a project that celebrates this spirit and the people who embody it.”

The Citizens of Change project is the Be the Change featured project for March. Donations made to the foundation this month will fund the creation of this exhibit. Donations can be made online at https://bethechangesxm.com

Help Create a Museum About St. Martin Nature and Heritage on Sunday

In 2018, over 200 volunteers spent over 4,000 hours working on the Amuseum.

Local association Les Fruits de Mer invites everyone on St. Martin to help make a museum together this Sunday, at the Amuseum Naturalis February volunteer day. Volunteers of all ages can lend a hand on Sunday, February 3rd from 3-5pm and then enjoy refreshments together right after.

“All are welcome, and anyone can help,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “You can help out in the bush tea garden, install new exhibit panels, plant some seedlings, or share your local knowledge. The Amuseum is a place to tell all the stories of St. Martin, so come add your voice!”

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum of local nature and heritage located at the historic Old House in French Quarter. Phase One of the Amuseum has been open since July 2018. It includes an exhibit hall, a botanic walk, several stunning viewpoints and gardens for bush tea and traditional crops.

Amuseum Naturalis is St. Martin’s free museum of nature and heritage.

The Amuseum is an all-volunteer project. Over the last year, over 200 volunteers spent over 4,000 hours working on the Amuseum. Since opening, the Amuseum has welcomed over 3,000 visitors, including over 1,500 local students.

“After watching museums, libraries and other cultural resources close in recent years, or get destroyed by Irma, it’s clear that the need for a museum is stronger than ever,” said Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “It’s also a chance to build something for the island together. We can look beyond the old style approach to history. We can create something more alive and more diverse that reflects the spirit of the people.”

The February volunteer event is 3-5pm on Sunday, February 3rd at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, on the hill above Le Galion beach. The public is also invited to visit the Amuseum during regular opening hours, Tuesday to Saturday 9am to noon. Admission is always free, and free school and youth group visits are also offered. For more information, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

Free BirdSleuth Caribbean Training for Educators This Weekend

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a bird-based education program made for the Caribbean.

On October 20th and 21st, the Les Fruits de Mer association is offering a free training for teachers and others who work with children. The training is for the BirdSleuth Caribbean program. The training and materials are bilingual in English and French. The September BirdSleuth training was fully booked, and many educators from that session are already using the activities.

“Imagine a school class having fun and learning about biology by playing a game of Bird Bingo or Habitat Scavenger Hunt,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’re excited to make that possible by offering a free training program for teachers and educators. It can be used in the classroom and outdoors and it was made for the Caribbean.”

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a set of fun lessons and activities that uses birds to teach youth about nature and science. BirdSleuth Caribbean has been specially adapted for the region, so kids learn about the birds and habitats that they can see around them. It’s designed for students 9-13 years old. The program contains lessons, activities and learning games that can be done in the classroom and outdoors.

Binkie van Es teaches a BirdSleuth Caribbean training session.

Les Fruits de Mer will be hosting free training in the BirdSleuth program with instructor Binkie van Es. Participants will enjoy hands-on training and receive materials to bring back to their class or youth group. On each training day, 4-5 different games and activities will be taught.

“It’s an amazing feeling to see kids fall in love with birds and science through the BirdSleuth program,” explained BirdSleuth instructor Binkie van Es. “Birds are the perfect gateway to a love of nature and a passion for learning. The activities are a lot of fun for teachers, too!”

Educators learning BirdSleuth Caribbean explore nature at Amuseum Naturalis.

The bilingual training will be at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House: October 20th and 21st, from 9am-1pm. It is free, and lunch will be served after each training session. If you are interested, please contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com to reserve your spot in the free training.

Free Fun This Saturday at Migratory Bird Festival

Festival guests can compare their wingspan to local birds. Mark Yokoyama is larger than an Great Egret but smaller than an Osprey.

People of all ages are invited to enjoy the free 2018 Migratory Bird Festival from 9am to noon on Saturday, October 13th. The festival will be held at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, on the hill above Le Galion in French Quarter. The annual family-friendly event was created in 2013 by Les Fruits de Mer. It celebrates the birds that travel thousands of miles each year to spend time on St. Martin.

“We’re excited to have lots of fun new ways to connect with birds and nature,” says Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “How big are you compared to some of St. Martin’s birds? You can measure your wingspan at the event and find out! You can also learn the songs of some of our visiting birds, and go on a hunt for the things birds need to survive.”

