Volunteers Dig Sint Eustatius

R Grant Gilmore III is an American archaeologist who runs the Secar archaeological initiative. For additional information about Secar, see p485 . What first brought you to Sint Eustatius?

I first came to Statia on the invitation of Norman Barka, one of my archaeology professors at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, USA. Professor Barka had been working on the island since 1979. I first visited in 1997. I moved here permanently in 2004 to continue my research. I love the island dearly; in fact, my wife Joanna and I gave our daughter the middle name 'Eustatia' -an 18th-century variation of the island's moniker. What is Secar, and how does one get involved?

First, most people haven't even heard of Sint Eustatius, and those who have probably don't know that there are over 600 documented archaeology sites scattered around the island. Secar provides an opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to experience Statia's rich archaeology first hand. We are also dedicated to bridging the gap between the past and the future by protecting standing historic structures and archaeological sites on Statia and on other nearby islands. Secar volunteers are not only immersed in archaeology (they live at the archaeology lab), but they also are encouraged to engage in local social life as well. If you are interested in joining the team, email me at [email protected].

Part of what keeps it this way is the US$4 per day or US$20 per year pass fee paid to Stenapa (opposite) to help this foundation maintain the pristine conditions of the Statia Marine Park. There is also an additional US$1 per day harbor fee. Please take only photos and leave all historic objects and marine life alone (fines have been levied at the airport on divers found to have stashed more than just a blue bead or two).

For a deep dive, Doobie's Crack, a large cleft in a reef at the northwest side of the island, has black-tip sharks and schools of large fish. Try Blue Bead Hole if you're feeling particularly lucky and want to give bead hunting in an underwater sand dump a go. Adventurous types should do a night dive at Stenapa Reef to check out the creatures that hide during the day.

In the last 10 years, Statia has sunk several ships, creating some of the best wreck diving in the world. The Charlie Brown was sunk in 2003 and a map of its cavernous hull and quarters now hangs on the Stenapa wall so divers can plan their route beforehand. A dive to Charlie Brown is best done before 11am. Several colonial-era wrecks also exist under the waves, but most of them have deteriorated to the point where all that remains are the awesome rusty anchors. See p57 for more on Statia diving.

One-tank dives average US$45, two-tank dives US$75. Night dives, certification courses and multidive packages are also available. PADI Open Water courses will set you back US$375.

Statia has three diving operations: Dive Statia (% 318-2435, in the US 866-614-3419; www.divestatia.com,www.mystatia.com; Oranjestad) The oldest dive center on the island. Friendly Rinda and Rudy run a solid operation.

Golden Rock Dive Center (% 318-2964, in the US 800-311-6658; www.goldenrockdive.com) Based at the Old Gin House, this scuba shop has been around for almost as long as Dive Statia. Michele and Glenn, the affable owners, make sure everything runs smoothly. There's a second location further down the coast where you suit up and do all the paperwork before departure. Scubaqua Dive Center (% 318-2160; www.scubaqua .com; Oranjestad) A newer addition to the mix. Swiss- and Swedish-run.

Hiking

The tourist office has a free hiking brochure with descriptions of 12 trails, and it can provide information on current trail conditions. Keep your eyes peeled for trail markers, which are usually small orange ribbons.

The most popular hike is to the Quill, Statia's extinct volcano. The Quill, and its surrounding slopes, was designated a national park in May 1998. The trail leading up the mountain begins at the end of Rosemary Laan in Oranjestad and it takes about 50 minutes to reach the edge of the crater. From there you can continue in either direction along the rim. The trail to the right (southeast) takes about 45 minutes and ends atop the 600m-high Mazinga, Statia's highest point. The shorter Panorama Track to the left offers great views and takes only about 15 minutes.

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