Times of the Islands Fall 2021

Presents the "soul of the Turks & Caicos Islands" with in-depth features about local people, culture, history, environment, real estate, businesses, resorts, restaurants and activities.

Presents the "soul of the Turks & Caicos Islands" with in-depth features about local people, culture, history, environment, real estate, businesses, resorts, restaurants and activities.


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TIMES<br />

OF THE<br />

SAMPLING THE SOUL OF THE TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS FALL <strong>2021</strong> NO. 136<br />



Epic battle <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos<br />


Meal prep Taíno-style<br />


Real estate sales soar

Comfort Food Just Went A-list.<br />

If your idea <strong>of</strong> comfort feels like<br />

cashmere, you will find its culinary<br />

equivalent at Almond Tree,<br />

<strong>the</strong> Shore Club’s deliciously<br />

decadent new eatery.<br />

Golden, crusty wood-fired pizza.<br />

Savory skillets, bubbling over with flavor<br />

and just oozing with temptation.<br />

Salads and sides that give new meaning<br />

to <strong>the</strong> word “indulgence.”<br />

These days, we’re all hungry<br />

for contentment and satisfaction.<br />

Almond Tree at <strong>the</strong> Shore Club<br />

simply takes it to a whole new level.<br />

Reservations 649 339 8000<br />

<strong>the</strong>shoreclubtc.com<br />



Dinner 6 –10:30pm<br />

5pm – Midnight




23<br />




Key West Italian<br />

1. Village 2. Village<br />

3. Caribbean<br />

Village<br />

4. French<br />

Village<br />

5. Seaside<br />

Village<br />

TM/© <strong>2021</strong> Sesame Workshop<br />


Unlimited fun and entertainment is all-included<br />

at Beaches® Turks & Caicos. And now with our<br />

Platinum Protocol <strong>of</strong> Cleanliness, our already<br />

industry-leading safety and health practices are<br />

even more enhanced, guaranteeing <strong>the</strong> peace <strong>of</strong><br />

mind you need to enjoy your time with us. Stay at<br />

one village and play at all five choosing from every<br />

land and water sport imaginable, an awe-inspiring<br />

waterpark with a SurfStream® surf simulator, or simply just splash,<br />

swim and sip <strong>the</strong> day away with new friends at a sparkling swim-up<br />

pool bar. Pamper yourself in a world <strong>of</strong> tranquility at our Caribbeaninspired<br />

Red Lane® Spa and <strong>the</strong>n enjoy an all-included feast at one <strong>of</strong><br />

21 incredible 5-Star Global Gourmet restaurants and enjoy non-stop<br />

bars and entertainment all for <strong>the</strong> price <strong>of</strong> one vacation. With all <strong>of</strong> this<br />

activity at your fingertips, it’s no wonder Beaches Turks & Caicos has<br />

held <strong>the</strong> top spot at <strong>the</strong> World Travel Awards for over two decades.<br />


@beachesresorts<br />



*Visit www.beaches.com/disclaimers/times<strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong>islandsspring<strong>2021</strong> or call 1-800-BEACHES for important terms and<br />

conditions. Beaches ® is a registered trademark. Unique Vacations, Inc. is an affiliate <strong>of</strong> Unique Travel Corp., <strong>the</strong> worldwide<br />

representative <strong>of</strong> Beaches Resorts.

contents<br />

Departments<br />

6 From <strong>the</strong> Editor<br />

17 Looking Back to Look Ahead<br />

The Natural World<br />

By Diane Taylor<br />

22 Talking Taíno<br />

Not a Pot to “Cook” In<br />

By Bill Keegan, Betsy Carlson, Michael Pateman<br />

and Lindsay Bloch<br />

47 Poetry<br />

Summer in <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong><br />

By David P. Carroll ~ Photo By Marta Morton<br />

64 Business<br />

Striving for Gold<br />

By Kathy Borsuk<br />

77 About <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>/TCI Map<br />

80 Subscription Form<br />

82 Classified Ads<br />

Features<br />

30 Pearls <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Sea<br />

Story & Photos By Kelly Currington<br />

48 Pirate Attack!<br />

By Ben Stubenberg<br />

Green Pages<br />

37 Here with a Roar!<br />

By Ben Farmer, SFS<br />

42 If Rocks Could Talk . . .<br />

By Carmen Hoyt, SFS<br />

Astrolabe<br />

70 Small Island, Big History<br />

By Dr. Carlton Mills & Debby-Lee Mills<br />

TIMES<br />

OF THE<br />


SAMPLING THE SOUL OF THE TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS FALL <strong>2021</strong> NO. 136<br />

On <strong>the</strong> Cover<br />

Agile LeVin—photographer, explorer and chronicler <strong>of</strong><br />

everything TCI on his website www.visittci.com—took<br />

this drone photo <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> multi-textured wetlands <strong>of</strong> West<br />

Caicos. He was part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> expedition that investigated<br />

<strong>the</strong> site <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> historic pirate attack in <strong>the</strong> area. For more<br />

information and photos, go to page 48.<br />

Below<br />

Ben Stubenberg and Captain Ernesto Von Der Esch measure<br />

<strong>the</strong> cannon <strong>the</strong>y found <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> coast <strong>of</strong> West Caicos.<br />

Could it have been <strong>the</strong> one used in Thomas Brown’s battle<br />

against <strong>the</strong> pirates?<br />

48<br />


4 www.timespub.tc

TurksAndCaicosProperty.com<br />

5 Acre Mandalay Estate, Long Bay Beachfront<br />

Nestled along coveted Long Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>, Mandalay Estate <strong>of</strong>fers a discerning<br />

buyer an idyllic private retreat with 300 ft. <strong>of</strong> pristine, white sandy beach and brilliant turquoise waters.<br />

Mandalay features 7 bedrooms and an award-winning architectural design capturing <strong>the</strong> essence <strong>of</strong><br />

open Caribbean living with a masterful layout that revolves around <strong>the</strong> spectacular multi-level pool.<br />

US$19,500,000<br />

Bernadette Hunt<br />

Cell ~ 649 231 4029 | Tel ~ 649 941 3361<br />

Bernadette@TurksAndCaicosProperty.com<br />

Bernadette has lived in <strong>the</strong> Turks and Caicos<br />

<strong>Islands</strong> for over 21 years and witnessed <strong>the</strong><br />

development and transition <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> islands<br />

into a significant tourist destination. Based<br />

on independent figures her gross transaction<br />

numbers are unrivalled. Bernadette<br />

has listings on Providenciales, Pine Cay,<br />

Ambergris Cay, North and Middle Caicos<br />

and is delighted to work with sellers and<br />

buyers <strong>of</strong> homes, condos, commercial real<br />

estate and vacant undeveloped sites.<br />

Canal Front Villa Rosa & Turtle Watch Villa<br />

Villa Rosa and Turtle Watch Villa are 2 highly successful canal front vacation rental properties rated #1 on<br />

Trip Advisor and located in very close proximity to Grace Bay Beach. Each property is listed separately<br />

and has multiple rental units and 113 ft. <strong>of</strong> canal frontage. The Vendor is currently <strong>of</strong>fering very attractive<br />

owner financing packages with details available to qualified buyers.<br />

Price Upon Request<br />

Turks and Caicos Property is <strong>the</strong> leading<br />

independent real estate firm in <strong>the</strong> Turks and<br />

Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> with <strong>of</strong>fices located at Ocean<br />

Club West Resort and Ocean Club West<br />

Plaza on <strong>the</strong> Grace Bay Road.<br />

Bernadette’s reputation and success has been<br />

earned over time through her dedication,<br />

enthusiasm and passion for real estate. Her<br />

personal experience as having practiced law<br />

in <strong>the</strong> islands for more than 10 years toge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

with owning and renovating a number <strong>of</strong><br />

properties means she is well-placed to advise<br />

her customers and developers on what to<br />

anticipate in <strong>the</strong> purchasing and construction<br />

process.<br />

Bernadette delights in working in <strong>the</strong> real<br />

estate industry and her humor and energy<br />

make her a pleasure to work with.<br />

Alexandra Resort, Grace Bay Beachfront<br />

Highly sought-after Grace Bay Beach condo at <strong>the</strong> all-inclusive Alexandra Resort boasting an expansive<br />

1900 sq. ft. with 2 bedrooms and 2 and a half bathrooms. Suite 2303 enjoys a third-floor location in <strong>the</strong> Lady<br />

Rose building with incredible Grace Bay beachfront views from <strong>the</strong> living area, master bedroom suite and<br />

large beachfront balcony.<br />

US$799,000<br />

Please contact Bernadette if you would like<br />

to find out more about owning real estate in<br />

<strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>.

