• close family • small boat • big world •

The Unspoiled Queen

April 3, 2015

by Nicole
At anchor, The Lagoon, St. Martin

A few steps closer and I’d be touching a wild goat. The island of Saba is full of them. Saba, whose nickname is "The Unspoiled Queen", is an island that was formed when the top of a volcano rose out of the ocean. As a result, the island is nothing but cliffs and steep hills, which is perfect for all these goats. (I never succeeded in touching one - they were way too quick.)

The clouds at the peak are almost always there.

Saba has an interesting history. The earliest known settlers were hunter-gatherers called the Ciboney, who lived there in around 1175 BC. Around 800 AD, Arawak Indians came from South America to live on Saba. There are also records of North American Indians on Saba. Saba’s foreboding and rugged coastline scared off Christopher Columbus, who sailed on by when he saw the jagged shore.

Saba’s shore isn’t the only thing that scared people off. In 1640, when the Dutch West India Company sent Dutchmen
The town of The Bottom
 over to try to Colonize Saba, but they were scared off by the British pirate Henry Morgan. For the next 200 years, Saba was owned by the French, Spanish, English, and Dutch.

The island of Saba has only four villages - Hell’s Gate, whose name was changed to Zion’s Hill after complaints from the church, Windwardside, St. Johns, and The Bottom, which, ironically, is 1200 feet above sea level.

The airport

Saba’s airport is very different. At 1200 feet long, the airport has the shortest commercial landing strip in the world. The airport is named after the Aruban Minister Juancho Irausquin, but a typo led to every map of Saba and documentation and reference to call it the Juancho Yrausquin airport.

The story of Saba’s road shows what type of people live there. In the 1930s, the people of Saba wanted to build a road. When the Dutch and Swiss inspectors came to the islands, they claimed that Saba was too steep for a road could to be built. In response, a man from Saba took a correspondence course on road building. When he finished, he organized the villagers and they built the road themselves by hand. Because the inspectors didn’t think it was possible, they call the road, "The Road That Couldn’t Be Built."  Before the road, the Sabans would carry everything they needed on their heads. They would have to carry it up a set of stairs called "The Ladder" and along winding trails to their village. The Ladder has a total of 800 steps. They even carried a piano up!

Saba is an amazing island with interesting people, and I’m glad we got the chance to visit it.