The story behind this beautiful island did not just begin when the Virgin Islands National Park was founded. But that is the narrative that is largely presented to new residents and visitors to St. John. A place that is beloved and coveted by thousands of people all over the world has a much deeper story to tell that is often glazed over by Americanized beach bars and burger joints, beautiful beaches and sunsets and adventurous day trips. Although, the current picture of St. John looks to be much like that last sentence, the history of St. John, the culture of St. John is very seldom accurately portrayed. And, in my opinion, the entire kaleidoscope of stories, not just the predominant rose colored lenses, are what makes this place truly magical.
Friends of Virgin Islands National Park released this week an audio “story of St. John as spoken by born St. Johnians,” entitled Here, St. John. The interactive audio tour of the island gives visitors and residents a glimpse into the culture, history and heritage of St. John with weigh in by scientists about the natural resources and their protection and preservation. A brief history of the island from the times of slavery to the present is presented via encapsulating storytelling in with an interactive map that may be used while you are driving around the island. Or, better yet, as a way to prepare for your upcoming trip.
From the slave revolution to the ever evolving story of Caneel Bay, from intimate stories of growing up on St. John to fables and lore, from minding your manners in the community to taking care of and educating yourselves about our plant and sea life….This audio adventure through St. John’s past, present and future is a MUST LISTEN for anyone who lays claim to loving this beautiful place.
“There is so much more opportunity for a much more real conversation about the spaces that the park occupies.” ~Kurt Marsh Jr.
The following is a list of voices and subjects as presented in this encapsulating audio tour of the history, cultural and natural resources of St. John:
- Welcome to St.John — Kurt Marsh, Jr.
- Manners — Eulita Jacobs, Rosa Samuel, Faye Fredricks
- St. John Taxis — Paul Thomas talks about the history of the taxis.
- Growing up in Cruz Bay. Childhood stories from the 1930’s through the 1990’s — Eulita Jacobs, Faye Fredricks, Dr. Hadiya Sewer, Paul Thomas
- Working at the Park in the Early Days — Anecdotes from Paul Thomas about working for Virgin Islands National Park.
- St. John Ferries — Dr. Hadiya Sewer recalls life as a part of one of the families that run the ferries.
- Growing up at Sieben — Elroy Sprauve tells about his childhood at Estate Sieben, his father Julius Sprauve, and life on St. John in the days before the park.
- Queen Brefu and the Slave Revolution — Kurt Marsh Jr. gives the history of the slave revolution on St. John and its repercussions across the Caribbean.
- Bush Medicine — Eulita Jacobs talks about the main medicinal plants of St. John, and recalls life as a local herbalist over the past many decades.
- Becoming A St John Naturalist — Eleanor Gibney
- History of Caneel Bay — Eleanor Gibney provides a history of Caneel Bay, its use and ownership since the early 20th century until now.
- Bru Nansi and Tiger — Faye Fredricks tells the story of Bru Nansi, the trickster spider, going to the beach at Trunk Bay with his friend, Tiger.
- Outro Montage — Faye Fredricks, Jalayne Jones, Rafe Boulon, Dr. Caroline Rogers, Eulita Jacobs
- Growing up on Bordeaux — David Knight Jr. describes his childhood growing up on Bordeaux Mountain.
- Growing up on Trunk Bay — Rafe Boulon talks about his family’s history at Trunk Bay and his childhood growing up there.
- Sea Turtles 101 — Adren Anderson and Willow Melamet provide an introduction to understanding sea turtles.
- Maho Bay Sea Turtles — Adren Anderson and Willow Melamet talk about the special sea turtle population at Maho Bay and the problems they are facing.
- Coral Reefs 101 — Jeff Miller provides an introduction to understanding coral reefs.
- Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease — Jeff Miller describes the disease that’s devastating the coral population on St. John and what we can do about it.
- Being a Coral Reef Scientist on St. John — Dr. Caroline Rogers talks about studying corals on St John.
- Hurricane Hole Before and After Hurricane Irma — Dr. Caroline Rogers tells about the special coral reef life in the mangroves in Hurricane Hole and what has happened there since the 2017 hurricanes.
- Creating an Anchorless Park — Paul Thomas talks about the social ramifications of creating an anchorless park.
- Creating an Anchorless Park — Rafe Boulon talks about the environmental impact of creating an anchorless park
- The Trees of St. John — Eleanor Gibney
I’m not going to speak much more to the content of this amazing collaboration between community members, scientists, Friends of Virgin Islands National Park and Outer Voices provided to you with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The answers are all in the voices on these recordings who will tell their stories far better than I. So, start at the beginning with Kurt Marsh, Jr.’s introduction (see below), and work your way, step by step, through an audio tour of the beautifully woven quilt of St. John’s past and an informative account of her natural resources.