If you want to see what pond birds eat on St. Martin, visit the festival’s Portable Pond. Just one inch deep, it’s your chance to get a good look at all the aquatic insects and other animals that are usually hidden. At the birdwatching station, you can learn how to use binoculars to spot birds. You’ll find out about the amazing travels of migratory birds and why St. Martin is so important to them. 

What do pond birds eat? See the amazing world of life that’s just below the surface of our ponds.

The event is also a great time to explore Amuseum Naturalis and its gardens. Discover bats, night creatures and animals that live only on St. Martin in the exhibit hall. Find out about native plants and trees in the backyard, or explore the gardens playing Bird Bingo. Guests can also learn the 250-year history of the Old House itself.

“We also want to make it fun to help birds and nature,” explained Amuseum Naturalis curator Mark Yokoyama. “At the festival, you can paint bird art on a canvas tote bag. After the event, you can use it instead of a plastic bag. That helps protect the island and the habitats that birds need.”

Add your own bird art to a canvas tote bag and take it home with you!

The festival is designed to be a good time for all no matter the weather. “There are indoor areas for all the major activities, so it will still be lots of fun even if Saturday is a rainy day!” adds Yokoyama.

The Migratory Bird Festival is part of World Migratory Bird Day. Events celebrating migratory birds are happening on many Caribbean islands and all over the world. 

Head to the Migratory Bird Festival, rain or shine, Saturday, October 13th from 9am to noon at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter. The festival is brought to you by Les Fruits de Mer, and the 2018 sponsors: L’Auberge Gourmand, BZSE, Coalys, Delta Petroleum, ECOFIP, Frigodom, IZI LIGHT, Lagoonies, Pelikaan Brewery, St. Martin’s Sweetness and SXM Logistics. For more information and a map, visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com.

World Migratory Bird Day in St. Martin and the Caribbean

World Migratory Bird Day will be celebrated on 16 Caribbean islands.

The month of October heralds a change in the seasons—even in the Caribbean. The days grow shorter and the fierce heat of the sun lessens. Countless birds journey to the their winter homes on these islands. October also brings World Migratory Bird Day, when Caribbean people celebrate the birds that come here every year.

In the Caribbean, about a third of our 500 bird species are summer or winter visitors. More than 30 events on 16 Caribbean islands are lined up to celebrate these amazing birds. More than 80,000 people will join in the activities, led by Environment for the Americas and BirdsCaribbean.

The Migratory Bird Festival is October 13th at Amuseum Naturalis in French Quarter.

On St. Martin, the Les Fruits de Mer association is hosting the sixth annual Migratory Bird Festival. This year’s event is Saturday, October 13th from 9am to noon at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter. It is free and people of all ages are invited.

The Migratory Bird Festival is a great chance to go birdwatching.

At the Migratory Bird Festival, guests will see birds and learn about the amazing journeys they take each year. There will be bird-themed arts and crafts, and fun games like Bird Bingo. Guests can also explore Amuseum Naturalis and enjoy its gardens and scenic viewpoints.

The 2018 theme for World Migratory Bird Day in the Caribbean is “Year of the Bird.” It is a chance to look at issues facing birds. On St. Martin, pollution and debris impact many places where birds live. It is also a chance to take action. Planting native trees to replace the ones lost to Hurricane Irma can help birds.

“Last October, we weren’t able to celebrate WMBD,” says Executive Director of BirdsCaribbean Lisa Sorenson. “Hurricanes Irma and Maria had just hit several islands with great force, and many of our partners were in shock. Now we are moving forward now with great hope as migratory birds return to our shores.”

Birds like the Whimbrel travel thousands of miles to spend their winter on St. Martin and other Caribbean islands.

Visit migratorybirdday.org or birdscaribbean.org to learn more about celebrations all over the Caribbean. For more information about the Migratory Bird Festival at Amuseum Naturalis in St. Martin, visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com.

Les Fruits de Mer Highlights Heritage to Boost Local Education

Students have fun learning about St. Martin at Amuseum Naturalis.

Les Fruits de Mer is launching new initiatives to help teachers and young people. The non-profit association has provided education about St. Martin wildlife and heritage for the last five years. Since Hurricane Irma, that mission has become even more important. While schools on both sides of the island work to build back their staff and facilities, Les Fruits de Mer is helping with new ways to provide education focused on St. Martin.

“The first phase of Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is open,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “It’s a great place to learn about the nature, history and culture of St. Martin. We’ve already been getting lots of visits from school classes, youth groups and families.”

