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St. Lucia

Maritime Maps.

The first inhabitants of St Lucia were the Ciboney people, Amerindians who settled about 2500 years ago in caves along the coast, fishing and hunting with stone tools. These early Amerindian cultures called the island "Iouanalao" and "Hewanorra," meaning "Island of the Iguanas." The agrarian Arawaks arrived from the northeast regions of South America 700 years later, farming cassava, sweet potatoes, corn, and cotton, and building thatched-roof houses.

St. Lucia Map.

After a further 700 years of peace came the warlike Caribs, who ruled the island until being driven away by European settlers in the seventeenth century.

The history of the island's European discovery is a bit hazy. It was long believed that Columbus had discovered St. Lucia in 1502, but recent evidence suggests that he merely sailed close by. An alternative discoverer is Juan de la Cosa, a lesser-known explorer who had served at one time as Columbus' navigator.

In any case, European presence was established on the island in the 1550s by the notorious buccaneer Francois le Clerc, a.k.a. Jambe de Bois, or Wooden Leg. Peg-Leg le Clerc set up a little base on Pigeon Island, from whence he issued forth to prey upon unwitting and treasure-laden Spanish galleons.

Around 1600, the Dutch arrived, establishing a fortified base at Vieux Fort. The first attempt at colonization occurred just a few years later, in 1605. A party of English colonists, headed to Guyana on the shipOlive Branch, landed on St. Lucia after having been blown off course. In all, 67 colonists waded ashore, where they purchased land and huts from the resident Caribs. After a month, the party had been reduced to only 19, and those were soon forced to flee from the Caribs in a canoe. A few decades later, in 1639, a second party of English colonists under Sir Thomas Warner also failed in their settlement attempt.

By mid-century the French had arrived, and had even "purchased" the island for the French West India Company. Needless to say, the persevering British were less than enchanted with this idea, and Anglo-French rivalry for the island continued for more than a century and a half. The island's first settlements and towns were all French, beginning with Soufriere in 1746. By 1780, twelve settlements and a large number of sugar plantations had been established. Two years earlier, the British launched their first invasion effort at the "Battle of Cul de Sac."

On April 26, 1796, 12,000 troops, supported by a detachment of Rear-Admiral Sir Hugh Christian's squadron, arrived off the island under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Abercrombie. Men were landed at Longueville Bay, Choc Bay, and Anse La Raye, and from these points they moved on Morne Fortune which had been heavily fortified by Goyrand. The resistance which the British troops and Moore was able to take possession of Morne Fortune and plant the British colors.

British Traveller and Commercial Law Gazette

Eruption. Soufriere Mountains. Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Eruption Soufriere Mountians, St. Lucka. Joseph Mallord William Turner.

The Eruption of the Soufriere (sulphur outlet) Mountains, in the Island of St Vincent, at Midnight, on the 30th of April, 1812, from a Sketch Taken at the Time by Hugh P. Keane, Esquire, a barrister and plantation owner. He drew a sketch of the eruption that was used by Turner.

This was the first eruption of the volcano that was documented in detail at the time. Like the eruption of 1718, this was a fairly short-lived explosive eruption that was over in a few days. And, as with the 1718 eruption, it followed a period of several of months during which there were earthquakes large enough to be felt by the local populations.

By 1814, after a prolonged series of enormously destructive battles, the island went to the British.

December 13, 1832, London, United Kingdom

We have received a variety of West India Papers to the 8th ult. We learn by them that a serious misunderstanding has arisen between the British West India Governors and the French authorities upon the subject of the laws laid down by Lord Goderich respecting the reception of foreign slaves in British colonies, to which we referred two days ago. The Governor of Martinique, in a spirited letter to his Excellency Major-General Farquhar, the representative of our Sovereign in the unfortunate island of St. Lucia, states that 1,200 slaves have lately left that island and have been received at St. Lucia, and according to recent measures adopted by the Colonial Office, the planters of Martinique must sue in an English court for their restoration. Admiral Dupotet, the French Governor, describes the act as one of spoliation upon French citizens, not founded upon any law, and further, if the measure of refuge for the slave should be continued, he threatens reprisals. The following is a copy of the communication:


Sir, I have been unable hitherto, from indisposition, to answer the communication which your Excellency was pleased to forward to me, of your proclamation, bearing date the 13th of August last, respecting the slaves that leave Martinique for Saint Lucia, and whose numbers, as well as the crimes they commit here before they escape, seem to create some uneasiness in your mind, as far as regards the tranquilly of your island.

"If such were the motives that gave rise to this proclamation, you had only to announce that every foreign slave should, on reaching St. Lucia, be sent back to his owner; thus, in future, would they all remain remain attached to their duty, and your own anxiety vanish for ever.

