Salt Island is located between Peter and Cooper Islands in the Sir Francis Drake Channel in the BVI’s (British Virgin Islands). Though the island is fairly tiny it’s big on beauty and rich in heritage and sealife.
The first time we anchored there we were the only boat which is always something we cherish. At first glance all you see is the beautiful water and a beach lined with some lush palm trees and not much else. But, as usual, we were keen to explore it a little more.
Tim and I had some boat work to do so we sent the kids on a mission to explore ashore with the inflatable kayak. I always find that pretty cute, seeing them go off to explore on their own.
We think it’s good to give them some responsibility, though, when we do, I have been known to spy on them with my binoculars…I need to know they’re safe right?!
They returned some time later telling us that there were old buildings, graves, a big salt pond and that we really needed to go ashore so we could hike up and over the hill to see what was there.
We agreed to first go snorkelling and then explore the land. I didn’t hold much of an expectation on the snorkelling front but to my delight we found it to be full of pretty fish, some eels and some great shells.
Eventually we went ashore. The dock was beautiful and looked like new which was a surprise given that it doesn’t seem to get much use.
It was fascinating because there was a solid house that looked like it was well kept but was actually uninhabited. We found 2 graves that were elaborately decorated and obviously cared for by loved ones of the deceased. We walked up and over the hill to a fantastic view of the island and the salt pond.
It was intriguing and we needed to know more so upon some research we found that Salt Island used to support an industrious community of over 100 people and a thriving salt export business.
In the days before packaged salt and refrigeration, people from all over the BVI would come to Salt Island to collect their salt. In 1911 Clementine Helena Leonard Smith was born on Salt Island where she grew up and helped to do the work of fishing, salting fish and meat, farming and mining salt. She married and after her 9 children left the island to pursue work elsewhere she focused her efforts on the burial ground of the people who had lost their lives in the shipwreck of The Rhone
She even received a BEM (British Empire Member Medal) for her outstanding work on Salt Island!
After her death, Norwell Durant was the only resident left on the island but died in 2004 and was buried there.
So the graves we saw belonged to some of these people.
Our second visit to Salt Island was after the horrific hurricane of 2017 which did so much damage, it left not only the graves but the whole property somewhat unrecognisable.
We felt pretty sad about this so we dug out our photos of our visit to Salt Island before the hurricane and compared the old photos of the graves to the new photos. The boys then set to work to try to recreate the graves as they were.
Tim and Mackenzie worked hard to firstly find the items that adorned them and then transport them all back to the original grave site.
I thought that they were not only doing a kind thing, but it was also a good bonding thing for the boys; some heavy work to restore something that is special to people who we don’t even know.
We hope our actions cause no offence to the families of Salt Island as our efforts were driven by our best intentions.