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Green Key Virtual Cache

Hidden : 08/08/2003
2 out of 5
5 out of 5

Size: Size:   virtual (virtual)

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Geocache Description:

Find the foundation ruins of a stone lighthouse/hut on an uninhabited desert island off the coast of St. Martin; reachable by swimming/snorkeling or by boat. Plus: A shipwreck on a deserted beach! See below for the rules for claiming this cache.

Your goal is to stand atop the northeast corner of the foundation buttress of a ruined stone lighthouse or hut on Green Key. We couldn't leave a physical cache because the whole Key is washed by waves during the region's frequent hurricanes--- a traditional cache would wash away! But note that this virtual cache is for a very specific location--- no cheating!

Green Key/Cay Verde is a small island about half a mile (0.8km) off the beach in Orient Bay on St Martin in the French West Indies. (You may know it as Sint Maarten because the south half of the island is Dutch--- it's the smallest landmass on earth to be shared by two governments. But don't be confused: "Sint Maarten" in the "Netherlands Antilles" is one and the same as "Saint Martin" in the "French West Indies"--- same island, different naming conventions.)

You can swim/snorkel to Green Key, or arrange for a boat to take you. I snorkeled: My Garmin V is water-resistant anyway, but I double-wrapped it in plastic freezer bags (squeezing out as much air as possible), clipped it to my snorkel gear, and swam out. The GPS emerged from the swim--- and the swim back!--- unscathed.

There's a good reason to snorkel: Green Key and Orient Bay are part of a French Nature Reserve--- sort of like a National Park in the US. It's a wide, shallow bay with a max depth about 25'/8m, with much of it shallower. The Trade Winds set up a strong current through the Bay, carrying cool, nutrient-rich water in; the water warms in the shallow bay, and the result is an explosion of marine life: Hard and soft-bodied corals, abundant sea grasses, conchs, sea urchins, barracudas, rays, angelfish, parrotfish, wrasses, squid, lobsters--- well, you get the idea: a whole range of tropical marine life!

But if you prefer, you can hire a small boat from any of several water sport shops along the main beach. They'll take you out, drop you on Green Key's small beach, and pick you up when you designate, for around $10 per person.

Once on the small beach at Green Key, clamber up the rocks to the top of the island, and start your hunt. All of Green Key is just a few feet above sea level; its one high point is maybe 15'/5m above the water, and is still low enough so the whole island is periodically wave-washed in large storms. The Key is less "green" after such storms--- in fact, a series of five hurricanes that hit the island in the late 1990s killed off much of the vegetation--- but it's re-greening itself now.

I suggest you walk the island counter-clockwise towards your goal, following the windward beach. Note the shipwreck on the beach at N18 05.242 W63 00.649 -- the remains of a 45'/15m yacht that someone tried to sail through the coral reef!

Be a beachcomber while you walk--- you'll see tons of shells and some curious flotsam and jetsam along the way. The manmade stuff on the beach represents years' and years' accumulation of what's washed up on the beach from nearby islands and from ships passing by. Some is plain junk, but twice, I've found parts from radiosondes (weather balloons that send back telemetric temperature, humidity, and pressure info to the ground). Beachcombing is informal archeaology, and kind of interesting.

When you get close to your quarry--- perhaps a 20 minute walk if you're following the beach--- cut across the island. Watch your step! The coral rocks can be loose and always are sharp; and many small spiny cacti inhabit the island's interior.

When you find the ruined lighthouse/hut, stand on the northeast buttress of the foundation and soak in the view: In front of you, the island of Tintemar, which is part of St. Martin. On the horizon to the north east, Anguilla. To the south east, the dormant volcanoes of St. Bart's loom on the horizon. Due south, you'll see the conical tip of Saba just poking above the horizon. And behind you, of course, is St. Martin itself.

If you're lucky, you'll also see several of the semi-wild goats that live off the sparse vegetation on the island: They even eat the cacti!

And if you're adventurous--- I hope you will be--- walk east to the point on the island furthest from St. Martin and snorkel back along the north side of Green Key. You'll see some of the nicest coral formations in the area, and you'll probably have them all to yourself; a private paradise!

Final tips: If you plan to stay on Green Key for any length of time, bring drinking water with you--- it's not called a "desert" island for nothing! And in any case, wear plenty of sunscreen, and use Reef-Runners, AquaSocks, sturdy sandals, or some other kind of protective footgear when walking on the rocks.

Before you can officially "bag" this virtual cache, you have to prove you were really there. You can do this several ways:

1) Post a photo of yourself standing on the stonework, with one of the other islands in the background. (The view is unmistakable; the cache owner will know if the shot is real or not.)

2) Or: Send the cache owner the answer to this question by email (don't post your answer in the log!): How many door and window openings remain visible in the lighthouse/hut foundation wall?

Good luck!

Additional Hints (No hints available.)