Day 8: the Crack of Noon
by Elizabeth Anne Brown -- May 6th, 2016
At the crack of noon, we woke from our turtley dreams and hurried to scarf down our customary bagel-and-apple breakfast before heading out to Salt River Museum about half an hour away. The Salt River Museum occupies what was once a luxurious private home, with sweeping views of the blue Caribbean and the eponymous Salt River Beach, and is a recent addition to the National Park System (whether by donation or $2-5 million changing hands depends on your school of thought). Since funding for National Parks is based on attendance, this fledgling museum has a yearly budget of zero and thus relies almost entirely upon volunteer interpreters to dazzle its guests. Our guide was a colorful retiree from what we believe to the Midwest who interspersed his historical lectures with charming anecdotes about his wife, neighbors, and grocery store etiquette. What fun!
Salt River is (in)famous for being the site of Columbus’s first landfall in America during his second voyage—well, of course, Columbus himself didn’t ever get his feet sandy in St Croix, but he sent some dinghies out so we’ll call that equivalent. Columbus’s two dozen armed sailors were sent with express instructions to (plot twist) check out the local arts and crafts. Thankfully for the local Caribs, their gold and other precious metals were absent from their creations so the island was spared except for the achingly Catholic name of Santa Cruz.
After checking out some recreation Carib pottery and soaking in that $2-5 million dollar view for a while, we made our way back down the coast and spotted the site where a few scenes at the end of Shawshank Redemption were filmed we’re told they had to negotiate with the local turtle team at the time to film on a protected beach—apparently if you look really closely in the scene with the boat you can see a green turtle crawl from the night before!). A quick supply run later we were cooking spaghetti dinner for twenty which we ate al fresco behind Turtle Camp!
We then sped off to visit Mike “Precious” Evans, one of two Fish and Wildlife officers on St. Croix, for a wonderful talk on turtles, wildlife management, and our future careers! We had interacted with Mike a number of times on beach walks in the dead of night, but this was the first time we had actually seen his face, which made for an exciting reveal. Mike’s incredible experiences run the gamut from trapping monkeys for the NIH in Africa and participating in captive breeding programs for big cats to confiscating polar bears from sketchy Mexican zoos who don’t have the proper Russian documentation (!!).We all thought so highly of Mike we invited him to the much-anticipated farewell breakfast-for-dinner on the spot.
The evening wrapped up with a lovely, if rather chilly, night snorkel filled with bioluminescence and baby octopuses Jeremy caught. Another magical day in St. Croix!!