“And the mighty blue ocean
Keeps rolling on every shore
Like the spirit that binds us together
We are so much more
than islands. ~ John Denver
Writing from St. Thomas in the Caribbean, I am certain I’m on an island. When we first flew in, I could see the fleck of green surrounded by truly emerald waters. Later, from a ferry’s vantage point, we circumnavigated St. John Island and a number of smaller cays.
This dot in the Atlantic Ocean is remarkable in many ways: Without any rivers, streams or lakes, there is no natural source of fresh water. Desalinization provides some fresh water, but almost every home has a cistern to serve its needs. Though blessed by copious amounts of rain, The Virgin Islands have more than a desert air about them with beaches lined with cacti. The off shore coral reefs provide a habitat for a wide range of sea creatures; coral reefs are the most biologically diverse ecosystem in the ocean and the second most diverse in the world —only the tropical rainforest supports more plant and animal species.
Historically the site of sugar plantations, the first Europeans inadvertently brought rats to the Virgin Island paradise than unwisely imported Indian mongoose to kill off the rats. However, the mongoose found native birds much easier to catch and kill.
Thanks to land donations from the Rockefellers, of all people, at least three of the Virgin Islands are resplendent natural preserves, with the Virgin Islands National Park featuring 5,000 verdant acres. A tiny 14-acre British Sandy Cay National Park is now “fully restored” as somehow conservationists rid that isle of all non-native black rats. Rats indiscriminately prey on bird and sea turtle eggs, lizards, frogs, and other native fauna and have contributed significantly to animal extinctions in small islands around the world.
As with all vacations, soon we will be returning to the skies and heading home. If we expand our lens and our vision of islands widens, depending on our height, we can see the United States surrounded by the Pacific and Atlantic, and higher still, the Americas, and soon the old World. Approaching the heavens, we witness our blue planet miracle floating like an island in the Milky Way, and as I write, I am certain we are all on an island. ~