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  • Writer's pictureE Stegmaier

St. Eustatius Airport Expansion Project: Day 24-28 (May 14-18, 2021)

I apologize for the long delay in posting. It was my birthday weekend and I also had to prepare for a radio interview. To most people, something like that isn't a big deal, but I am pretty bad at public speaking so I have to mentally prepare myself. I embedded the interview further down this post.

On Friday May 14 (my birthday), a few of us went to the site for a few hours in the morning to prep everything for a visit by the Island Council, as well as to open up a new area of excavation for the following week. While there, we got drenched with rain briefly, but were rewarded with a double rainbow afterward.

Our excavator, after scraping through the plow layer, uncovered more burials, which can be seen as the gray/brown rectangular patches in the yellowish soil.

An adult burial (diagonally through the center) next to a smaller

child burial just above and to the left. There may be another child burial

of a similar size directly next to that one.

Once the excavator had finished, a colleague and I went out to scour the area for any artifacts that were poking through the surface, noting their locations along the way. That is always a lot of fun because, while I don't know what's there, there is always something to find.

The Island Council arrived around this time and I gave a quick talk about the work that I do as an illustrator. That topic seems so boring to me compared to what other specialists have to talk about because my job isn't analytical- it's purely documentary. So I'd rather just show what I do than talk about it.

Island Council tour of GR2021

Friday night was party night, and we celebrated my birthday at The Gin House, which is a waterfront lounge on the Caribbean side of the island. The stars were out, the drinks were fantastic, and the entire evening was amazing. After our stint at The Gin House, most of us headed to The Boardwalk. I had learned my lesson the first Friday out of quarantine that The Boardwalk is not my style... too loud, too many people, and too chaotic to get a drink. So I stayed on a nearby dock and waited for everyone to get their happy hour drinks and come back.

During that 20 minute period, I had a great time by myself in the dark. Schools of fairly large fish would missile across the water like skipping stones by the hundreds. I assume there was a predator in the harbor, because every once in a while I'd hear the thrashing of water in the near distance as these fish skipped along the surface. During this quiet time, I was able to reflect upon how lucky I am- lucky to have a skill that affords me to travel to places like this, lucky to have a family that supports my endeavors, even when it requires self-sacrifice, lucky to have a job that was understanding enough to allow for this trip to happen, and lucky to be just buzzed enough at the time to realize how lucky I am.

When everyone returned with their drinks (apparently there was a misunderstanding at the bar, and almost everyone returned with two drinks each) we sat on the pier, listened to the music emanating across the water from The Boardwalk, and chatted. It was as perfect a birthday as I could have without my family.

Saturday turned into a work day. I didn't plan on it, but it just kind of happened.

Sunday started off as a work day, but I got distractingly lonely for some reason so I headed to the corner store for a six-pack. I realize it wasn't the healthiest way to handle the situation, but it's what I felt needed doing. What ended up happening instead was refreshingly great, and turned my mind around a bit. I ended up sitting for hours on the back porch of the Science Institute, drinking my beer and watching clouds form over The Quill. A student worker on the project joined me for a bit, and we talked about all sorts of things. We geeked out about history, travel, nature, etc. The mind of a Millennial has been shaped very differently from those of us Gen X'ers. I almost feel sorry for them... almost ;)

Next weekend we're gonna hike that big bastard.

Monday was a studio day, and I was able to cram through quite a few drawings. I also had to prepare for the radio interview, which is embedded below. The Dutch Secretary of the Interior visited the site in the afternoon and apparently was intrigued by the work being done.

Dr. Felicia Fricke did an amazing job. It was almost unfair to pair me up with her!

Today was extremely hot and busy on site. Several local school groups came through, and several more burials were uncovered in the newly expanded area. A few more were also uncovered in our much-dreaded Feature 52, which is yielding layer upon layer of burials. Some burials intersect other ones, and some graves contain disarticulated bones from who knows where? It's a very complex section that is beginning to look like Flanders Fields, with its pits, holes, trenches and burials shafts. Typically each feature will contain one set of skeletal remains so, for example, Feature 40 contained one skeleton. As far as I'm aware, Feature 52 is now at letter J or K... that's 10 or 11 burials in one very small area...and counting.

We got word today that the press in the Netherlands is starting to show interest in our project. With the work we're doing here, I wouldn't be surprised if that interest snowballs over the coming days and weeks.

Here's to hoping!

27 views2 comments


Amy Cabral
Amy Cabral
May 19, 2021

You certainly are lucky, Eric, and we are lucky to read about your work, play, and reflections. How exciting to be getting more attention.


Heather Stegmaier
Heather Stegmaier
May 19, 2021

My favorite post to date! So glad you are having these amazing experiences! You've worked tremendously hard.

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