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum created by Les Fruits de Mer and located in French Quarter. Right now, the Amuseum features eight exhibits on local natural and cultural heritage. There’s also a botanic walk with native plant signage, a bush tea garden, plots of traditional food plants, and special panels about the historical site and its features. Games and activities in English and French help students of all ages discover and learn. Classes and youth groups can book free visits to the museum.

Binkie van Es leads the first session of free BirdSleuth teacher training at Amuseum Naturalis last Saturday.

The Amuseum is also hosting free bilingual teacher trainings for the BirdSleuth Caribbean program. The program includes fun lessons, games and activities made for the Caribbean. BirdSleuth uses local birds to help kids connect with nature and learn science and problem-solving skills. Training at the Amuseum will empower dozens of schools and youth groups on both sides of the island with this program. 

“We love helping people discover what is special about St. Martin,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “That could happen at a visit to the Amuseum or a BirdSleuth activity in your school. We also share everything we do for free online, including books and movies. Interviews we’ve filmed with St. Martiners reveal a lot in just a few minutes. They’re a great way to connect with local culture and history in the classroom or just watching on your phone.”

Delphine David shares stories about her life in an interview filmed by Les Fruits de Mer.

The fall hours of Amuseum Naturalis are 9am-noon Tuesday to Saturday. The next free BirdSleuth teacher trainings are scheduled for October 20-21. Contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com to participate in the trainings or to schedule a free school visit. Short films, presentations, books, and art activities focused on local nature, culture and history are available for free download on www.lesfruitsdemer.com.

Rediscover St. Martin at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House

Students enjoy activities during their visit to Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House.

People of all ages are invited to enjoy and explore Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House this fall. Organizers have announced the fall hours–the Amuseum will be open from 9am to noon, Tuesday to Saturday, starting September 1st. Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum of local nature, history and culture, developed by the Les Fruits de Mer association with an all-volunteer team. It is located at the historic Old House on the hill above Le Galion in French Quarter.

“We had a fantastic summer preview, with over 1,000 visitors in just over a month,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We especially enjoyed the summer camps and school groups that visited during the preview. Now we’re inviting teachers and youth group leaders to schedule fall visits!”

While the process of restoring The Old House continues, the Amuseum has opened its gardens and an exhibit hall featuring eight exhibits. In the back yard, visitors can enjoy amazing views and learn about native trees and plants. A bush tea and bush medicine garden is growing, with many plants donated by St. Martiners who want to share this tradition.

Visitors learn about The Old House and its history dating back to the 1700s.

The Amuseum’s “micro-theater” shows a reel of over a dozen documentary shorts about nature, history and culture. Many of the films feature fascinating interviews with St. Martiners. Les Fruits de Mer members and volunteers have been interviewing St. Martin residents to share the stories of the island as told by its people. The association’s goal is to collaborate with the community so the Amuseum can be a true reflection of the island.

Families are encouraged to visit the Amuseum. Amuseum Hunt! and Amuseum Adventure! are two fun activities created by the association to help students and families interact with the exhibits.

The public is also invited to share their stories during their visits. The Amuseum is ready to film interviews, scan photos or documents and photograph historic items. Volunteers are also welcome. To get involved, just stop by the Amuseum when it is open or email the association at info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

For more information about Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com. Schools and youth groups can schedule group visits by contacting info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Amuseum Naturalis Open House

People of all ages are invited to visit Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House this Sunday from 9am to noon. St. Martin’s free museum of nature, history and culture is celebrating the launch of its summer preview with an open house event.

Amuseum Naturalis is a museum dedicated to sharing all that is unique about St. Martin. It was developed by the non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer. During 2016 and 2017, it was located in Grand Case. The association is relaunching and expanding the Amuseum at the historic Old House in French Quarter.

“Right now, everyone is looking for fun stuff to do—especially parents and kids,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We decided to do a summer preview so people can start enjoying the Amuseum, even while we continue to develop it.”

The summer preview includes an exhibit hall with eight exhibits. Visitors will discover fascinating displays on topics like animals found only on St. Martin, traditional building techniques and the tree with the hardest wood in the world. They can also see projects in progress, like the Amuseum’s bush tea garden.

The open house is Sunday, July 22nd from 9am to noon. Following the open house, the Amuseum will be open Monday to Friday from 9am to noon during July and August. Admission to the Amuseum is free. Schools and youth groups are invited to contact Les Fruits de Mer to arrange a group visit.

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is located in French Quarter at the top of the hill above Le Galion. For a map and more information, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Les Fruits de Mer Launch St. Martin’s First Yoda Museum

Adventure! Excitement! Les Fruits de Mer look away to the future.