from <strong>the</strong> editor<br />


This view <strong>of</strong> Mudjin Harbour on Middle Caicos is from a small hidden cave accessed from <strong>the</strong> top <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> cliffs. These caves were formed<br />

millions <strong>of</strong> years ago.<br />

6 www.timespub.tc<br />

Digging Deep<br />

This magazine’s intended audience has always been people who want to learn more about <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>,<br />

those who enjoy peering well beneath <strong>the</strong> surface <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> turquoise sea and ivory beaches. In this issue, readers will<br />

be digging deep into <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>’ history—in fact, all <strong>the</strong> way back to when <strong>the</strong> land was formed. Skip forward millions<br />

<strong>of</strong> years and you will learn about <strong>the</strong> Taínos’ meal preparation—a long way from UberEats but quite similar to<br />

home-cooking techniques today.<br />

Then we jump ahead by centuries to author Ben Stubenberg’s article on a pirate attack <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos, where<br />

Loyalist cotton planter Thomas Brown enlisted his enslaved Africans to fight alongside him! Ben spent much time<br />

and effort researching this unusual event, and even went so far as to boat to <strong>the</strong> possible site <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> battle with a<br />

group <strong>of</strong> interested residents. I am so appreciative that he shares <strong>the</strong>se articles with us; <strong>the</strong>y greatly contribute to<br />

<strong>the</strong> quality and depth <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> magazine.<br />

Local historian and author Carlton Mills ushers us into modern times with his fascinating review <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> history<br />

<strong>of</strong> Grand Turk, while Diane Taylor presents <strong>the</strong> story behind a natural history book from <strong>the</strong> 1980s that has been<br />

revised for childen today.<br />

Finally, we land in <strong>the</strong> 21st century, to learn about <strong>the</strong> ongoing saga <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> lionfish and local efforts to eradicate<br />

this intrusive predator. On <strong>the</strong> flip side, Kelly Currington shares her emotional connection with an endearing jawfish.<br />

Layered on top <strong>of</strong> this all are <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> present. Currently, <strong>the</strong> country is a strong draw for<br />

visitors seeking a healthy, peaceful place to vacation and escape <strong>the</strong> troubles <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> world. The real estate market is<br />

soaring for <strong>the</strong> same reason—reflecting an urge to make “paradise” a permanent or part-time home.<br />

Every day, I thank God for <strong>the</strong> opportunity and His help in putting out ano<strong>the</strong>r issue <strong>of</strong> our magazine. And I thank<br />

<strong>the</strong> advertisers and contributors who so steadfastly support this ra<strong>the</strong>r non-commercial compilation <strong>of</strong> material that<br />

is designed to tap into <strong>the</strong> heart and soul <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se “Beautiful by Nature” Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>.<br />

Kathy Borsuk, Editor • timespub@tciway.tc • (649) 431-4788


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resorts under <strong>the</strong> guidance <strong>of</strong> medical pr<strong>of</strong>essionals,<br />

<strong>the</strong> Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention<br />

(CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and <strong>the</strong> local<br />

Ministries <strong>of</strong> Health in each country we call home. We<br />

have dedicated Quality Inspection Teams and environmental<br />

health and safety managers at all <strong>of</strong> our resorts to make<br />

sure every procedure is in place to protect every guest and<br />

team member. That even extends to our supply chain. Our<br />

resorts have always been equipped with full-service<br />

medical stations staffed daily with a registered nurse<br />

and 24/7 on-call medical personnel, but we’ve upgraded<br />

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and supplies needed to address new protocols. So you<br />

can book your next stay with us knowing that Beaches has<br />

always been <strong>the</strong> brand you can trust, and always will be.<br />


Or Call Your Travel Advisor<br />

@beachesresorts<br />

Beaches ® is a registered trademark. Unique Vacations, Inc. is an affiliate <strong>of</strong> Unique Travel Corp., <strong>the</strong> worldwide representative <strong>of</strong> Beaches Resorts.

- --- ---<br />

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Experience Our Sister Lslands<br />

Each Island in our Turks and Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> chain is a destination on its own.<br />

Experience <strong>the</strong> unparalleled beauty and exciting excursions that make our<br />

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TIMES<br />

OF THE<br />



Kathy Borsuk<br />


Claire Parrish<br />


Dr. Lindsay Bloch, Kathy Borsuk, Dr. Betsy Carlson,<br />

David P. Carroll, Kelly Currington, Ben Farmer,<br />

Carmen Hoyt, Dr. Bill Keegan, Dr. Carlton Mills,<br />

Debby-Lee Mills, Dr. Michael P. Pateman, Ben Stubenberg,<br />

Lisa Turnbow-Talbot, Diane Taylor.<br />


Kelly Currington, Ben Farmer, Anna Handte-Reinecker,<br />

Melissa Heres, Carmen Hoyt, Sara Kaufman–Middle Caicos<br />

Co-Op, Agile LeVin–VisitTCI.com, Dr. Bill Keegan,<br />

Marta Morton, Mark Parrish, Lynn Pelowski, Ted Philippona,<br />

Provo Picture, Shutterstock, Diane Taylor, Turks & Caicos<br />

National Museum, Lisa Turnbow-Talbot, World Nomads.<br />


Alejandra Baiz, Augusto Brunias, Richard McGhie,<br />

Theodore Morris, Wavey Line Publishing.<br />


PF Solutions, Miami, FL<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> ISSN 1017-6853 is<br />

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16 www.timespub.tc

looking back to look ahead<br />

This is <strong>the</strong> new cover <strong>of</strong> The Natural World <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks and Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>, originally written by Ka<strong>the</strong>rine Orr in 1983. It has been revised<br />

and updated for today’s times and may be used in TCI primary schools this fall.<br />

The Natural World<br />

New edition brea<strong>the</strong>s fresh life into a timely subject.<br />

By Diane Taylor<br />

In a very real scientific sense, <strong>the</strong> Earth brea<strong>the</strong>s us and we brea<strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong> Earth. This has to do with <strong>the</strong><br />

exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide. Now, however, excess carbon in <strong>the</strong> atmosphere puts<br />

all life at risk. One way to reinstate balance is to ignite in children a love for <strong>the</strong> wonders <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> natural<br />

world. Yes, hook <strong>the</strong> kids.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 17

Author/illustrator Ka<strong>the</strong>rine Orr has had a passion for<br />

nature since she was young. This passion to understand<br />

<strong>the</strong> natural world led her to become a marine biologist.<br />

While on South Caicos researching <strong>the</strong> life history <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

queen conch, she realized <strong>the</strong> importance <strong>of</strong> educating<br />

children about <strong>the</strong> natural world so <strong>the</strong>y would grow up<br />

to respect nature and become wise stewards.<br />

With that idea in mind, she wrote and illustrated a<br />

68-page book called The Natural World <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks and<br />


Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>. It came out in 1983 with <strong>the</strong> help <strong>of</strong> Jane<br />

Halaby who undertook <strong>the</strong> publishing. After living on<br />

South Caicos for two years studying <strong>the</strong> queen conch for<br />

her Master’s degree, <strong>the</strong>n four years working on Pine Cay<br />

as a marine biologist, Ka<strong>the</strong>rine felt <strong>the</strong> book was a good<br />

way to pass on her love for <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> and <strong>the</strong> people.<br />

Ka<strong>the</strong>rine Orr (known at <strong>the</strong> time as Kathy Hesse) left<br />

Pine Cay during <strong>the</strong> planning stages <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> book, just<br />

days before I arrived on <strong>the</strong> island in <strong>the</strong> spring <strong>of</strong> 1980.<br />

We corresponded over <strong>the</strong> months and at one point she<br />

asked me to fly to as many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> islands as I could, as<br />

soon as I could (to meet publishing deadlines), to take<br />

photos <strong>of</strong> local children that would be inserted into <strong>the</strong><br />

story. Great!<br />

And so, a young Clifford Gardiner (now deceased),<br />

first Belonger pilot in <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos, wearing his dazzling<br />

white pilot’s uniform and an equally dazzling smile,<br />

picked me up at <strong>the</strong> small Pine Cay airstrip. Here, someone<br />

with a sense <strong>of</strong> humour had installed a sign post that<br />

read: Greater Pine Cay International Airport. He flew me in<br />

his red and white Cesna into <strong>the</strong> limitless blues <strong>of</strong> a clear<br />

sky and dropped me <strong>of</strong>f on Salt Cay, Grand Turk, North<br />

Caicos and South Caicos where I approached elementary<br />

schools to borrow children for photos. The students were<br />

only too eager to pose for <strong>the</strong> shots, which we organized<br />

with much chatting and laughter, and teachers happily<br />

let <strong>the</strong>m out <strong>of</strong> school for an adventure. They climbed<br />

