Where When How — May/June 2017
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A Brief Introduction

THE TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS, A BRITISH OVERSEAS TERRITORY comprising 40 islands and cays, lie at the southeastern end of the Bahamas chain, 575 miles southeast of Miami and 90 miles north of the island of Hispaniola. The Islands are generally flat, with rolling hills. The highest elevation is approximately 250 feet at Blue Mountain on Providenciales, while hills on Grand Turk rise to 163 feet.

Legend purports that the Islands were named after the scarlet dome of the barrel-shaped Turks Head cactus, which reminds one of a Turkish fez, and the Spanish word “cayos,” for small islands.

The two groups of islands are divided by a 22 mile wide, 7000 foot deep passage known as the “Turks Island Passage.”

The Islands, aptly proclaimed “Beautiful by Nature,” are the landfall Islands of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage in search of the far east. Columbus first set foot upon the island of Grand Turk in 1492 to be welcomed by the friendly and peaceful inhabitants, the Lucayan Indians. After leaving Grand Turk, he set sail westward for the Caicos Islands. Sailing along the coasts of South, East, Middle, and North Caicos, he stopped at Pine Cay to take on fresh water, and then continued on to Providenciales before departing for Cuba.

After the Spanish abduction and forced slavery of the aboriginal population, the Islands became an uninhabited possession of Spain, until the next century when they attracted the attention of the French buccaneers.

For almost a hundred years, during the 16th and 17th centuries, the Caicos Islands served as a hideout and haven for such infamous pirates as Francois L’Olonnais, Blondel, Captain Dulaien, ‘Calico’ Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Bermudians arrived on the Islands in the mid 1600s and began a thriving salt business, which lasted until the mid 20th century on Grand Turk, Salt Cay, and South Caicos.

The American Declaration of Independence left British Loyalists, or Tories, from South Carolina and Georgia without a country, causing many to take advantage of British crown land grants in the Turks and Caicos. Cotton plantations were established and prospered for nearly 25 years, until the cotton bug (boll weevil), soil exhaustion, and a terrible hurricane in 1813 brought them to an end. A few Loyalists took their slaves to Grand Turk, where they entered the salt trade. The majority departed for Canada and other British territories, leaving their plantations to decay.

Slavery was officially abolished in Britain from 1807, giving the Royal Navy the authority to suppress the illicit traffic. Hundreds of slaves were seized on the high seas and set free on the shores of The Bahamas. Thus, we have the origin of many of the ancestors of present day Turks and Caicos Islanders. Many others arrived to the shores of the Caicos Islands as a result of the wreck of the illegal slaveship Trouvadore in 1841.

By an Act of Parliament in 1799, the Islands were formally federated with The Bahamas. In 1848 a separation from The Bahamas realised a need for a local government, or Presidency, for the Turks & Caicos Islands. The Islands were obliged to abandon their expensive administration by 1873 and become annexed to Jamaica. They remained so for the next 90 years. In 1976 the Islands were granted a new constitution and an elective form of government, with a governor appointed by the Queen to represent the British interest in the Islands.

Each of our inhabited Islands have much to offer today’s visitors. See pages 153-158. Providenciales, 37.5 square miles, is the focal point of the Islands. It is now the most developed for tourism with world-class accommodations, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world stretching on for miles and an 18-hole championship golf course.

For a further look into the history of the Turks & Caicos, see page 170. For those seeking information about taking up residence in the Turks & Caicos Islands, refer to our “Island Living” section on page 149.