Micropatrology and My Interest in Navassa

The International Micropatrological Society

I was one of the twelve members of the International Micropatrological Society, a group formed in the mid-1970s by Frederick Lehmann of St. Louis, USA, and Christopher Martin of London, England, to study very small countries and islands. The Society has been dormant since about 1980. As an IMS member, I reported on Navassa Island and followed the affairs of a number of other islands.

My Own Interest in Navassa

In my teens, I wondered if I could start my own country somewhere. Navassa Island looked promising: it was small, remote, and uninhabited. But the U.S. Coast Guard administered the territory as the site of an automatic navigational beacon and the island was unavailable and not really habitable. Over the next few years, my interest in nationhood evolved into a small private project to deliver publishers overstock books to schools in Jamaica and other West Indian islands. I raised some money to buy books, mostly overstock almanacs, at a few cents on the dollar. Some of these I had fun distributing in person wearing a pirate hat and shirt. The rest I arranged to have shipped, mainly to the Jamaica Library Service. This activity became dormant when I returned to college in 1981.

I decided to post this website on Navassa in the spring of 1996. Since then, I have provided some research support to scientists who have visited Navassa, and I have answered inquiries from the general public.

Navassa has the potential to serve as a valuable baseline for environmental research and restoration in the region. The island's Caribbean environment is unique, having survived the twentieth century undamaged. But industrial fishing in the area and the effects of climate change on the coral reef may damage the island's ecology.

Unlike other remote U.S. islands, Navassa is also in a tense part of the world. The island is ninety miles south of Cuba and lies on the principal smuggling route for narcotics into Florida. The U.S. reassertion of interest in the island in 1998 provoked criticism in Haiti, which has always considered the territory its own.

My hope is that Navassa will not fall below the radar of official U.S. attention until some new crisis forces it back into view.

Back to Navassa Page