This 1982 photo <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> young Clifford Gardiner, TCI’s first Belonger<br />

pilot, shows his dazzling pilot’s uniform and equally dazzling smile.<br />

This 1982 photo shows a young Holly Bassett on South Caicos, posing<br />

for a shot that appeared in <strong>the</strong> 1983 edition <strong>of</strong> The Natural World.<br />

casuarina trees (click), displayed baskets and hats woven<br />

by women on Middle Caicos (click), ga<strong>the</strong>red a variety <strong>of</strong><br />

sea beans <strong>the</strong>y found on a beach (click) and more. I sent<br />

<strong>the</strong> rolls <strong>of</strong> film <strong>of</strong>f to Jane Halaby to incorporate into <strong>the</strong><br />

book.<br />

Some months later, a package arrived in <strong>the</strong> mail. The<br />

book! The Natural World <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks and Caicos <strong>Islands</strong><br />

was in print. The topics cover everything that comprises<br />

<strong>the</strong> land and sea environments in which island children<br />

play and learn, and all are introduced with inviting colours<br />

and action drawings <strong>of</strong> children, plants, land and sea animals—fish,<br />

crabs, turtles, birds, butterflies—and more.<br />

Every page is fun and engaging and makes us want to<br />

read on.<br />

The book is captivating, from both academic and artistic<br />

points <strong>of</strong> view. It proceeds in a friendly manner as<br />

if talking directly to young readers, every now and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

asking a relevant question. For example: “There are more<br />

ways plants are important to us. Can you think <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m?”<br />

And “More animals live in sand which is always underwater.<br />

We can find <strong>the</strong>ir empty shells washed up on <strong>the</strong><br />

beach. Can you find some clam shells? A sand dollar?”<br />

Now, over 40 years later, Ka<strong>the</strong>rine and I, with input<br />

from Dr. Bill Keegan, Marsha Pardee, Alizee Zimmerman<br />

and Dr. Della Higgs, have revised The Natural World <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Turks and Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>. This new edition opens with<br />

a tribute to <strong>the</strong> indigenous Lucayans, <strong>the</strong> first people who<br />

lived in <strong>the</strong>se <strong>Islands</strong>, and outlines conservation lessons<br />

we can learn from <strong>the</strong>m. It ends with action strategies<br />

children can take to protect species at risk such as <strong>the</strong><br />

rock iguana, <strong>the</strong> queen conch and coral reefs.<br />

Ka<strong>the</strong>rine Orr captures <strong>the</strong> beauty and ecological connections<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>. Her book would<br />

make a good addition to primary schools across <strong>the</strong><br />

Caribbean. The material is relevant; it honours Caribbean<br />


18 www.timespub.tc

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<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 19<br />

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Live and in <strong>the</strong> flesh . . . <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana (Cyclura carinata), found only in <strong>the</strong> TCI, is <strong>the</strong> star attraction <strong>of</strong> a visit to Little<br />

Water Cay.<br />

students’ world and connects <strong>the</strong>m to it. The Natural<br />

World <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks and Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> is appealing to children<br />

because <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> imaginative and whimsical full-page<br />

illustrations and also because <strong>the</strong>re are real photos <strong>of</strong><br />

real children smiling out at us—25 children whose names<br />

are all included at <strong>the</strong> end. Holly Bassett, Neville Missick<br />

and Karen Forbes are a few <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

Ka<strong>the</strong>rine Orr dedicated this book <strong>of</strong> natural history<br />

“to <strong>the</strong> now and future children <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se <strong>Islands</strong>” because<br />

today’s children are tomorrow’s fishermen and women,<br />

lawyers, scientists and citizens—<strong>the</strong> partners who will<br />

lead us into a sustainable future.<br />

I believe The Natural World <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks and Caicos<br />

<strong>Islands</strong> is as relevant today, if not more so, than it was 40<br />

years ago. Fast forward to <strong>2021</strong>, where <strong>the</strong> most critical<br />

issue facing <strong>the</strong> world is global warming, which is largely<br />

caused by overconsumption <strong>of</strong> gas and oil, as well as vast<br />

livestock industries. It’s no secret that habitats <strong>of</strong> animals<br />

and humans are being destroyed around <strong>the</strong> world and<br />

that this is contributing to <strong>the</strong> rising temperature. For<br />

instance, <strong>the</strong> sand in which female turtles lay <strong>the</strong>ir eggs is<br />

becoming too hot. Eggs are reaching lethal temperatures<br />

and some do not hatch at all. (Naomi Klein, This Changes<br />

Everything, Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2014, p. 434.)<br />

20 www.timespub.tc

Walkin May2017_Layout 1 5/28/17 5:45 PM Page 1<br />

Notable naturalist Rachel Carson said, “I believe<br />

that <strong>the</strong> more clearly we can focus our attention on <strong>the</strong><br />

wonders and realities <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> universe about us, <strong>the</strong> less<br />

taste we shall have for destruction.” The Natural World<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks and Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> is in tune with this philosophy.<br />

It’s impossible not to be filled with wonder<br />

when exploring Ka<strong>the</strong>rine Orr’s delightful drawings and<br />

understanding her messages <strong>of</strong> conservation and interdependency<br />

<strong>of</strong> all life forms.<br />

As global awareness <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> environmental crisis grows,<br />

this revised edition is a significant addition to <strong>the</strong> readings<br />

<strong>of</strong> children (and people <strong>of</strong> all ages) at home and<br />

in schools. Indeed, copies <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> book may be used in<br />

schools across <strong>the</strong> TCI in <strong>the</strong> near future. Stay tuned! Our<br />

grip on ego is tenacious, but it is loosening to embrace<br />

<strong>the</strong> eco era—and none too soon. a<br />

For more information and to see more children’s nature<br />

books by Ka<strong>the</strong>rine Orr, visit ka<strong>the</strong>rineshelleyorr.com.<br />




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<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 21


talking taíno<br />

Opposite page: Zamia is a toxic, indigenous Caribbean cycad whose “stem” is only edible with proper preparation.<br />

Above: This Theodore Morris painting depicts a Taíno sitting at <strong>the</strong> entrance <strong>of</strong> a cave grilling fish over <strong>the</strong> fire. To see more <strong>of</strong> this talented<br />

artist’s paintings, visit tainopaintings.weebly.com.<br />


Not a Pot to “Cook” In<br />

The TCI’s Indigenous people were quite creative in food preparation.<br />

By Bill Keegan, Betsy Carlson, Michael Pateman and Lindsay Bloch<br />

Irving Rouse, <strong>the</strong> doyen <strong>of</strong> Caribbean archaeology, once estimated that pottery comprised 90% <strong>of</strong> all artifacts<br />

found in <strong>the</strong> region. It should come as no surprise <strong>the</strong>n that <strong>the</strong> precontact history <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> is<br />

written as if broken pieces <strong>of</strong> pottery (called sherds 1 )—not people—were <strong>the</strong> main actors. Pottery vessels,<br />

like <strong>the</strong> one recovered underwater from a TCI cave, still contain a wealth <strong>of</strong> information. And though potsherds<br />

may be <strong>the</strong> most abundant product <strong>of</strong> human manufacture, far greater quantities <strong>of</strong> things that<br />

people used are preserved in archaeological sites.<br />

1<br />

Lexical note—sherd versus shard: sherd refers only to broken pieces <strong>of</strong> pottery, while shard may be used for any broken bits <strong>of</strong><br />

glass, metal, rock and pottery.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 23

People were living in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean for about 5,000<br />

years before pottery became widely available. So how<br />

did <strong>the</strong>y cook <strong>the</strong>ir meals? Unfortunately, we don’t really<br />

know <strong>the</strong> answer because food preparation has not<br />

been investigated for <strong>the</strong>se first inhabitants. After pottery<br />

came to dominate archaeological assemblages, we<br />

tended to assume that its superior qualities as cooking<br />

vessels made o<strong>the</strong>r cooking techniques unnecessary. We<br />

have recently learned that clay pots did not completely<br />

replace o<strong>the</strong>r cooking methods. Because <strong>the</strong> Lucayan<br />

<strong>Islands</strong> were settled last, and <strong>the</strong>ir settlements moved<br />

frequently, preparing meals without having to carry heavy<br />

and fragile clay pots facilitated <strong>the</strong> exploration <strong>of</strong> new<br />

islands and <strong>the</strong> short-term exploitation <strong>of</strong> resources away<br />

from settlements.<br />

Even today, different meals require different cooking<br />

methods. Some foods are roasted, broiled or grilled, and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs baked, boiled, blanched or even eaten “raw” (like<br />

conch salad, “cooked” with lime juice). Pottery vessels are<br />

best suited for slow cooking stews. Diversity in cooking<br />

methods can be seen archaeologically as grilling, stone<br />

boiling, earth ovens and <strong>the</strong> use <strong>of</strong> sea turtle shells and<br />

baskets. Let’s look at <strong>the</strong> evidence.<br />

The most widely recognized technique is <strong>the</strong> use <strong>of</strong><br />

a green-wood lattice raised above a fire to grill meats. In<br />

fact, our word barbecue comes from <strong>the</strong> Taíno word barbacoa.<br />

