Though there exist a number of first-hand accounts of the destruction wrought by the 1932 hurricane, there truly is nothing like a photograph to convey the full magnitude of the devastation. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to receive a group of never-before-published photos, taken on Green Turtle Cay in the days following the storm.
The images are from the collection of Jack Mertland Malone from Hope Town and later, Nassau. I’ve included his original notes in quotation marks beneath each image.
Green Turtle Cay’s history can be divided into two distinct periods – before the hurricane of 1932 and after.
Eighty-two years ago today, on what was to be the start of the new school year, the first category five hurricane on record descended upon Green Turtle Cay. With only barometers by which to gauge the weather, local residents had little warning of the storm and no indication whatsoever of its ferocity.
Before long, however, there would be no doubt.
South shore of the Gillam Bay point, Green Turtle Cay.
This Saturday, September 6, the Green Turtle Cay Festival of Lights Committee will hold a fundraiser at the basketball court in New Plymouth.
Starting at 5:00 p.m., a selection of delicious dishes including conch fritters, chicken wings, macaroni and cheese and a variety of sweets will be available for purchase. There will also be music, bingo and other games and activities for the young and young at heart.
The Green Turtle Cay Festival of Lights was created in 2009 to decorate the settlement of New Plymouth for the holidays and to generate additional tourism between Thanksgiving and New Years. During the six-week festival, local residents, second homeowners and vacationers enjoy a variety of activities, including turkey dinners, performances, games, boat and golf cart parades and more.
Tahiti Beach in Hope Town, Abaco.
Since writing about the Stede Bonnet breakfast, I’ve learned a bit more about the vessel itself.
Built by Symonette Shipyard in Nassau, Bahamas, the 105-ft M/V Stede Bonnet was one of two trawlers commissioned by the Royal Navy to serve as mine sweepers in Singapore.
Before the vessels were completed however, Singapore was captured by the Japanese and they were no longer needed.
One trawler became the M/V Church Bay.
The other was christened the M/V Stede Bonnet — presumably a nod to the 18th century Barbadian pirate with the same name — and assigned to service the mail run between Nassau and Abaco. Though known as “the mail boat,” the Stede Bonnet also ferried fuel, fresh produce and grocery items, dry goods, housewares, livestock and passengers.
On the day the mail boat was due, there would be excitement in the air. New Plymouth residents would finish their chores early, and gather to watch the vessel being unloaded and its cargo distributed.
In towns with shallower harbours, the Stede Bonnet anchored offshore. Tenders were sculled out to transport passengers and freight to shore.
The Stede Bonnet served as a vital link between Nassau and the Abaco mainland and cays for 27 years, before being replaced in 1970 by the M/V Deborah K.
In researching the Stede Bonnet, I uncovered two family connections to the vessel.
My cousin, Jack Albury, tells me that his father, Ancil (“Spotty”) Albury, brother of my grandfather, Lionel Albury, captained the Stede Bonnet in the early 1950s. Jack made many trips with his dad on the mail boat during school holidays.
Another cousin, Gail Lowe, tells me that her grandfather, Ludd Lowe (husband of Ma May’s sister, Sarah), was once the cook on the Stede Bonnet. And yes, Gail confirms, he did indeed cook Fire Engine many mornings to feed the crew and passengers.
Sunrise over Gillam Bay, Green Turtle Cay.
My husband, Tom Walters, fly fishing with Capt. Rick Sawyer of Abaco Fly Fish.