National Geographic : 1968 Jan
Our Virgin Islands 50 YEARS UNDER THE FLAG By CARLETON MITCHELL Illustrations by National Geographic photographerJAMES L. STANFIELD WHILE I WAITED in a government office in Charlotte Amalie, capital of the United States Virgin Islands, a mimeographed sheet caught my eye. Entitled "Holidays on Virgin Island Calendar in 1967," it seemed to me to epitomize the islands' dedication to relaxation-an appeal that brought 650,000 tourist escapists to the U. S. Virgins last year. I counted 24 holidays, including such exotics as Three Kings' Day (marking the end of the two-week long Christmas Festival), Whitmonday, Carnival, Liberty Day, and Transfer Day. As a sailor, I partic ularly appreciated Supplication Day, July 25, when residents pray they may be spared the dreadful visit ations of tropical storms, and Hurricane Thanksgiv ing Day, October 25, after the danger has passed. This does not supplant the usual turkey-day Thanksgiving, of course, when the islands' 60,000 inhabitants are happy to observe with mainlanders the gratitude of the Pilgrim Fathers. Relaxation As a Way of Life Despite the bustle of tourists on St. Thomas and burgeoning industry on St. Croix, the islands' spirit of relaxation remains invincible. Certainly nature con tinues to abet it. Only three and a half hours from New York by jet, the islands offer a get-away-from-it all formula of white sand beaches, dazzling sunshine, crystal-clear water, and nature's finest year-round air conditioning system-the trade winds blowing across 1,500 miles of open ocean (map, pages 72-3). Tem peratures average a balmy 780 F.* Today modernization is remaking the faces of St. Thomas and St. Croix. Only for St. John has time stood still. When I first visited the U. S. Virgins in 1939, the upper slopes of these three main islands were almost *See "Virgin Islands: Tropical Playland, U.S.A .," by John Sco field, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February, 1956.