When Columbus went ashore at Guantanamo Bay,<br />

Cuba, he observed an untended barbecue on which fish<br />

and iguana were roasting. His men helped <strong>the</strong>mselves to<br />

<strong>the</strong> fish, but <strong>the</strong>y left <strong>the</strong> iguana whose appearance <strong>the</strong>y<br />

found too disgusting-looking to eat. Grilling on an open<br />

flame or roasting in <strong>the</strong> hot coals have passed <strong>the</strong> test<br />

<strong>of</strong> time and remain popular, practically a national pastime,<br />

today. But not all foods lend <strong>the</strong>mselves to cooking<br />

directly on <strong>the</strong> heat source, especially liquids.<br />

Several aboriginal cooking methods involve <strong>the</strong> use<br />

<strong>of</strong> “hot rocks,” with <strong>the</strong>se distinguished by differences in<br />

<strong>the</strong> types <strong>of</strong> rocks used and <strong>the</strong>ir placement in relation<br />

to <strong>the</strong> heating source. Hearths are an example <strong>of</strong> rocks<br />

arranged in a pit below <strong>the</strong> fire. When <strong>the</strong> fire burns down<br />

to coals, <strong>the</strong> stones lining <strong>the</strong> hearth radiate heat and<br />

facilitate cooking on <strong>the</strong> coals. At <strong>the</strong> Coralie site (GT-3)<br />

on Grand Turk we found hearths constructed from limestone<br />

and conch shells on which <strong>the</strong> shell (carapace) <strong>of</strong><br />

a sea turtle was used as a cooking vessel. Some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

turtle bones were still in place on top <strong>of</strong> hearths and <strong>the</strong>y<br />

showed charring from having been burned on one side.<br />

GT-3 is <strong>the</strong> only site in all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Caribbean where this<br />

cooking method has been reported.<br />

A second type <strong>of</strong> hot rock cooking involves <strong>the</strong> place-<br />


This complete pottery bowl from Hispaniola was recovered underwater in a cave in <strong>the</strong> Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>.<br />

24 www.timespub.tc

Above: Artist Alejandra Baïz shares this digital drawing <strong>of</strong> a Taíno<br />

family surveying <strong>the</strong> “catch <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> day.” To see more <strong>of</strong> her images,<br />

visit alejandra-baiz.weebly.com.<br />

At right: This photo compares burned corals from modern-day “coral<br />

boiling” experiments (at top) with corals from archaeological deposits<br />

on Middle Caicos (at bottom).<br />


ment <strong>of</strong> stones on top <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> coals. Called “earth ovens,”<br />

<strong>the</strong>y may be <strong>the</strong> most common form <strong>of</strong> baking found<br />

around <strong>the</strong> world. These ovens are comprised <strong>of</strong> seven<br />

parts: prepared basin, fire, layer <strong>of</strong> hot rocks, lower packing<br />

layer, food, upper packing layer (composed <strong>of</strong> green<br />

vegetation, <strong>the</strong> packing layers protect <strong>the</strong> food from contaminants)<br />

and an ear<strong>the</strong>n cap. Some will recognize this<br />

description as a New England clam bake or sou<strong>the</strong>rn pig<br />

roast. Earth ovens are reported for “preceramic” (Archaic<br />

Age sites) but <strong>the</strong>ir first discovery in a context where people<br />

made ample use <strong>of</strong> pottery vessels occurred recently<br />

on Long Island (The Bahamas).<br />

The Long Island ovens were found at three sites on<br />

top <strong>of</strong> sand dunes along <strong>the</strong> Atlantic coast. The sites<br />

appear to have been <strong>of</strong> short duration, perhaps fishing<br />

camps or seasonal farmsteads, where it was inconvenient<br />

to carry heavy and fragile cooking pots from <strong>the</strong> settlement.<br />

Indeed, very little pottery has been found at any<br />


<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 25


Discovered at this site were remnants <strong>of</strong> an earth oven on Long Island, The Bahamas<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se sites. These pit features are about three feet in diameter and about two feet deep. The rocks are clearly<br />

positioned on top <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> dark earth and charcoal from <strong>the</strong> fire that was built in <strong>the</strong> pit first. Fish bones and lobster<br />

and clam shells found at <strong>the</strong> sites suggest ancient clambakes.<br />

26 www.timespub.tc

In order to determine what vegetable foods may have<br />

been cooked in <strong>the</strong>se ovens we sent several shell and<br />

stone tools for starch grain analysis. Over <strong>the</strong> past decade<br />

archaeologists have refined techniques for extracting<br />

starch grains from plants from a variety <strong>of</strong> tools. Every<br />

plant has its own unique grain shape, much like pollen<br />

(or fingerprints). The analysis identified corn, manioc and<br />

zamia on clamshell scrapers and a limestone grater board<br />

chip.<br />

We can’t let mention <strong>of</strong> zamia pass without taking a<br />

brief side trip. Zamia, also known as coontie, is a tropical<br />

cycad that is native to <strong>the</strong> Lucayan <strong>Islands</strong> and grows<br />

along <strong>the</strong> Atlantic dunes. In a strange twist <strong>of</strong> botanical<br />

trickery, it is <strong>the</strong> stem that develops into a thick tuberlike<br />

growth below ground. Zamia was an important food<br />

source in <strong>the</strong> precontact Caribbean, especially in <strong>the</strong> arid<br />

eastern Dominican Republic.<br />

Like bitter varieties <strong>of</strong> manioc, zamia contains toxins<br />

and cannot be eaten raw. It is processed in a manner very<br />

similar to making cassava bread. The stem is grated on<br />

a wooden board into which small sharp pieces <strong>of</strong> stone<br />

have been set. Liquid is squeezed from <strong>the</strong> pulp, and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

balls <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> mash are set in a cool dry place to ferment.<br />

While fermenting, <strong>the</strong> balls become infested with beetle<br />

larvae. The balls are <strong>the</strong>n flattened and baked, larvae and<br />

all (extra protein)!<br />


Excavations at <strong>the</strong> GT-2 site exposed an earth oven and circular<br />

cement platforms. Note <strong>the</strong> wide distribution <strong>of</strong> darkened fire-cracked<br />

limestone.<br />

The discovery <strong>of</strong> earth ovens on Long Island led us to<br />

reconsider <strong>the</strong> archaeological evidence at <strong>the</strong> Governor’s<br />

Beach site (GT-2) on Grand Turk. GT-2 reflects seasonal<br />

visits to Grand Turk from Haiti that are dated to <strong>the</strong> end<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 13th century. The main activity was <strong>the</strong> manufacture<br />

<strong>of</strong> shell disc beads from <strong>the</strong> cherry jewel box shell<br />

(Chama sarda). The shallow deposits indicate that <strong>the</strong>se<br />

were temporary visits. The site contained very small quantities<br />

<strong>of</strong> pottery sherds, including several sherds from<br />

Taino Paintings<br />

by Theodore Morris<br />

tainopaintings.weebly.com<br />

mail:morris<strong>the</strong>odore@hotmail.com<br />

3910 Longhorn Dr - Sarasota, Fl34233<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 27

small effigy bowls brought from Hispaniola. The pottery<br />

at <strong>the</strong> site was inadequate for cooking meals. Instead, <strong>the</strong><br />

main deposit was a dense layer <strong>of</strong> fire-cracked limestone<br />

with interspersed circular compact-sand features <strong>of</strong> about<br />

10 inches in diameter. The features formed a compact<br />

surface about three centimeters thick that produced a<br />

ringing sound when struck with a trowel, and were clearly<br />

different from <strong>the</strong> surrounding sand matrix. X-ray diffraction<br />

analysis identified <strong>the</strong>se hard-packed features<br />

as a form <strong>of</strong> cement. The original thought was that <strong>the</strong>y<br />

were constructed for use as bead-polishing surfaces.<br />

However, none <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se features exhibited any evidence<br />

<strong>of</strong> use-wear from polishing beads, most were surrounded<br />

by large quantities <strong>of</strong> fire-cracked limestone, and <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

arrangement appears too haphazard to facilitate simultaneous<br />

use as polishing stations. It now seems likely that<br />

<strong>the</strong>se are places where baskets, or o<strong>the</strong>r porous containers,<br />

were set in an earth oven.<br />

The hot rocks <strong>of</strong>ten are rearranged prior to <strong>the</strong> addition<br />

<strong>of</strong> plant materials and foodstuffs. We propose that<br />

spaces were cleared among <strong>the</strong> rocks for <strong>the</strong> placement<br />

<strong>of</strong> baskets containing mollusks and that <strong>the</strong>y left <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

mark as circular features caused by “clam juice” (liquid<br />

calcium carbonate and minerals) mixing with <strong>the</strong> sand to<br />

create a cement-like pad.<br />

Cooking in baskets would allow for a substantial<br />

number <strong>of</strong> small mollusks and crustaceans to be heated<br />

at one time without <strong>the</strong>m being scattered in <strong>the</strong> fire. For<br />

example, tiger lucine clams (Codakia orbicularis) are very<br />

common in Lucayan sites, and a ten-inch wide by five-inch<br />

tall basket could hold about 100 clams. Similarly, nerites<br />

are marble-size snails that occur in large numbers along<br />

rocky shorelines. In archaeological sites, <strong>the</strong> lip (with its<br />