Non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer is getting ready to launch their biggest project ever, a brand new museum for St. Martin. The group, which has previously focused on wildlife education, is taking their latest project in a surprising new direction.

“After two successful years of our nature museum, Amuseum Naturalis, the obvious next step would be to expand to include local heritage and culture as well,” explained co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “But we decided to consider all the possibilities, no matter how crazy or unexpected. What has never been done on St. Martin? What would no one ever think of doing a museum about? Then it hit us: Yoda!”

Yoda is a character from the Star Wars movies, a “Jedi” master, strong with “The Force” who lives on the fictional planet “Dagobah”. Although loved by millions, the character has no particular connection to St. Martin. For an organization focused on local topics like wildlife and folklore, the idea of creating a Yoda museum was intimidating.

“When the idea first came up, I said, ‘You want the impossible!’ ” remembers Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Mark said ‘Let’s try!’ and I thought, ‘There is no try—let’s do this.’ ”

The Yoda museum will be located in the historic building that formerly housed The Old House museum. After Hurricane Irma, the site was in need of extensive clean-up. The association has used all its powers to lift this project off the ground. Still, the building is remarkably beautiful. As Jenn Yerkes asserts, “When 200 years old you reach, look as good you will not.”

Always in motion is the future, but you can follow the progress of the museum at http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com or search your feelings for Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

UPDATE: It has come to our attention that the new museum will not be the island’s first Yoda museum. It seems there has been a Yoda museum in Philipsburg for over 10 years. We sincerely regret the error. To our knowledge, the new museum will be the first Yoda museum on the French side of the island.

The Stories Behind the Names

Does every name have a story behind it? If not every name, surely most do. Some are beautiful, some are terrible. But one thing that many have in common is that we become so used to the names, we forget the stories.

Consider Philipsburg—it’s named after John Philips, but what do we really know about him? He is not particularly well known—he doesn’t even have a page on Wikipedia. How many countries have a capital named after someone so obscure?

A town named after John Philips.

What we do know is that he was born in Scotland and made Commander of St. Maarten by the Dutch West India Company. The West India Company was a slave trading enterprise, and every part of the Philips story involved enslaved people. He convinced planters to come to the island with their slaves by offering them land, and was a plantation owner and slaveowner himself. He gets the credit for having Fort Amsterdam rebuilt, but surely enslaved people did the actual rebuilding.

Of course, many historical figures took an active part in enslaving and dehumanizing others. Thomas Jefferson is a commonly cited example. His ownership of slaves was accepted at the time, then largely erased from history. Thankfully, today we are more open about the brutality and horror of colonization and slavery, and the role of those involved. We can recognize Jefferson as a political thinker, while also seeing how terribly incomplete his vision of democracy was.

On St. Martin, many names we use today are linked to slavery. Consider all the towns and neighborhoods named after plantations where people were enslaved: Hope Estate, Belvedere, Mary’s Fancy and Madame Estate. There are neighborhoods, real estate developments and businesses named after plantations.

St. Martin is full of names that are both part of local heritage and linked to terrible suffering. How can the island reconcile these two things? Are we telling an honest version of the story behind the name Philipsburg? Is it reasonable to expect that every time we name something after a plantation, we recognize the enslaved people that built that plantation? What is the role of government, business owners using these names, and the people of the island? Write in to The Daily Herald, or to info@lesfruitsdemer.com and share your thoughts!

We’re Relaunching Amuseum Naturalis

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is being prepared for a 2018 launch.

After delighting over 10,000 visitors in its first two years, Amuseum Naturalis is coming back in a new location in 2018. St. Martin’s first natural history museum will be expanding to highlight island heritage and culture as well as nature. At the new location, formerly The Old House museum, there will also be community projects including gardens, a composting center and a native plants nursery.

“We are thrilled to create a space to tell all the stories of St. Martin!” announced Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’re working with the local community to find and tell stories. We especially want to shine a light on heritage that’s been ignored or suppressed, and show how the island’s history and culture is fascinating and meaningful.”

Amuseum Naturalis is developed and operated by the Les Fruits de Mer association. The group believes this project is important for many reasons. Local school systems are already under stress after Hurricane Irma. School materials on the island come from Europe or North America, and don’t teach enough about local nature or heritage. The Amuseum has been, and will be, free for all. It is a place where young people can discover science and history, and develop valuable skills.

Amuseum Naturalis had over 10,000 visitors in the last two years.

