National Geographic : 1953 Jan
Happy-Go-Lucky Trinidad and Tobago special holidays, the Port of Spain police authorize a limited number of bands to march in the streets. Rivalry is keen, and sometimes brawls break out among competing bands from different neighborhoods. I happened to be in Port of Spain for the Columbus Day celebra tion, when 40 steel bands were authorized to march. Incidentally, Columbus Day here is July 31, but it is always celebrated on the first Monday in August. How I ever managed to overhear a conver sation in the din, I cannot imagine now. Near by a Negro stevedore was discussing the lady of his affection. "I love she, I love she eyes, mahn," he murmured rapturously. The inhabitants of Tobago, Trinidad's "lit tle brother," feel a similar affection for their tiny island. My anticipation was high as I boarded a British West Indian Airways Vickers Viking for the short flight to Crown Point. My car had been shipped by coastal steamer the day before. Just twenty miles from Trinidad's north east coast, Tobago was early destined to be thrown into the maelstrom of international conflict. Columbus discovered it in 1498. From 1666 to 1684 the island was tossed six times between the English, French, and Dutch. Since 1814 it has been under British rule and in 1889 it was joined to Trinidad administra tively. Setting for Crusoe Story From the air I observed commodious har bors. Our plane afforded a view of the entire island, 26 miles long and 7'2 miles at its widest point. Ridges of green hills rise gradually from the flat southwest tip and extend to the extreme northeast. The highest point is 1,890 feet above the sea. Tobago claims to be the setting for Daniel Defoe's famous story, Robinson Crusoe. The author was inspired by the true adventures of Alexander Selkirk, a sailor marooned for more than four years in the Juan Fernandez group off Chile,* but with writer's license Defoe may have turned to a published account of Tobago for his local color (opposite page). I took a room at the Robinson Crusoe Hotel, about a mile from Scarborough, the capital. "Look me here," the bellboy announced in answer to my summons. "Can I make a message for you?" This I translated men tally, "Here I am. Do you wish to send a message to someone?" I merely wanted to learn whether my car had been safely delivered to the harbor mas ter's office at the Scarborough dock. It had; so I set out to explore the island. Scarborough village is situated partly on a hillside. Its substantial buildings do not look their 150 years. The ruins of ancient Fort George dominate a near-by knoll (page 75). In the crowded square, bustling with activity on Saturday, a babble of voices rose to an over-all roar. Some of Tobago's roads are paved with Pitch Lake asphalt. I saw windbreaks of mahogany trees surrounding some of the finest coconut estates in the West Indies. At Frank Latour's Golden Grove Estate workmen deftly split coconuts into thirds with cutlasses. Women gouged out the meat with special knives; the husks served as fuel in the kilns which dried the copra. The husks are also shredded by machine into fiber for the furniture trade. One workman engaged in this operation almost collapsed of fright when I shot off a flash bulb in my camera. DDT Routs Mosquitoes The cooperative Coconut Growers' Associa tion, Ltd., has improved marketing conditions for the industry, which is enjoying greater prosperity than ever before. A fine mosquito-control program has made malaria almost unknown in Tobago. I fre quently passed groups of men squirting DDT into every possible breeding place of the Anopheles mosquito. On Sunday I joined the Tobagonians for swimming, fishing, and picnicking at Pigeon Point. The European colony numbers about 100; most of the rest of the 30,000 inhab itants of Tobago are of Negro origin, although there are some East Indians. As I sat on the beach peering through a pair of binoculars, great brown pelicans plunged into the water for fish. It seemed to me that they would knock themselves out, but they always managed to go winging off over the green-blue lagoon with their prey in their beaks. Pelicans by the hundreds con gregate at Buccoo Reef, less than two miles offshore. Here British Fought French I took a boat to the reef. On the lagoon floor sponges grow in about six feet of water. I put on diving goggles and explored a fasci nating underwater fairyland inhabited by mul titudes of magnificently colored small fish. Near Plymouth I found an entire commu nity helping to haul in huge nets. Hard by Plymouth is Black Rock, where, in 1781, a Major Hamilton with a few British soldiers futilely attempted to fight off a French inva sion force of nine ships and 3,000 men. Among the strange relics in the village is a tombstone marking the resting place of a woman and child buried in 1783. Its curious * See "Voyage to the Island Home of Robinson Crusoe," by Waldo L. Schmitt, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, September, 1928.