“bleeding tooth”) is usually separated from <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> shell. We found that striking <strong>the</strong> fresh snail on a hard<br />

surface, like cracking a nut, produces a mass <strong>of</strong> flesh and<br />

smashed shell. But when <strong>the</strong> snails were parboiled for a<br />

few minutes, <strong>the</strong> lip easily separated with a light tap.<br />

We know that <strong>the</strong> Lucayans made basketry because<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir impressions are found on pottery vessels. The<br />

majority <strong>of</strong> basket impressions are observed on flat clay<br />

griddles as if <strong>the</strong> clay was pressed out on a clean, dry<br />

mat. However, basket impressions are also found on<br />

hemispherical bowls. A diversity <strong>of</strong> weaving styles has<br />

been identified which may represent <strong>the</strong> work <strong>of</strong> particular<br />

individuals. In o<strong>the</strong>r words, leaving something akin<br />

to a maker’s mark. In addition, <strong>the</strong> Spanish chronicler<br />

Bartolomé de las Casas reported seeing Indigenous watertight<br />

baskets in Cuba in <strong>the</strong> early 1500s.<br />

Water-tight baskets made from “fanner” grass are still woven by<br />

craftswomen from <strong>the</strong> Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>. The Middle Caicos Co-op has<br />

created a vibrant market for TCI handcrafts.<br />

Water-tight baskets opened a new line <strong>of</strong> investigation.<br />

Prior to <strong>the</strong> adoption <strong>of</strong> pottery vessels, “stone<br />

boiling” was among <strong>the</strong> most common preparation methods<br />

for cooking food in a liquid. It involves <strong>the</strong> transfer<br />

<strong>of</strong> rocks heated in <strong>the</strong> coals <strong>of</strong> a fire to an impermeable<br />

container <strong>of</strong> liquid and food items. The red-hot rocks substantially<br />

raise <strong>the</strong> temperature <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> contents, but not<br />

to <strong>the</strong> boiling point <strong>of</strong> water. The process is more similar<br />

to near-boiling or rapid steaming, although when hot<br />

rocks are added to <strong>the</strong> liquid <strong>the</strong> water does appear to<br />

boil.<br />

Boiling cobbles typically are spheroid shapes measuring<br />

four to six inches. They are smooth-surfaced, hard,<br />

resistant to <strong>the</strong>rmal stress and minimally soluble. Stone<br />

boiling experiments show that a significant percentage <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> rocks crack and fracture during <strong>the</strong> cooking process,<br />

especially when heated multiple times. Different types<br />

<strong>of</strong> rock fracture at different rates and in different ways,<br />

sometimes in <strong>the</strong> fire, but more <strong>of</strong>ten from <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>rmal<br />

shock that occurs when <strong>the</strong>y are dropped into cool liquid.<br />


28 www.timespub.tc

There are no typical boiling stones available in <strong>the</strong><br />

Lucayan <strong>Islands</strong> because <strong>the</strong>y are composed entirely <strong>of</strong><br />

s<strong>of</strong>t and soluble limestone. In contrast, coral cobbles <strong>of</strong><br />

appropriate sizes are readily available and easily collected<br />

along Atlantic coast beaches. And we find lots and lots <strong>of</strong><br />

burned coral at Lucayan sites, despite no ready explanation<br />

for why corals were being burned. With this in mind<br />

we conducted a series <strong>of</strong> experiments. Coral cobbles<br />

were collected from a beach, heated in an open fire, and<br />

transferred with tongs into a container <strong>of</strong> water. The cobbles<br />

quickly raised <strong>the</strong> temperature <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> water to just<br />

below <strong>the</strong> boiling point. Success! But best <strong>of</strong> all, <strong>the</strong> cobble<br />

were discolored and fractured into shapes that match<br />

those observed in archaeological deposits. Although our<br />

experiments do not prove that <strong>the</strong> Lucayans used “coral<br />

boiling” to cook particular foods, our results are consistent<br />

with <strong>the</strong> archaeological evidence.<br />

It is perhaps unfortunate that archaeologists <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

describe ancient foodways as subsistence, as if people<br />

only eat from necessity. The modern diversity <strong>of</strong> regional<br />

“cuisines” highlights <strong>the</strong> rich cultural heritage <strong>of</strong> cooking<br />

found around <strong>the</strong> world. There is no reason to assume<br />

that <strong>the</strong> Lucayans were any less creative when it came to<br />

cooking and eating. Moreover, we tend to assume that<br />

when something new comes along it will replace what<br />

came before. The evidence <strong>of</strong> traditional methods <strong>of</strong> food<br />

preparation we now see in <strong>the</strong> Lucayan <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>of</strong>fers a<br />

window into Indigenous Caribbean cooking before and<br />

after pots. Even with a pot to cook in, some foods are<br />

better prepared without. a<br />

Dr. Bill Keegan is Curator <strong>of</strong> Caribbean Archaeology at<br />

<strong>the</strong> Florida Museum <strong>of</strong> Natural History (University <strong>of</strong><br />

Florida); Dr. Betsy Carlson is Senior Archaeologist at<br />

Sou<strong>the</strong>astern Archaeological Research (SEARCH, Inc.) in<br />

Jonesville, FL; Dr. Michael Pateman is former Director<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum and currently<br />

Curator/Lab Director <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> AEX Maritime Museum on<br />

Grand Bahama; and Dr. Lindsay Bloch is Collections<br />

Manager <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Ceramic Technology Laboratory, Florida<br />

Museum <strong>of</strong> Natural History (University <strong>of</strong> Florida).<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 29

feature<br />

Author Kelly Currington fell in love with a family <strong>of</strong> Mottled jawfish in <strong>the</strong> waters <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>, most especially a fiesty little<br />

fellow she named “Ollie” (at left and above). The jawfish allowed Kelly to get quite close without retreating into <strong>the</strong>ir burrows, and she was<br />

able to study <strong>the</strong>ir behavior over <strong>the</strong> course <strong>of</strong> many months.<br />

Pearls <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Sea<br />

The story <strong>of</strong> “Ollie.”<br />

Story & Photos By Kelly Currington<br />

Anyone who takes a moment to gaze out over <strong>the</strong> stunning turquoise waters <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong><br />

must wonder about all <strong>the</strong> amazing creatures that are out <strong>the</strong>re. What lies beneath those beautiful hues<br />

<strong>of</strong> blue?<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 31

The Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> are home to a true treasure<br />

trove <strong>of</strong> amazing creatures. All <strong>the</strong> regular residents<br />

that are expected and sought out are here, including<br />

Caribbean reef sharks; green, hawksbill and <strong>the</strong> occasional<br />

loggerhead turtles; spotted eagle rays; sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

stingrays; dolphins; numerous types <strong>of</strong> moray eels; beautiful<br />

reef fish; crabs; lobster; shrimps; and some weird<br />

and wonderful odd little critters.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> my favorite little fishes is <strong>the</strong> Yellowhead jawfish.<br />

This peculiar creature is a bottom burrowing fish,<br />

and one <strong>of</strong> only a handful <strong>of</strong> mouth brooding fish—meaning<br />

<strong>the</strong> male incubates <strong>the</strong> eggs in his mouth until <strong>the</strong>y<br />

hatch. I’ve had <strong>the</strong> privilege <strong>of</strong> filming <strong>the</strong>se tiny treasures<br />

hundreds <strong>of</strong> times, including <strong>the</strong> aeration <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

eggs. They are always a huge draw for divers who travel<br />

to <strong>the</strong>se <strong>Islands</strong> to dive our famous reefs.<br />

Every once in a blue moon we are fortunate enough<br />

to discover a creature we’ve never seen before. This is<br />

<strong>the</strong> story <strong>of</strong> one such discovery. While guiding a dive,<br />

we covered an area <strong>of</strong> a dive site that we wouldn’t normally<br />

see, but we were hanging in <strong>the</strong> opposite direction<br />

due to wind and waves. As we headed toward <strong>the</strong> wall,<br />

one <strong>of</strong> our crew looked down and saw an unusual creature.<br />

It was sticking out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> sand from a burrow, like<br />

a Yellowhead jawfish, but it was not. It was a new type<br />

<strong>of</strong> jawfish—a Mottled jawfish. This little beauty is much<br />

larger than <strong>the</strong> Yellowhead jawfish and didn’t hover above<br />

its burrow, but just stuck its head up and peered around.<br />

“Ollie” carefully holds a mouthful <strong>of</strong> fertilized eggs for <strong>the</strong> six to eight<br />

days it takes <strong>the</strong>m to mature.<br />

As we looked closer, <strong>the</strong>re were five <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se gems. This<br />

caused quite <strong>the</strong> buzz <strong>of</strong> excitement amongst <strong>the</strong> crew<br />

and guests.<br />

Being an avid lover <strong>of</strong> Yellowhead jawfish, I starting<br />

spending a lot <strong>of</strong> time studying <strong>the</strong>se new treasures.<br />

