ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

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Our marina neighbor in Trinidad Sid told us about his friend Tommy Mackay who lived on St. Croix.  When we got there, we called Tommy and he gave us a driving tour of the island.  One of the more unusual things he shared with us was two stories his grandmother told him about living on St. Croix shortly after the turn of the century.


When she was a woman in 1902, Tommy's grandmother heard a tremendous explosion one morning. Shortly after the eruption of Mt. Pélée in St. Pierre, Martinique, volcanic ash covered St. Croix.  Rain washed the ash into the soil, resulting in bright green vegetation, so bright it hurt your eyes to look at it in the tropical sunlight.  Several days later, her father took her riding in the buggy to the eastern shore of St. Croix where dead fish of every kind had washed up, apparently killed in the explosion.  Experts theorized that an underwater fissure on Martinique had exploded, much like throwing dynamite in the water, killing the fish. 

Tommy's grandmother also told him about the iceboat arriving from Nova Scotia.  Huge blocks of glacial ice packed in straw were transported in the ship's hold.  When the ship arrived at St. Croix, it was a festive day in the harbor as everyone pulled up in wagons to buy ice.  Residents came from all over.  People saw friends they hadn't seen in ages.  Snow cones, ice cream, and other cold confections were made of the rare commodity and sold to the tropical patrons.

The U.S. Virgin Islands include three islands, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John.  St. Croix is geographically the largest of the three and St. John the smallest.  You could put St. John and St. Thomas on St. Croix and still have room left over.  St. Thomas is a big rock and has no flat land.  It has always been used by merchants and for commerce.  When the St. Thomas airport runway was constructed, land had to be reclaimed from the sea. 

St. Croix has two towns, Frederiksted on the western shore and Christiansted on the northern shore.  Frederiksted is the smaller town but has a dock for cruise ships.  Tommy was born in Frederiksted  and when he was a boy, the town was the shipping port for sugar.  The harbor was so shallow that barges were used to take sugar to the ships.  Now the channel is dredged for the cruise ships to get their passengers to port.

Some of the island's roads are really good since the Navy has a sub-tracking station here and the federal government maintains them.  If a person is born in the Virgin Islands, he is considered a United States citizen and can be drafted into military service but he cannot vote for the president of the US.

St. Croix has a varied geography, flat arid land on the eastern end and mountains with rain forest on the western end.  The northwestern end has three times as much rain as the arid eastern end.  The southern shore is flat and usually calm.  The western shore has lovely beaches and is also calm unless westerly winds blow at which time the conditions are untenable.  The northern shore tends to be rocky with reefs and the prevailing easterly winds constantly blow on this shore.   

Southern shore

Northwestern shore

Northern shore

St. Croix has all the Virgin Islands' industry.  Hovensa Oil Refinery (formerly called Hess) is the single largest refinery in the western hemisphere.  Crude oil is transported to St. Croix from Venezuela and other countries to be processed here. 

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