“We’re really happy to see the amount of support the Amuseum is getting,” commented Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “Volunteers have been coming to help clear the property and prepare the site. Everyone who comes falls in love with this place. People from around the world have been supporting with donations. It’s a big project, but together we can make it happen for the island!”

Amuseum volunteers pause for a photo after a recent clean-up session.

Les Fruits de Mer are currently working with volunteers to prepare the new location every weekend, and more volunteers are always welcome. The next volunteer day is Saturday, March 17th, and more information is available at lesfruitsdemer.com and on the Les Fruits de Mer Facebook page. There is also a crowdfunding campaign raising funds until March 30th. St. Martiners interested in sharing stories or ideas about topics to feature in the museum should contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Relaunching Amuseum Naturalis

We’re super excited to be relaunching Amuseum Naturalis at an amazing new location: The Old House! In addition to nature, we will also be highlighting local heritage and culture. The new Amuseum will also be a space for community projects. We’ve already started a native plants nursery for reforestation and bird-friendly backyards. Community gardens and a composting center are on our to-do list!

To learn more about the project and donate to support it, visit our crowdfunding page.

We will be posting regular updates about our progress here, in our newsletter and on Facebook, so please follow along. Our next volunteer get-together is Saturday, March 17th. Event info is here.

Year in Review: 2017

2017 was a pretty amazing year for Les Fruits de Mer. Here are a few of the highlights.

Our year started strong, with the relaunch of our pop-up natural history museum, Amuseum Naturalis. We remade all our exhibits with big, bright signage and added many new attractions. Special exhibits, including original whale paintings and the unsung heroes of Caribbean science took the Amuseum in interesting new directions. Over the course of the season we welcomed almost 9,000 visitors. The all-volunteer team ran the Amuseum during busy Mardis de Grand Case street fair nights and daytime classroom visits.

In April Les Fruits de Mer held the 4th annual Endemic Animal Festival at the Amuseum. It was a chance to see the unique animals that live only on St. Martin. The event also featured nature-themed art activities and giveaways of Gaïac seedlings as part of our Club Gaïac project. The next weekend members of the team also hopped over to Anguilla to volunteer at the 2nd Anguilla Iguana Day festivities.

The team traveled quite a bit during the summer. Members visited Statia to film and research and Amsterdam to attend a conference about Maria Sibylla Merian, a groundbreaking scientist who did key work in the Caribbean. Jenn Yerkes and Mark Yokoyama gave presentations and led workshops at the BirdsCaribbean International Conference in Cuba and Jenn presented at the International Association of Caribbean Archaeologists meeting in St. Croix.

Hurricane Irma hit St. Martin in early fall, delaying most plans. The Fruits team worked to document the hurricane’s impact on nature and the subsequent recovery. Since the storm, Mark Yokoyama has been writing weekly columns in The Daily Herald about nature after Irma. The team has also produced a number of short films highlighting different aspects of the recovery. Our videos were viewed over 100,000 times in the last three months. In October, Marc AuMarc released the second album of Les Fruits de Mer theme songs, Fruits Around the World.

Les Fruits de Mer restarted public outreach with a bird feeder giveaway at Sky’s the Limit restaurant in October. The 5th annual Migratory Bird Festival was held in late November at Friar’s Bay. It was a fun event, with great activities and a super team of volunteers. The 2017 theme was Welcome Back! to both the migratory birds and the recovering habitats that they depend on. The 4th Heritage Photo Contest was also launched in November, with the theme Rebirth. Entries were accepted through the end of the year, with an exhibition to follow in early 2018.

The association is also very thankful for the generous support of friends and members in the final months of the year. Sarah Allen and Maël Renault collected donations. William Moore and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap also made donations. Jarrad Nunes included Les Fruits de Mer in his Cheer Project fundraising which drew support from many fine people. We were also incredibly grateful to have sponsorship support from local businesses for the Migratory Bird Festival despite the challenges that they are facing right now. This timely support made it possible for us to continue our work celebrating local nature and heritage at a time when it is truly important.

Thanks to everyone who helped make 2017 such a great year for Les Fruits de Mer, and we’re looking forward to an even better 2018!

Thank You Cheer Project

We want to give a big thank you to The Cheer Project—Jarrad for doing it, Andy for helping and everyone for donating and sharing! Yesterday we raised $732 for Les Fruits de Mer, which we will be using to fund a really exciting set of projects for 2018. We will be rebuilding the Amuseum, printing new books about wildlife, making films about wildlife and how Hurricane Irma impacted the island. If you missed the video, here it is. If you want to make a donation, you still can.