A surprising number of people have asked, but no, the young girl on the cover of my book, Those Who Stayed, isn’t me.
“In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
How many of us learned this cheery verse in primary school? In easy-to-memorize rhyming couplets, it relates the tale of Christopher Columbus, a brave and benevolent explorer.
But, as I learned while researching my book, Those Who Stayed, the truth about Columbus is infinitely darker than this perky, whitewashed version. Here, excerpted from the book, is the part of Columbus’ story that you probably weren’t taught in school.
Finally, a few minutes to write about last weekend! As some of you know, last Saturday was my book signing at Logos Bookstore in Nassau. Huge thanks to Logos’ owner Ricardo Munroe and his staff for being so welcoming.
Logos has long been my favourite Bahamian bookstore. For years, every trip to Nassau has included at least one visit to Logos to check out what’s new in their Bahamian history section (and, I’ll admit, to imagine what it would be like to have my own books displayed there.) Thanks to Ricardo for helping me make that dream a reality.
And thank you to everyone who came out for the signing, which was a terrific success.
It was wonderful to see so many old friends – including a few I hadn’t seen in decades – and to meet some new ones. I also discovered a few new relatives!
In addition to being a meteorologist, Wayne is the author of a series of books about the most devastating hurricanes to hit the Bahamas.
His books, which draw on first-hand accounts as well as his professional expertise, include The Great Bahamas Hurricane of 1866, The Greatest and Deadliest Hurricanes of the Caribbean and the Americas, and The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932. They make for fascinating reading, and the latter was instrumental to me in conducting research for my own book. Continue reading
With the exception of the few years during which Abaco was served by the luxurious Content, travel to and from Nassau meant a long, often unpleasant voyage on the mailboat.
The trip became much easier in the late 1940s, however, when Bahamas Airways began flying amphibious aircraft from Nassau direct to New Plymouth.
In the late 1880s, believing it held the key to the colony’s economic success, Bahamian Governor Ambrose Shea introduced sisal, a plant that yields a stiff fibre used to make rope, twine, mats and other household items.
Since the U.S. had no domestic sisal supply, the governor pointed out, there was a ready market nearby. Furthermore, since sisal plants live more than a decade and survive in virtually any condition, they require minimum care. Continue reading
As the Bahamian sponging industry died and the Depression took hold, many Green Turtle Cay men took up shark fishing — harvesting and exporting hides, fins and livers. More rich in Vitamin A than even cod liver oil, shark livers were the most valuable by-product.
And though Green Turtle Cay’s shark fishermen had no way to know it, events half a world away would soon have a dramatic impact on their new industry. Continue reading
When Abaco’s trusty, long-serving mailboat, the Priscilla, was destroyed in the 1932 hurricane, she was replaced by the Content, a converted luxury yacht.
Originally owned by a West Palm Beach millionaire, the 120-foot Content had been purchased by the R.W. Sawyer Co. of Nassau, and converted to a mailboat, captained by Green Turtle Cay’s Roland Roberts and Stanley Weatherford. Continue reading
In 1906, an American group calling itself the Bahamas Timber Company obtained a 100-year contract to log pinelands in Abaco. On a site south of Marsh Harbour, they built a state-of-the-art sawmill and an adjacent town, Wilson City, to house employees.
Just east of New Plymouth’s government buildings, in the yard behind the customs officer’s residence, sits an unremarkable hunk of rusted equipment. All but overgrown by tall grass, it’s easy to overlook. But it actually represents a window into early 20th-century life on Green Turtle Cay.
The years following the turn of the century were lean ones for the residents of New Plymouth. Just a few decades before, the settlement had been vibrant and prosperous. Some of its more adventurous residents made their fortunes as blockade runners during the American Civil War. Others harvested sponges or turtles, or cultivated sisal, citrus and pineapples.
With work plentiful, Green Turtle Cay’s population soared to nearly 2,000. Its streets were lined with large, gracious homes decorated with fine furniture and imported silks and linens. Continue reading