Little Statia, (21 km²/8.1 sq. miles) with population 3,500 or so, and like most of the islands on this trip was first spotted by Christopher Columbus in the late 1500s and was subsequently fought over by several nations changing hands 22 times before becoming part of the Netherlands.
It’s hard to believe today that this quiet, largely unknown island in the 21st century was known as ‘The Golden Rock’ and was apparently the place to be in the West Indes during the18th century. Due to its large harbor, duty free status and neutrality in the midst of several ongoing wars at that time, including the colonies’ war for independence, it was considered the center of trade, or as Chris Doyle* puts it, ‘the first mall of the Caribbean.’
This was actually the first international acknowledgment of the independence of the United States: A momentous occasion for Americans (Go Johannes!!), not so good for the Governor, as the wrath of Britain in the form of Admiral Rodney came swiftly down upon him and Statia. War was declared between Britain and Holland, the Governor surrendered the island without a fight and was deported in disgrace. Although the Dutch regained control over the island three years later, the economy had collapsed and it never returned to its glory days.
Our trip from Saba brought us alongshore mid day and after clearing customs once again, we enjoyed a pleasurable afternoon wandering around the colonial ruins of the old fort and warehouses along the waterfront and exploring the lovely little town of Oranjestad with its friendly inhabitants. The place is being nicely restored with funding from the historical society in Holland and the economy has picked up thanks to a big oil storage depot and refinery in the north of the island.
*The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands by Chris Doyle