Hassel Island USVI United States Virgin Islands is one of the best historic islands to get ashore and do some hiking! Come along and explore this historical island with me while on your yacht charter. Hassel Island is one of the most historic sites of the St Thomas Harbor area.
Top facts on Hassel Island USVI
- Until 1860 Hassel Island and St Thomas were joined by a narrow peninsula. The Danish excavated a passage to hopefully help clear up the dirty water in Charlotte Amalie Harbor.
- Hassel Island is 135 acres
- Hassel Island originally named Orkanhullet (which means Hurricane Hole). There is a careening cove used extensively. The careening bay is a perfect spot for a kayak, hike, and snorkel.
- Now named Hassel (or Hazzel) Island after the family who owned much of it.
- About 95% is owned by the Virgin Islands National Parks, a bit by the VI government and a few private properties remain on island.
- Before the Hassel Family owned it, Hassel Island had ten recorded owners before its purchase by James Hazzell in 1784. One of those owners, Jacob Magens, his wife, and his cook, were murdered in their home in 1773. And their collection of silver was stolen.
- There were several forts and batteries on the island
Tell me about the sites to see on Hassel Island USVI
- The English built Fort Willoughby on top of Fort Frederick around 1870 to 1880
- Cowell Battery was built during the first British Occupation of the Danish Virgin Islands in 1801. This location had two twenty-four lb cannons on trestles. In the 1900s, this location high on the hill turned into a signal station where it operated until the 1950s.
- Shipleys Battery. Shipleys Battery of Fort Shipley went up on the total opposite side of the island, where it could keep watch over the Gregory Channel. There are still some ruins here if you climb up and behind Creque Marine Railway. One interesting fact is that at one time, the former guardhouse was a smallpox hospital!
- The Royal Mail Packet Company. In 1843 the Royal Mail Packet Company established its presence on St Thomas. The Northeastern side of Hassel Island then had a coaling station.
- The RMS Rhone typically used the coaling station except for the one time it went to the British Virgin Islands and sunk due to a hurricane.
Tell me more FAQ’s about Hassel Island
- The Hamburg American Line. In 1871 a hub was established at Careening cove. The US purchased the Virgin Islands from the Danish Government in 1917 and the US Navy Seized the hub.
- A Leprosarium (!). The Leprosarium operated between 1833 and 1860. So the last two patients transferred to Charlotte Amalie for care.
- Creques powered Marine Railway, and more are still on this historic island, albeit a bit battered after the hurricanes of 2017. 1840’s to the 1960s was a long time for the railway to be in operation. I find not only walking around here fascinating but also snorkeling just off the piers can come up with some excellent finds!
- At Careening Cove, a degaussing station came about in the early 1920s. This station was utilized to de-magnetize the hulls of submarines and minesweepers so they wouldn’t attract mines.
You can, as we have, spent a lot of time exploring this island.
I hope you enjoy some of the pictures that we have taken around the island. They have cleared a lot of vegetation around this site and make a beautiful little walking trail up to it.
Tell me about Prince Frederik’s Battery on Hassel Island USVI
Perched on the southeast end of Hassel Island, Prince Frederik’s Battery stands guard over the entrance to the harbor. This fortification combines Danish and British history. First considered in 1767, construction commenced in 1777 and completed by 1780, primarily as a defense against privateers. In 1802 British forces incorporated the site into their fortifications during the first occupation of the islands in the French Revolutionary War. They continued using the Danish site throughout the Napoleonic Wars. Under British rule, the site renamed Fort Willoughby. The fort still had cannons mounted in the 20th century. I love the dock by the Garrison House; cannons make up some of the posts. There are a lot of cannons on this island.
Cowell’s Battery is also by these areas. Built-in 1800, and converted to a signal station in the later 1800′s where it operated until the 1960′s. There are 3-4 distinct historic areas on the island. Hassel Island is one of the better spots to see in the islands, in my opinion, often overlooked by the yachts and guests when they are eager to get away from the main port and get out cruising.
What about the waters around Hassel Island USVI?
For anyone interested in history, it is a spectacular spot and has some lovely SCUBA diving and snorkeling in various places as well. Odd old pieces of pottery, old bottles, and pieces of clay pipes are found underwater here along with a variety of different cannonballs!