In 1943 Joseph ‘Lambee’ Hassell, a self-taught engineer, began building a road on Saba, drastically improving transport on the island, which prior to that had been carried out only by foot or by mule. An airport followed in 1963, and a larger pier geared for tourist boats in 1972. As a result, tourism increased, gradually becoming a major part of the Saban economy.
A status referendum was held in Saba on 5 November 2004. 86.05% of the population voted for closer links to the Netherlands. This was duly achieved in 2010, when the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and Saba became a special municipality of the Netherlands.
Saba is a small island at 13 square kilometers (5.0 sq mi) in size and roughly circular in shape. It lies north-west of Sint Eustatius and south-west of Saint Barthélemy and Sint Maarten. The terrain is generally mountainous, culminating in Mount Scenery in the island’s center. Off the north coast lies the much smaller Green Island.
Saba is the northernmost potentially active volcano in the Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc chain of islands. At 887 meters (2,910 ft), Mount Scenery is also the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island is composed of a single rhombus-shaped volcano measuring 4.6 kilometers (2.9 mi) east to west and 4.0 kilometers (2.5 mi) north to south The oldest dated rocks on Saba are around 400,000 years old, and the most recent eruption was shortly before the 1630s European settlement. Between 1995 and 1997, an increase in local seismic activity was associated with a 7–12 °C (13–22 °F) rise in the temperature of the hot springs on the island’s northwest and southeast coasts.
Since 2011 the U.S. dollar has been the official currency, replacing the Netherlands Antillean guilder.
Agriculture on Saba is primarily livestock and vegetables, especially potatoes. Saba lace, also known as “Spanish work”, is actually drawn thread work and is still produced on the island.
The tourism industry now contributes more to the island’s economy than any other sector. There are about 25,000 visitors each year. Saba has a number of inns, hotels, rental cottages and restaurants. Saba is known as the “Unspoiled Queen” of the Caribbean. Saba is especially known for its ecotourism, having exceptional scuba diving, climbing and hiking.
There is one main road, known as “The Road”. Its construction was masterminded by Josephus Lambert Hassell who, contrary to the opinion of Dutch and Swiss engineers, believed that a road could be built. He took a correspondence course in civil engineering and started building the road with a crew of locals in 1938.
After five years of work the first section of the road from Fort Bay to The Bottom was completed. It was not until 1947 that the first motor vehicle arrived. In 1951 the road to Windwardside and St. Johns was opened and in 1958, the road was completed. Driving “The Road” is considered to be a daunting task, and the curves in Windwardside are extremely difficult to negotiate. Driving is on the right hand side.