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Strange St. Thomas Observations

Posts: 230
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I just bought a book entitled St. Thomas in Early Danish Times: A General Description of All the Danish, American, or West Indian Islands. It’s by Johan Lorentz Carstens, who was a sugar cane plantation owner on St. Thomas in the 1730s. In the early 1740s, he went to Denmark and wrote these observations about St. Thomas. There is some exaggeration going on here.

Concerning iguanas: “Frenchmen eat them readily after having skinned them. Commandant Horn’s brother once dined at the home of a Frenchman who served him this animal. After having been told of what he had eaten after the meal, the man died of horror.” (p. 117)

Don’t tell me the French on St. Thomas actually eat these.

Concerning the weather: “The hottest period of the day extends from 10 o’clock in the morning until 2 o’clock in the afternoon…. During that time, a white person does not do any work outside the house, for, if he were to do so, he would experience dizziness in the head, and he would walk as if he were in a trance. Everything would appear red, yellow and green to him.” (pp. 109-110)

I thought that only happened when you walked out of a Charlotte Amalie bar at 2 am.

More on the weather: “At exactly 12 o’clock every night, a very thick, jet-black fog settles, bringing with it a foul, sulfurous stench. If anyone goes out into this fog without covering his body, he will immediately become infected and fall ill.” (p. 110)

Did Hovensa used to be on St. Thomas?

Concerning diseases: “Also, if a person goes to the beach at noontime with his legs exposed and then allows himself to dry in the sun, his legs immediately become large and thick. Later black sores appear there and spread nearly all over the legs. If not treated, this condition will kill the person.” (p. 112)

Would this be elephantiasis?

(Arnold R. Highfield and George F. Tyson, eds., Virgin Islands Humanities Council, St. Croix, USVI: 1997)

Posted : October 14, 2004 10:00 pm
Posts: 315
Reputable Member

That is too funny. Maybe he was a pot or poppy farmer ;))))

Posted : October 14, 2004 10:42 pm
Posts: 43
Eminent Member

I know iguana meat in South America is eaten, I'm sure it taste just like chicken.


Posted : October 15, 2004 4:09 pm
(@Richard N. Kurpiers)
Posts: 92
Trusted Member

It stands to reason that iguanas were at one time a source of food. During the 1700s and 1800s much of what was used as sustenance came from what was grown on the islands and raised as livestock. However droughts, which are not uncommon in the V.I., meant that neither crops nor livestock fared well, so naturally food became scarce during these periods. Iguanas survive well in arid conditions so given a choice between starving and a nicely roasted 3 foot tail, well, bon apetite.

Posted : October 15, 2004 4:35 pm
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