Five Historical Stories From The Bahamas
Jewels of the Sea
Diving for Pearls
In August 2010, divers working for the National Geographic Society discovered another set of bones belonging to a long dead Lucayan. He was recognised as such, due to his sloping forehead.
It is known the Lucayan’s modified their foreheads by binding boards to the heads of the young. From the sixth till the 15th century the Lucayan tribe thrived in the Bahamas. No one really knows why practised this form of mutilation. Some think it was an aid in battle – that the forehead would more easily withstand a blow and others think it was for a decorative effect.
Scientific research suggests that the Lucayans were gifted divers because there is evidence of deep diving on the skulls found in recent years (the skulls have extra bone growth around the ears which might have been caused by frequent exposure to high pressures). They were recruited by the Spanish to dive for pearls which suggests they were expert divers.
Pink Sand, Clear Sea
Cat Island – What’s in a Name?
Was Cat Island called such because it was over-run with the descendants of cats left behind by sailors? Some claim that eighteenth century settlers from England were astonished to find the Island a large cattery.
Maybe it’s because the Island looks like a cat shape from the air. But who would have been able to see aerial views several hundred years ago?
The most convincing and probable reason is that the eighteenth century swashbuckler Arthur Catt, a notorious pirate, came back often to Cat Island to bury his loot.
Cat Island is unique in the Bahamas because it has a two hundred and six foot mountain known as Mt. Alvernia and yes, you’ve guessed it, this is the highest point in all the Bahamas. On top of the mountain Father Jerome Hawkes built a Hermitage in 1939.
More than a Legend...
The Pirate Blackbeard
So many tales abound about this notorious and much feared Pirate that he has today become the stuff of legend as much as reality. But a great deal is known about him and he was a frequent and greatly dreaded visitor to the Bahamas.
One amazing fact is that he actually did have many wives. In a typical dismissal of normal customs surrounding marriage, Blackbeard took a sixteen year old wife when he already had thirteen other wives, twelve of whom were still living. He was reportedly so brutal to his new young wife that he shocked even his fellow hardened pirates.
One of the ways in which Blackbeard terrorised his victims was simply through his appearance. Not only was most of his face covered in black hair, he also threaded his beard with ribbon to make it seem even more alarming and then would fire matches stuck under his hat to light up his face like a terrifying mask! Is Blackbeard possibly the world’s greatest bigamist?
But this fashion sense certainly inspired a certain style in the hugely successful movies, The Pirates of The Caribbean.
The Bahamas achieved internal self-government in 1964 after decades of being administered and ruled by the white dominated United Bahamian Party, the UPB.
The Bahamas having been a UK dependency since the first Royal Governor, a former pirate called Woodes Rogers, expelled pirates and established some law and order. In 1953 the Progressive Liberal Party was formed campaigning for independence and in 1967 the PLP won the island's first legislative elections and Linden Pindling became the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, winning majority rule.
In 1972 an overwhelming victory by the PLP forced negotiations with Britain to begin towards complete independence and in 1973 the Bahamas became a fully independent nation. A recent, but very important history for all Bahamians.
Lucky For Some...
The Chickcharnies of Andros Island
Maybe not entirely a legend, the Chickcharnie is a small mischievous creature that is said to live in the top most part of the tall pine trees on Andros.
They are aggressive and have three fingers and toes and gleaming red eyes. Legend also has it that they could turn their heads all the way round.
Now, when you visit Andros, you are encouraged to carry brightly coloured flowers or cloth to ward off the evil effects of a Chickcharnie should you be lucky enough to glimpse one. If you do – and you show some respect, you could have good luck for the rest of your life! But if you don’t show your humble side you could have your head fixed on backwards!
The curious thing about this legend is that fossils have revealed that a very large flightless owl once lived on Andros. Owls are territorially aggressive and they can swivel their heads! Perhaps these long gone owls were the naughty head turning Chickcharnies?