How sea salt harvesting brought two countries together

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TRAVEL: by Eric Mackenzie Lamb

As most Kittitians know, the French island of St Barths is easily visible from the northeast coast of St Kitts. And, until 1972, the export of sea salt was an important industry for St Barth, which for centuries had not only been a major factor in trade between the two islands, but helped preserve cultural ties. unique between the French and the British. dating back hundreds of years. The name of the capital of St. Kitts, Basse Terre, is proof of this.

Salt harvesting in St Barths finally came to an end in the early 1970s, by which time high-end tourism by celebrities and billionaires from around the world had become the main industry on the island.

Point Saline salt pond.

A few months ago, I visited St Barth for the first time in several years. And I had the chance to meet an old friend from the time of aviation, Bruno Magras, the president of the Collectivity of St Barth, who graciously offered to take me to the salt pond of the island at Pointe Saline and to share some of its fascinating

the story. One of the surprising things, he explained, is that there has always been a severe shortage of rainwater in St Barths. There were even occasions when tankers had to bring water to the island.

Until the late 1800s, salt was exported to other islands using sailboats. When ship engines came into existence, schooners were able to dock at docks, which made unloading easier and reduced their expense.

An image of a local merchant, Louis Brin, packing salt for export at Point Saline in the early 1960s. Courtesy of Bruno Magras.

Finally, looking through the St Kitts Nevis telephone directory, I found the names of Berry, Greaux, Battice, Bassue, Adolphine, Cannonier, Beaupierre, Audain, Baptiste and Barthelmy. Others with identical names are found in St Martin, in Guadeloupe, in Martinique, in the American Virgin Islands, in French Guyana, even as far as Trinidad.

Indeed, a fascinating chapter in Caribbean history.

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