After a few encounters with <strong>the</strong>m, I felt a very strong con-<br />

This Mottled jawfish Kelly named “Sapphire,” for her beautiful blue eyes.<br />

32 www.timespub.tc

nection with <strong>the</strong> largest one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> family. Its face and jaw<br />

were strong and its eyes were striking. I started talking to<br />

him or her, expressing my adoration and how honored I<br />

was to share space with <strong>the</strong>m. Unlike <strong>the</strong>ir smaller cousins,<br />

this species allowed me to get very close and did not<br />

retreat into <strong>the</strong>ir burrows. Each one was full <strong>of</strong> personality,<br />

and each one was different.<br />

One day I went to visit <strong>the</strong>m and got ano<strong>the</strong>r amazing<br />

surprise—<strong>the</strong> largest Mottled jawfish had a mouthful <strong>of</strong><br />

eggs! The sight <strong>of</strong> this handsome boy with eggs moved<br />

me to tears. To see him very carefully holding <strong>the</strong>m<br />

securely in his mouth, but not too tight, and <strong>the</strong> precision<br />

he took in aerating <strong>the</strong>m is something only Mo<strong>the</strong>r<br />

Nature could orchestrate.<br />

I made sure to visit this family <strong>of</strong> Mottled jawfish every<br />

single week to study <strong>the</strong>ir behavior and how <strong>the</strong>y differ<br />

from yellowheads. They seemed less weary, or as I like<br />

to see it, more brave than <strong>the</strong> smaller species. I could<br />

get much closer to <strong>the</strong>m with and without my camera.<br />

They interacted with each o<strong>the</strong>r and wouldn’t retreat into<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir burrows unless something startled <strong>the</strong>m. They kept<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir heads fully out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir burrows and looked around,<br />

watching <strong>the</strong> divers, watching fish go by and always<br />

keeping an eye out for predators. After many weeks,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y seemed to get comfortable with my presence and I<br />

started noticing new characteristics and behavior.<br />

One day I looked at <strong>the</strong> large male as I approached<br />

and said, “Hi Oliver.” From that moment he was known<br />

as Ollie. I wish I could explain it, but he just looked like<br />

an Ollie! His ladies were so full <strong>of</strong> personality and character<br />

that <strong>the</strong>y inspired names as well. The female that<br />

was always closest to Ollie was dubbed Sapphire because<br />

her eyes were so blue and she was very sassy. The more<br />

shy <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> larger females was dubbed Emerald because<br />

her eyes always reflected a deep emerald green color as<br />

she watched us from her den. The smallest and shyest <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> family was dubbed Peep, simply because she barely<br />

peeped her little head out to watch us. There <strong>the</strong>y were—<br />

Ollie and his Lovely Ladies!<br />

At <strong>the</strong> beginning <strong>of</strong> every charter I would be eager to<br />

get to Ollie and see how he and his family were doing.<br />

I had become extremely attached to him and I worried<br />

about him. My excitement as we pulled up to <strong>the</strong> mooring<br />

where he lived was visible to anyone near me—I just<br />

couldn’t contain it! I was lucky that my fellow crew understood<br />

my love for this little family group and agreed that I<br />

always dived this site, whe<strong>the</strong>r with guests or in between<br />

dives on my own where I could document, study and talk<br />

to Ollie. On some days I did both dives.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 33

“Sapphire” would typically line <strong>the</strong> outside <strong>of</strong> her burrow with shells and broken coral <strong>the</strong> week before <strong>the</strong> full moon each month.<br />

Geared up, I stepped into <strong>the</strong> turquoise water,<br />

descended to <strong>the</strong> sea floor and slowly made my way to<br />

Ollie’s home. There was always a lump in my throat until<br />

I could see his head sticking up from his burrow, <strong>the</strong>n<br />

that lump turned to relief and I would squeal out his<br />

name! I would tell him how happy I was to see him and<br />

his ladies. I would go to each one and check on <strong>the</strong>m<br />

and note if <strong>the</strong>y had changed burrows, eggs or no eggs,<br />

<strong>the</strong> arrangement <strong>of</strong> shells around <strong>the</strong>ir burrows, and any<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r intricacies I could see.<br />

At least once a month, right after <strong>the</strong> full moon, Ollie<br />

had eggs, and most months he had a second clutch<br />

immediately following <strong>the</strong> release <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> first one, and<br />

sometimes a third clutch. His ladies were definitely keeping<br />

him busy! I would look at those tiny babies in his<br />

mouth and know <strong>the</strong>y were <strong>the</strong> next generation <strong>of</strong> this<br />

species and were going to continue to populate our reefs.<br />

The week before <strong>the</strong> full moon each month, I would<br />

notice Sapphire tidying up her burrow and bringing in new<br />

shells and broken coral to line <strong>the</strong> outside. Ollie would<br />

make <strong>the</strong> outside <strong>of</strong> his burrow very tight with shells and<br />

coral, a reinforcement <strong>of</strong> debris. When I witnessed this, I<br />

always knew that <strong>the</strong> next week he would have eggs, and<br />

he always did. He would move burrows on occasion and<br />

I had surmised that he had moved to <strong>the</strong> burrow <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

female he was incubating eggs for—but this was only a<br />

guess based on <strong>the</strong> behavior I had witnessed over months<br />

<strong>of</strong> observation.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> amazing facts about jawfish is that <strong>the</strong> mating<br />

pair have burrows very close to each o<strong>the</strong>r, and <strong>the</strong>re<br />

is a “honeymoon” burrow not visible from <strong>the</strong> surface that<br />

<strong>the</strong>y share during mating. This burrow is usually between<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir two individual burrows and all are connected by tunnels.<br />

One day as I approached, I was met with an unexpected<br />

surprise. Emerald had eggs too! This meant that<br />

“she” was a “he.” There was a definite and noticeable<br />

shift in <strong>the</strong> entire dynamic <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> family group on this<br />

day. I witnessed a completely new behavior from Ollie.<br />

He would come all <strong>the</strong> way out <strong>of</strong> his burrow and posture<br />

at Emerald, arching his back high and hovering over<br />

him. I could only assume that this was a sign <strong>of</strong> territory<br />

dominance since <strong>the</strong> behavior only began once Emerald<br />

became a viable rival. This was something I had not seen<br />

34 www.timespub.tc

in all <strong>the</strong> months I’d been monitoring <strong>the</strong>m. I had witnessed<br />

Sapphire come out <strong>of</strong> her den to grab shells and<br />

broken coral or snatch a morsel from <strong>the</strong> sand, but I had<br />

never seen Ollie come all <strong>the</strong> way out. It appeared he was<br />

not happy about having ano<strong>the</strong>r man near his ladies. His<br />

displays were quite impressive and undeniable in <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

intent. With this new revelation, we knew <strong>the</strong>re were at<br />

least two males, and we assumed, two females.<br />

The very next week, I followed my normal routine. With<br />

my heart pounding and excitement in my heart, I slipped<br />

below <strong>the</strong> surface and headed to see “my boy” and his<br />

family. I saw him from 50 feet away because <strong>the</strong> visibility<br />

was so clear on this day. As I got closer, I could see<br />

that <strong>the</strong>re was something different. Emerald was gone,<br />

his burrow filled in with sand and shells. I searched <strong>the</strong><br />

area for him, but he was nowhere to be found. Had Ollie<br />

run him <strong>of</strong>f? Had he decided to leave on his own? Had <strong>the</strong><br />

girls rejected him? What was obvious was that Ollie was<br />

now back to his usual calm and humorous behavior. He<br />

had a very new clutch <strong>of</strong> eggs and was quite comfortable<br />

showing <strong>the</strong>m to me. I knew <strong>the</strong> eggs were only a day or<br />

two old by <strong>the</strong>ir color.<br />

The process begins with <strong>the</strong> female laying her eggs in<br />

one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> burrows (most likely <strong>the</strong> shared burrow), <strong>the</strong>n<br />

<strong>the</strong> male fertilizes <strong>the</strong>m and scoops <strong>the</strong>m up in his mouth<br />

where he will protect <strong>the</strong>m for <strong>the</strong> entire six to eight days<br />

it takes <strong>the</strong>m to mature. Brand-new eggs are a translucent<br />

milky color, in a couple <strong>of</strong> days <strong>the</strong>y turn a mango color,<br />

<strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong>y start turning silver and right before <strong>the</strong>y are<br />

ready to be released <strong>the</strong>y are very silver and you can see<br />

<strong>the</strong> individual eyes <strong>of</strong> each baby—a beautiful sight!<br />

