February 27, 2007 - #71
In keeping with the island’s Carnival traditions, the group “la Pointe en Mouvement” paraded through the streets of Gustavia in pajamas on the Monday evening before Mardi Gras. The next day, the big “Fat Tuesday” parade took place under cloudy skies where periods of sun alternated with rain showers. It was a festive parade with almost 20 groups in costumes representing a variety of themes from several styles of pirates to Maasai warriors, Indians, angels, and Egyptians…. Heavy rain at the end of the afternoon cut things a little short as people returned to their homes, but as the saying goes “a rainy Carnival is a happy Carnival” (a saying that rhymes in French and applies to weddings as well). The festivities concluded on Ash Wednesday when the effigy of Vaval, the Carnival king, was burned on Shell Beach. For Catholics, February 23 marked the start of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, reflection, and prayer in order to prepare for the resurrection of Christ and the Easter holiday.
A Week of Caribbean Cuisine
From February 19-26, the island’s restaurant association organized a special weeklong event in which the chefs in various 15 restaurants added a special dish to their usual menu, creating a new recipe using a selection of products from the Caribbean region: an appetizer, a main course, or a dessert, and the recipes are available to all those who try the new creations.
From late January through mid-February, census takers visited every house in Saint Barth in order to count the number of residents on the island. The number of dwellings counted last November was almost 4,400, representing an increase of slightly more than 25% compared to the last census taken in 1999, at which time there were 6,852 residents. According to numbers provided by the municipal police and public records office, an estimation of 8,800 residents was made in 2003. The census taken this year will indicate the number of residents on the island in 2007, a number that will most likely be close to 10,0000… which helps explain such problems as traffic jams and a shortage of rental housing.
Measuring The Air Quality
Gwad’Air, one of the French associations recognized by the Minister of Ecology to test the air that the French breathe all across the country, installed a measurement trailer on the plaza in front of City Hall, along the waterfront. For three weeks, every ten seconds, three emitter/receivers measured the levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (03), and particles inferior to 10 microns found in the air. After that, the trailer will be near the fire station in St. Jean for another three weeks. In addition, for a period of 15 days, 50 tubes placed on existing poles along the roads will measure the quantity of nitric oxide, the gas emitted by cars, for a complete picture of the air quality in Saint Barth. The association plans to renew this operation next summer, the season during which winds from the East carry dust particles from the Sahara. In Guadeloupe, where the air quality has been tested since 2004, the ATMO index, a scale of 1 to 10, is posted daily on Gwad’Air’s website. During the past three months, the level was 3 (good) on the island of Guadeloupe. Last August 23 and September 16, the index was at 8 (very bad) due to the passage of dust clouds with particles of less than 10 microns, which are less toxic than chemical mirco-particles but which can, none-the-less, cause bronchial irritations and asthma attacks. This first measurement campaign in the Northern Islands will allow experts to compare the quality of the air from year to year as well as monitor the level of ozone caused by emissions from cars (and in St Barth, boat motors). In La Désirade, a high level was measured during the last operation of this type there, even though it is an island without much automobile traffic. The analysis of the trajectories of the ozone shows that air currents from North America can transport it toward the Caribbean. Ozone is a stable gas that forms by the presence of NO2 and light, and it can travel a long time without transforming. Winds from the north that blow through the West Indies from December to April could very well be bringing ozone as well as other toxic pollutants generated in the United States and Canada.