Explorers has recently completed a visit to explore the island of
St. Eustatius in the Dutch Antilles.
St. Eustatius, a tiny island only 20 minutes by air from the bustling St. Martin, is an island steeped in history and, to a degree, lost in time. As the sun rises each day over the shoulder of the Quill, a dormant volcano on the island’s southern flank, approximately 2800 residents are awoken to the melodic sounds of church bells, the raucous cries of roosters and the strained bleats of goats in the hills. Indeed, walking the streets of the main town of Oranjestad you are just as likely to encounter a pair of burros or a group of goats as you are a car.
Statia, as St. Eustatius is commonly and affectionately called,
is only 11 square miles in size and is located in the north eastern
Caribbean, 150 miles east of Puerto Rico (latitude 17.00, longitude
63.04). It lies 38 miles south of St. Martin and wedged between the
islands of Saba and St. Kitts. It is an island with a rich history
of commerce and trading, especially during the American colonial
times. In fact, on November 16, 1776 the American brig-of-War
"Andrew Doria" arrived into Statia’s harbor and fired a 13-gun
salute indicating America’s hard won independence. An 11-gun salute
was given in reply from Fort Oranje, establishing Statia as the
first foreign nation to officially recognize the newly formed United
States of America. This date is commemorated each year as “Statia
Day”, a holiday marked with celebrations throughout the island.
Despite its rich history and unspoiled natural beauty, Statia remains off the beaten path. It is largely off the radar screen for visitors to the Caribbean but SCUBA divers are coming to know of the underwater world that exists just off its shores.
The waters surrounding Statia from the high water mark down to a depth of 100 feet are designated as the Statia Marine Park. Regulations and user fees are in force and serve to protect these waters and the vitality of the reefs below. Mooring buoys are in place to protect the corals and the entire area is designated as a no-take zone. On our expedition, we encountered undamaged reefs and thriving communities of marine life.
On a deep wall dive known as "The Cliff", we found huge bushes of Black Coral and large barrel sponges at 132 fsw, along with colorful gorgonians and healthy sea fans. At another dive site, "The Anchor", we photographed large Golden Grouper, pairs of Spiny Lobster and Green Moray Eels as we made our way along a healthy tongue and groove reef formation. Throughout these, and other dives in the Marine Park, we encountered other well-known Caribbean species in large numbers. Brilliantly colored Big-eye and vibrant red Squirrel fish would often be seen under protective ledges, while Queen Angelfish and Stoplight Parrotfish would dart in and out of the large coral heads.
For history buffs, the waters of Statia hold a treasure trove of opportunity. Statia’s historical heritage can be seen by diving “Double Wreck”, a site named for a pair of old galleons sunk centuries ago and now covered with a dense growth of marine life. Here, divers can see the remains of old anchors still rising from the sandy bottom, along with ballast stones, old bottles and shards of pottery.
At night, "Double Wreck" becomes a Mecca for underwater photographers as the entire site explodes with marine life. Here we encountered large Porcupine fish, Peacock Flounder, Scrawled Filefish, Yellow-tailed Goatfish, Lizardfish and a wide variety of invertebrate life. Slipper lobsters crawled from their protective lairs and wandered the reef over these wrecks and the water was filled with the sounds of shrimp clicking and snapping away in the inky blackness of night.
Anchor Image (zoom)
On July 25th, 2003, the Government of St. Eustatius created its latest reef. The Charles L. Brown, a 320 ft cable-layer acquired from AT&T, was sunk in 95 fsw and now lays on its side on a clear sandy bottom. The ship was originally constructed in 1954 in Italy was acquired by Statia’s government in 2002.
This Vessel is one of the largest and most intact in the region and offers spectacular dive opportunities for everyone. At depths from 50ft (15m) to 100ft (31m), the wreck is perfect for multi- level diving, light penetration, technical penetration, and is ideal for Nitrox.
The vessel was prepared for sinking (cleaning of oils and fuel, removal of hazardous waste, opening of safety passages for divers) in an operation managed by a committee of the three island dive operations, the Statia Marine Park and the Statia Tourism office. Today, a few short months after the sinking, divers can explore the wreck and observe as various marine organisms begin to make their home there.
There are three dive operations on the island, all operating in Lower Town near Oranjestad. All three can arrange dive packages, including accommodations. We dove with Scubaqua, a small operation that provided excellent, personal service. We thoroughly enjoyed our time diving with them.
*Photo Courtesy (topside - Charles L. Brown): American
**Photo Courtesy (underwater - Charles L. Brown): Golden Rock Dive Center
Area: 21 sq km (8 sq mi)
Population: approximately 2800
Capital City: Oranjestad
People: Mixed African and European descent
Language: English, Dutch (official)
Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Seventh-Day Adventist
Getting There: Statia is served six times daily from St. Martin by Windward Island Airlines. The flights are 20 minutes in length.
Entry Requirements: All visitors to Statia are required to show proof of identity. Residents of the United States and Canada may submit a passport along with a return or onward ticket. ( Foreign Entry Requirements )
Climate: The weather on Statia is typically Caribbean; warm, humid days accompanied by gentle breezes off the water are the norm. In the winter months, the temperatures range in the low to mid 80's degrees Fahrenheit, while in the summer these temperatures may rise just a bit higher. Rainfall is often brief and sporadic. The hurricane season runs between June 1 and November 30.
Currency: The Antillean Guildar is the official currency and is tied to the US dollar at a rate of US $1.00 = ANG 1.80. The US Dollar is widely accepted. ( Currency Converter )
Electricity: The voltage is 100 A.C. 60 cycles. Plugs tend to be two flat prongs.
Time Zone: Atlantic Standard Time. This is the same as Eastern Daylight Savings Time year round.
Phone: (599-3) 182435, 866-614-3491 (toll free)
Golden Rock Dive Center:
Phone: (599-3) 182964
Scubaqua Dive Center:
Phone: (599-3) 182160
Health Information for Travelers to the Caribbean - The preventive measures you need to take while traveling in the Caribbean depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. Its very important that you observe all precautions listed in this website
CIA - The World Factbook -- Netherlands Antilles
Netherlands Antilles - Consular Information Sheet
Tips for Travelers to the Caribbean
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