Every now and then someone asks me about the “facts” in my fiction. One chapter in To Come and Go Like Magic, for example, has a teacher bringing to school a Ball jar of sand so the students can see and feel what the desert is like. She explains how the tiniest particles float across the ocean from Africa’s Sahara Desert and land on their doorsteps. The Sahara dust is invisible in Kentucky where the story takes place, but it’s very noticeable in the eastern Caribbean.
Every spring and summer huge clouds of dust created by storms in the Sahara sweep across the Atlantic Ocean to the islands of the Caribbean. Most of the time they go unnoticed. Tradewinds act as enormous fans, and they do a pretty good job of keeping the islands swept clean.
A few years back, however, we were in St. Thomas when there was an especially thick cloud of dust that settled over the Virgin Islands creating a haze that lasted several days and caused some respiratory problems, especially for people with allergies. The two photos below are of Magen’s Bay from Mountaintop (the highest point on the island of St. Thomas). Both were taken on lovely sunny days, but the first was during the 2007 dust storm, the second on a clear day in June 2011. Magen’s Bay is a gorgeous spot — dust or no dust.
For more info about the Sahara dust, check out NASA’s Earth Observatory.
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