"But I see, on the contrary, that your intention is lo receive them as usual, and that you only want to give to a proceeding, which violates the sacred rights of property, a sort of legal appearance, sanctioned by the information which you expect to receive from me respecting such slaves. Be it known to your Excellency, I will never adhere to a measure the scope of which is to prolong the spoliation practised upon the colonists of Martinique.

"You recognise a state of slavery in your island; it is a legal property. What right have you then to wish to abolish it in other places?

"I am aware that any further protest on my part would be of no avail, seeing that you are bound lo enforce the orders you receive; but there still remains a last resource within my reach it is that of reprisals.

"I startle at the very thought of following an example which I have always disapproved of. But it is now high time that both Governments should intervene and put a stop to a slate of things which is founded on no law whatever no special arrangement between France and England.

"I sent back to your Excellency ten slaves, from your colony, who came to beg permission to settle in Martinique, assuring me that if I suffered them to remain, a hundred of their companions would come over and join them in a few days; and your Excellency did not even notice the proceeding on my part.

"You have in your possession more than three hundred slaves from Martinique, and are little aware that more than six hundred of these wretches lost their lives while endeavouring, in stormy weather, to attain that liberty so alluringly held out to them.

"Not long since, an infamous fellow, named Alexander, one of your Martinique refugees, came over here and succeeded in carrying off ten slaves from the parish of Saint Anne, of whom only one arrived at Saint Lucia, the other nine having been drowned on their way. This man, who deserved an exemplary punishment, is now at liberty, and at ease, in spite of the authentic proofs which I transmitted to you, showing the fellow's guilt, and the certainty you acquired of the fact, from the statement of the Commissary Commandant of Grosislet, the very spot on which this ruffian was cast ashore on his arrival.

"In fine, Martinique has lost more than twelve hundred slaves, of which number there are not perhaps four hundred alive at this moment. What benefit accrues to the cause of humanity out of all this? These wretches regret their former state. About three hundred of them are to be seen in Castries, so many outcasts of society, rejected by the slaves themselves, living on plunder, starving in the gaol and in the streets.

What a prospect does futurity offer to them, when they call to mind that they possessed, in Martinique, a sort of property in in their huts and gardens, &c. &c., without even a shadow of uneasiness respecting their food, but, on the other hand, an assurance of being taken care of when unable any longer to work; while at present they are wandering about without a home, without a protector for their future days, other than their companions in wretchedness. Such, then, is the prosperity that these notions of false philanthropy have procured them. " If the slaves in Martinique could form an idea of the life that their companions lead in St. Lucia, and in other colonies, I should have no further evasions to apprehend; on the contrary, the only punishment I should choose to inflict on them, would be to make them go and enjoy that liberty, the charms of which so soon pass away.

"I reply, at the same lime, to your Excellency's second proclamation, in which you denounce, as robbers and pirates, the inhabitants of St. Lucia who had fled from that colony, taking with them fourteen slaves, their property, you inquire if they have reached Martinique; and if so, you wish me to apprehend them, and send them back to you.

"Up to this moment, I have received no information of their arrival; but if they, or any other refugee from your island, whether slave or free, should appear amongst us, you may be assured that they shall be offered the same reception that you give to the Martinique refugees.

"Besides, I am no stranger to the sympathies awakened by misfortune. The state of the planter is doubtless known in Europe as well as here, and it would be an act of cruelty to refuse shelter to those who sacrifice their fortunes sooner than inhabit a soil which they are no longer allowed to cultivate.

"I therefore am determined to make no further demand regarding slaves. I shall send your proclamation to my Government, and until I receive orders from thence, I will act towards your colony as you do towards Martinique.

"This, your Excellency, will be no obstacle to the tide of ordinary matters and mutual intercourse between us.

"I have the honour, &c. &c. &c.
(Signed) " DUPOTET.
"Rear-Admiral, Governor, &c.
"His Excellency Major-General

June 18, 1892, The Colonies and India, London, United Kingdom

Passing from the military arrangements at Barbados to the works in progress at St. Lucia, as an old Admiralty official I feel it a duty to press strongly one or two suggestions. The physical conditions which render Castries Bay a secure harbour tend to make its stagnant waters unhealthy under a tropical sun. In St. Lucia malarial fevers are prevalent, and especially in marshy ground, of which there is a large extent around the shores of the harbour. The drainage of the marshes is not the principal difficulty at Castries. The town is built on a small space of flat ground at the head of the harbour, and is completely hemmed in by an amphitheatre of high and precipitous hills. There is no flow of running water, and the insanitary condition can be only too easily appreciated. If a large population is allowed to settle on such a site it is impossible by any devices or precautions to preserve the public health. The Government should have an absolute control over the civil population of Castries; it should acquire possession of the entire foreshore; it should have the power to fix the number of people who should be permitted to settle in the vicinity of the harbour. Leaving St. Lucia on February 26, at dawn on March 1 the Blue Mountains of Jamaica were in view.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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