ST. EUSTAIUS HISTORY
Statia, due to its small size and lack of a large airport, has just recently been "rediscovered" by divers, ecotourists and those wanting a piece of paradise reminiscent of days gone by. Luckily for Statia, being a bit of a challenge to get there has helped keep the island from the fate of other, more accessible Caribbean islands.
The first inhabitants were most likely Caribbean Indians and other area tribes. But because Statia lacked sufficient rainfall for crops, the island was less desirable than many of the neighboring islands and according to some sources, for a short time, the island was virtually uninhabited. Christopher Columbus was said to be the first European to set foot on Statia (in 1493), and during the next 150 years or so, Statia changed hands 22 times.
In 1636, the Dutch took possession and for a period of time Statia became a bustling port. During this time, more than 200 ships at a time docked in Oranjestad Bay and the island's population swelled to more than 20,000 inhabitants. Trading became Statia's claim to fame and its lack of agricultural resources and its neutral, look-the-other-way trade status helped it to become the major trade port of the Caribbean.
Statia also, quite inadvertently, got caught up in the American Revolution when in 1776 Statia's governor returned a cannon salute from the American ship the Andrew Doria. The Andrew Doria, when entering Statia's harbor, fired its 13-gun salute proclaiming the fledgling country's independence as a nation and was saluted in return by Statia's government, making it the first time the United States of America was recognized as a nation by any government.
Unfortunately, by the end of the eighteenth century, Statia's dominance as the Caribbean's major trade port was coming to a close and the population dwindled to its current level of about 3,000 residents.
One of Statia's charms is its slower pace and lack of commercialized high-rises. Statia is also a favorite destination for divers seeking a bit of the Caribbean dive life as it was years ago. In fact, in 1996, Statia established the St. Eustatius Marine Park which protects the entire shoreline and reefs from the high water line to a depth of about 99 feet. To find out more about the marine park and Statia's other parks, log on to the Statia Parks website. And for more on Statia's history try Statia Tourism's website.