18 The Daly News. Fiay. Semeerla 8.ss Island Life
Slaves on St. Croix were natural geologists
The other day. I was talking to ing when Mr. Schuster said be had
ope of the Schuster's on St. Croix. a copy of the book.
As we continued our convers- You aid it. I asked Mr. Schus-
tio it go ve inte.re If you ter if I could get a copy of the
know me personally. I love hi"O' book. I have a natural habit of
ry especially the natural history of co i or herin o h -
the Virgin Islands. Old man cal information about the Virgin
Schuster said "Oliase have you Islands. This book the "Building
ever read the book by John T. of an Island of the Geological
Quinn 'The Building of an Structure of the Danish Wetln di.
Island?'" I said no. Boy. the c-o. an Island of St. Croix or Santa
versation got even more interest. Cruz" was printed in 1907.
Hiking in the bush environ-
ment of St. Croix, I discovered
that the mountain and hill ranges
of the island are basically located
in the northwest ranges from west
to east. The book re-enforced my
thinking of the mountain on St.
Croix which described in details
the geological make up of the
In the preface of the book, the
author said. "There are doubtless
many people who find it easy to
understand that the vegetation of
an island. its trees, shrubs and
herbs with their flowers, may con.
stitute a very attractive subject
and that the same may be true of
its insects or its shells: but it has.
perhaps, never even occurred to
them that the study of the solid
structure of the island can possess
any great attraction."
The enslaved Africans of St.
Croix knew the mountain range of
the island even though they were
not geologists. In fact. some
slaves knew St. Croix so well that
they walked on the mountain and
hill totp from Fredcrikastd inah-
west to the hills cast Point Udall
of the island without walking on
flat land. The history of FRderik-
sted's northwest mountains is so
powerful that it will make your
It was the northwest estates hill
and mountain ranges of Frederik-
sted that slaves moved from to the
Fort in Frederiksted for their
emancipation in 1848. The north-
west is not only rich in deep top
soil and forest land, but also in the
history of all Virgin Islands. it
was here in the west where people
like Queen Mary. Queen Mathil.
da. Queen Agnes. General Bud-
dhoe and other great leaden came
Tell me. where did fire burn
began? It started in "Freedom
City" Frederiksted in 1878.
Again, it was the west where
some slaves jumped off Maroon
Ridge cliff in the 1700s to avoid
slavery. Also, the runaway slaves
who fought the French. then later
the Danish to protect the forests
was from Ihe west.
Getting back to geology. I
believe personally that the slaves
on St. Croix were natural gcol.
gisuts who had a deep understand.
ing of the island's natural and
physical environment. Historical
records proved that the moiuniats
ranges of St. Croix were an
escaped nyute for many slave toIl
visit other .lave, on plantations
and to plan for their redemption
In the 1730s. Rcimcri l..a-
gensen a Danish planter tated. "A
less attractive but nonetheless
often used form of marronage
involved escaping to the heavily.
wooded mountains northwest
region of the island living a free
hut strenuous life in that nearly
Then. the question should be
asked why many of us know very
little about the geology of St.
Croix. The enslaved Africans of
St. Croix knew every hill. valley
and mountain of the island.
Volcanoes, coral reefs and
mangrove forests m land builders
of the Caribbean islands. St. Croix
was never a volcanic island, but
volcanoes played an indirect role
In the building of the island. Geol-
ogists believe the mountain ranges
on St. Croix were formed from the
debris of volcanic activity which
took place over 80 million years
The exposed limestone or what
is now called white marl is some-
what younger development of the
island. The white marl as Its
called is the remains of coral reef
that formed in shallow water as
the island was uplifted from the
ocean floor. So whenever you see
white marl. it was once under the
The author mrnetioncd. "During
this period of mountain building.
St. Croix was emerging from the
sea. As the Northwest and lIast
End ranges rose above sea level
they formed two islands joined
and by a large coral reef Kingshill
Marl. Further uplift joined the two
islands and compleicd the build.
ing of St. Cruix." Slt River once
divided the islan during ihis per,
od of development
flistorically. the rivet was. used
by the Indian as a roule fIrom Sail
River Bay to the Krauses I.agoo
on the north shore of St. Croix St.
Croix is S fascinated geologically
that if we would only pay close
attention to the surface of the
earth, we would learn mtre of the
This article rrfle-:is the view Jt
Olasre Davis. a St. Croix tdo.
gist. activist and writer who has a
master of science degree in range
management andforestrv etoigy