On this day, Ollie did his usual thing with me—coming<br />

partially out and looking at himself in my camera dome,<br />

turning his back to me to check for dangers behind him<br />

(this demonstrates a complete trust that I would not harm<br />

him), and <strong>the</strong>n rolling his eyes up and around and directly<br />

back at me. I set my camera to <strong>the</strong> side, making sure <strong>the</strong><br />

sand was clear <strong>of</strong> any visible life before setting it down. I<br />

talked to him as if I were talking to a human. I extended<br />

my hand, palm up, to see if he would respond, and to my<br />

surprise he did. He would come out and rest his chin on<br />

my hand, never losing control <strong>of</strong> his clutch. I would <strong>of</strong>fer<br />

him pieces <strong>of</strong> broken shell or coral for his den and he<br />

would take <strong>the</strong>m from me—and <strong>the</strong>n usually spit <strong>the</strong>m<br />

out to <strong>the</strong> side as if <strong>the</strong>y were not suitable for his home.<br />

I apparently needed more work on my design skills! Just<br />

<strong>the</strong> fact that he would interact with me <strong>of</strong> his own choice<br />

was a special gift and treasured bond that always left me<br />

humbled and in tears.<br />

The aptly-named “Peep” preferred to stay low and watch.<br />

Peep continued to stay low and watch, and would<br />

not accept interaction, most likely due to still being too<br />

young to have confidence. Sapphire would come all <strong>the</strong><br />

way out <strong>of</strong> her burrow and take shells from me. She was a<br />

strong-willed and brave girl who showed me her grit each<br />

week. She and Ollie made a beautiful pair and I could only<br />

imagine how perfect all <strong>the</strong> little Mottled jawfish <strong>the</strong>y had<br />

created would be.<br />

Then, on what would end up being my last encounter,<br />

our time toge<strong>the</strong>r was different. It started out <strong>the</strong><br />

same way with me approaching with hope and anticipation,<br />

and being rewarded with <strong>the</strong>ir presence. But Ollie<br />

was much more communicative with me. After capturing<br />

some video <strong>of</strong> him and his girls, I set my camera to <strong>the</strong><br />

side and talked to him about how much he had enriched<br />

my life. I had my arms crossed under my chin and got as<br />

close as he was comfortable with.<br />

I watched this little creature that had changed me,<br />

taught me so much and most importantly, shared his<br />

home and family with me. He came out <strong>of</strong> his burrow,<br />

straight up to my mask, and held onto my rash guard with<br />

his mouth and tugged on it. He would come up out <strong>of</strong><br />

his burrow showing me his entire perfect body and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

lower himself back in. He affected me more this day than<br />

any o<strong>the</strong>r, and I couldn’t put my finger on why, but it was<br />

extremely intense. I went over to see Sapphire and she<br />

also behaved differently. She came out and approached<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 35

my mask and nuzzled<br />

it with her head and<br />

<strong>the</strong>n went back to her<br />

den and watched me.<br />

I could not explain<br />

<strong>the</strong><br />

overwhelming<br />

emotion that rushed<br />

through me; I was leveled<br />

to tears. In <strong>the</strong><br />

eight months I had<br />

been visiting this family<br />

this was <strong>the</strong> first<br />

time <strong>the</strong>y had shown<br />

this intimate form <strong>of</strong><br />

communication. Had<br />

I actually earned so<br />

much trust that <strong>the</strong>y<br />

would visibly show<br />

me affection? Was it<br />

possible? I went and<br />

checked on Peep, but<br />

she was still in her burrow<br />

with only her face peeking out as usual, but she did<br />

not retreat and this was a subtle, but notable, difference.<br />

As I swam away from this encounter, I could not<br />

explain <strong>the</strong> full effect <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> experience I had just had.<br />

I surfaced and told my captain and fellow crewmate that<br />

I wanted <strong>the</strong>m to come with me to see my babies. They<br />

geared up, we stepped in, and <strong>of</strong>f we went. Once we were<br />

<strong>the</strong>re I demonstrated that I wanted <strong>the</strong>m to extend <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

hand or a shell to Ollie, and one at a time <strong>the</strong>y did. Ollie<br />

came out and shared a moment with each <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m—now<br />

<strong>the</strong> feeling was more overwhelming. Did he trust me<br />

enough to understand that I would never bring danger to<br />

him? Is this why he demonstrated <strong>the</strong> behavior with <strong>the</strong>m?<br />

Had I inadvertently made him trust all humans or was he<br />

simply communicating some sort <strong>of</strong> message to us?<br />

The next week I was going to go see Ollie and his girls<br />

between dives so I could get some video <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m without<br />

distractions, so my crewmate led divers to see <strong>the</strong>m. It<br />

was always a stressful time for me waiting for <strong>the</strong>m to<br />

come back and assure me that Ollie was fine, so I waited,<br />

pacing <strong>the</strong> deck. My crewmate barely had her face clear<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> water when her eyes told me what I did not want to<br />

hear. She told me she could not find <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

The months Kelly Currington spent with “Ollie” and his family <strong>of</strong> jawfish inspired<br />

powerful emotions and this underwater tribute.<br />

As I’m typing this, that lump in my throat is huge, my<br />

chest tightens, and <strong>the</strong> tears flow as if it were that day<br />

again. I quickly climbed into my gear, grabbed my camera<br />

and swam as fast as I could to his burrow. I knew from<br />

organize my thoughts.<br />

quite a distance that<br />

my heart was about<br />

to be broken, and<br />

my mask filled with<br />

tears. Peering out <strong>of</strong><br />

Ollie’s burrow was little<br />

Peep, with no sign<br />

<strong>of</strong> Ollie. So I went and<br />

looked for Sapphire;<br />

she was gone as well. I<br />

swam all over <strong>the</strong> area<br />

looking for <strong>the</strong>m—<br />

nothing. They were<br />

gone. It took more<br />

than 20 minutes for<br />

me to ga<strong>the</strong>r myself. I<br />

hovered above his burrow<br />

crying. What had<br />

happened? How had<br />

something gotten both<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m and not Peep?<br />

How? Why? I could not<br />

Then I saw something, and it gave me some hope.<br />

Sapphire’s burrow was filled in with sand and rubble,<br />

<strong>the</strong> same as Emerald’s had been when he left. This told<br />

me that most likely <strong>the</strong>y were not taken by a predator,<br />

but probably left <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir own accord. As a mating pair it<br />

made sense that <strong>the</strong>y would go toge<strong>the</strong>r and this would<br />

also explain why Peep was still <strong>the</strong>re. It was <strong>the</strong> only<br />

explanation that made any sense, or at least <strong>the</strong> only one<br />

my mind and heart would accept.<br />

Had <strong>the</strong>ir behavior with me on my last visit been<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir way <strong>of</strong> saying good-bye? Did <strong>the</strong>y know? My heart<br />

believes that this special little soul and his beautiful lady<br />

were somehow communicating that we had a connection.<br />

I spent <strong>the</strong> next half hour ga<strong>the</strong>ring all <strong>the</strong> broken<br />

coral and shells from <strong>the</strong>ir burrows and creating a tribute<br />

to <strong>the</strong> most amazing little creature who had taught me so<br />

much, who had allowed me to share a small piece <strong>of</strong> his<br />

world, and who showed me exactly how much one’s heart<br />

could connect to ano<strong>the</strong>r species.<br />

Remember to slow down and look at all <strong>the</strong> creatures<br />

we encounter, because <strong>the</strong>y are all living beings and <strong>the</strong>y<br />

can touch your soul in ways you can’t even imagine. You<br />

never know, you might come across one <strong>of</strong> Ollie and<br />

Sapphire’s <strong>of</strong>fspring—<strong>the</strong>y are definitely out <strong>the</strong>re! a<br />

36 www.timespub.tc

green pages<br />

Newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Department <strong>of</strong> Environment & Coastal Resources<br />

Head <strong>of</strong>fice: Church Folly, Grand Turk, tel 649 946 2801 • fax 649 946 1895<br />

• Astwood Street, South Caicos, tel 649 946 3306 • fax 946 3710<br />

• National Environmental Centre, Lower Bight Road, Providenciales<br />

Parks Division, tel 649 941 5122 • fax 649 946 4793<br />

Fisheries Division, tel 649 946 4017 • fax 649 946 4793<br />

email environment@gov.tc or dema.tci@gmail.com • web https://www.gov.tc/decr/<br />

Although lionfish are visually stunning creatures, <strong>the</strong>y are unfortunately hurting <strong>the</strong> coral reefs <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>.<br />


Here with a Roar!<br />

A tenacious invader that now calls <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos home.<br />

By Ben Farmer, Waterfront Assistant, The School for Field Studies<br />

I was on a drift-dive in sou<strong>the</strong>rn Florida when I speared my first lionfish. There, I began to understand<br />

<strong>the</strong> difficulty <strong>of</strong> controlling this species which is invasive to <strong>the</strong> tropical Atlantic and devastates reef fish<br />

populations. Drift dives are perfect for seeing a lot <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> reef without having to expend much energy. By<br />

<strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> dive, I was able to spear two lionfish after several attempts and a bit <strong>of</strong> determination. As<br />

exhilarating as <strong>the</strong> experience was, it became clear to me how many resources—be <strong>the</strong>y dive gear, boat<br />

time or trained volunteers—are required to keep lionfish populations in check.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 37

green pages newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> department <strong>of</strong> environment & coastal resources<br />

But why do we spear and kill lionfish? After all, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

are a beautiful species, coveted by aquarists <strong>the</strong> world<br />

over. The answer lies in <strong>the</strong> destruction <strong>the</strong>y cause in <strong>the</strong><br />

areas where <strong>the</strong>y are invasive. Moreover, spearing has<br />

been shown as one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most effective measures <strong>of</strong><br />

catching lionfish.<br />

A biological invasion happens when a species that<br />

is native to one region finds its way into ano<strong>the</strong>r region<br />

and establishes itself. This can be a natural process, but<br />

in modern times is frequently caused by human introduction.<br />

Often, an introduced species poses no significant<br />

ecological problems in its native range but becomes a<br />

problem elsewhere.<br />

For example, consider <strong>the</strong> cane toad (Bufo marinus),<br />

which produces toxins that can be fatal to predators<br />

when eaten. In <strong>the</strong> cane toad’s native regions <strong>of</strong> South<br />

and Central America, many predators have adapted over<br />

time to be able to tolerate <strong>the</strong>se toxins, and thus <strong>the</strong>re is<br />

a natural control on cane toad populations. In Australia<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r regions where cane toads are invasive, however,<br />

not all predators have <strong>the</strong>se adaptations. This, as<br />

well as factors like available habitat, prey populations<br />

and means <strong>of</strong> sexual reproduction, has contributed to<br />

<strong>the</strong> cane toad population in Australia exploding from 120<br />

to 1.5 billion.<br />

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) invaded North<br />

America in 1986 from Eurasia and spread extensively,<br />

starting in <strong>the</strong> Great Lakes where humans introduced<br />

<strong>the</strong>m. Now zebra mussels are so entrenched in <strong>the</strong><br />

ecosystem that <strong>the</strong>y clog water pipes and engulf underwater<br />

portions <strong>of</strong> bridges and docks across <strong>the</strong> United<br />

States.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most prolific invasions is that <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which has cascaded<br />

outward to all seven continents, as well as many<br />

Caribbean islands. Since its introduction by Spanish colonizers<br />

in <strong>the</strong> 1500s, <strong>the</strong> European rabbit has devastated<br />

ecosystems due to its ability to breed quickly and consume<br />

an excess <strong>of</strong> resources. Invasions such as <strong>the</strong>se<br />

cost governments extraordinary amounts <strong>of</strong> money every<br />

year, due to <strong>the</strong> ongoing toll on both native wildlife and<br />

human infrastructure, as well as <strong>the</strong> effort <strong>of</strong> controlling<br />

invasive populations.<br />

Lionfish are one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> more recent invaders—<strong>the</strong>y<br />

were <strong>the</strong> first marine fish to invade <strong>the</strong> western North<br />

Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, and came from <strong>the</strong>ir native<br />

range <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pacific or Indian Oceans. First documented<br />

by a lobster fisherman in 1985 south <strong>of</strong> Fort Lauderdale,<br />

Florida, <strong>the</strong> invasion likely was a result <strong>of</strong> aquarists<br />

releasing <strong>the</strong>ir lionfish into Florida waters.<br />

There are two species found in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean, Pterois<br />

volitans and P. miles, collectively known as <strong>the</strong> “red lionfish.”<br />

Both invasive species have an apparent ability to<br />

tolerate a wider array <strong>of</strong> habitats and temperatures than<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir native counterparts. However, genetic testing shows<br />

that P. volitans is <strong>the</strong> dominant species in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean<br />

and is perhaps a hybrid species. It is possible that this<br />

hybridization provided P. volitans certain traits which<br />

improved <strong>the</strong> invasion success.<br />

High tolerance to an array <strong>of</strong> habitats and temperatures<br />

was just one factor contributing to <strong>the</strong> establishment<br />

<strong>of</strong> lionfish across <strong>the</strong> Caribbean. Ano<strong>the</strong>r was <strong>the</strong> lack <strong>of</strong><br />

natural predators. In <strong>the</strong> lionfishes’ native range <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Indo-Pacific, <strong>the</strong>re are 12 recognized species as <strong>of</strong> 2015.<br />

All <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se 12 lionfish species are eaten by predators<br />

which are able to cope with <strong>the</strong> venomous spines (lionfish<br />

have dorsal, anal and pelvic spines which release a toxin).<br />

In <strong>the</strong> Caribbean, studies have documented lionfish being<br />

eaten by sharks, groupers and moray eels. However, this<br />

predation requires human intervention (training <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

predators to eat lionfish) that is difficult to maintain on a<br />

scale large enough to keep lionfish populations in check.<br />

Lionfish also produce an enormous amount <strong>of</strong> eggs<br />

and reproduce year-round. This, coupled with <strong>the</strong> fact that<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir larvae can disperse hundreds <strong>of</strong> miles in <strong>the</strong> ocean,<br />

means that lionfish have taken over entire swaths <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Caribbean very quickly. Once lionfish have established<br />

in an area, <strong>the</strong>ir voracious eating causes sharp declines<br />

in native fish populations. Coral reefs <strong>of</strong>ten become less<br />

healthy as a result, because reef-associated fish are very<br />

important to <strong>the</strong> maintenance <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> ecosystem.<br />

Researchers at The School for Field Studies Center<br />

for Marine Resource Studies (SFS CMRS) first sighted and<br />

documented lionfish in December 2007. This sighting<br />

was on a shallow, sheltered coral reef called Jerry Camp<br />

on South Caicos. By June 2008, lionfish had been spotted<br />

in seagrass beds and deep coral reefs on South Caicos.<br />

As part <strong>of</strong> a concerted monitoring effort, SFS documented<br />

<strong>the</strong> swift spread <strong>of</strong> lionfish populations to <strong>the</strong> mangroves<br />

by 2009, and to exposed shallow reefs by 2010. The<br />

research continued, and SFS now has a dataset <strong>of</strong> lionfish<br />

catches from 2009 to 2020.<br />

38 www.timespub.tc

green pages newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> department <strong>of</strong> environment & coastal resources<br />

Lionfish possess venomous dorsal, anal and pelvic spines. The pelvic spines are visible here as <strong>the</strong> lionfish splays <strong>the</strong>m outward.<br />


The invasion was not limited to South Caicos,<br />

ei<strong>the</strong>r—lionfish in fact were first sighted in <strong>the</strong> Turks<br />

& Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> in an unknown location in 2006, <strong>the</strong>n<br />

documented <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos in 2007. I reached out<br />

to Dr. John Claydon, who was a previous center director<br />

at SFS in <strong>the</strong> 2000s and <strong>the</strong>n went on to direct <strong>the</strong><br />

Department <strong>of</strong> Environment & Coastal Resources (DECR)<br />

in Providenciales. Dr. Claydon provides some insight:<br />

Q: You have been involved as a researcher and director in<br />

various capacities throughout <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>,<br />

and in this time, lionfish have unfortunately become<br />

established. How did this invasion affect <strong>the</strong> livelihood<br />

<strong>of</strong> those in <strong>the</strong> TCI?<br />

JC: It is hard to tell, but it is likely that lionfish have<br />

reduced <strong>the</strong> abundance <strong>of</strong> native species and this may<br />

affect fishers directly. It is also possible that lionfish contribute<br />

to <strong>the</strong> degradation <strong>of</strong> coral reefs, and everyone<br />

in <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> is affected if <strong>the</strong>y lose this vital natural<br />

defense against storms, and if its value as a source <strong>of</strong><br />

food and as a tourist attraction is reduced. Not to mention<br />

<strong>the</strong> broader value <strong>of</strong> reefs for biodiversity.<br />

Dr. Claydon brings up important points about <strong>the</strong> ecological<br />

and economic relevance <strong>of</strong> lionfish. Degradation<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> reef system due to lionfish is a big potential problem<br />

for <strong>the</strong> TCI, however we have tools at our disposal.<br />

Culling, or consistent spearfishing <strong>of</strong> lionfish in an area,<br />

is <strong>the</strong> best answer currently available to controlling <strong>the</strong><br />

lionfish population in <strong>the</strong> absence <strong>of</strong> a natural predator.<br />

When a lionfish is brought onto shore and dissected, we<br />

call it a “catch.”<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 39

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Clockwise from top left: The author, Ben Farmer, prepares to spear a<br />

lionfish using a pole spear.<br />

Dr. Ewa Krzyszczyk walks <strong>the</strong> students through a lionfish dissection,<br />

as part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir field exercise on invasive species.<br />

Dr. Ewa Krzyszczyk and Anna Handte-Reinecker, an SFS program<br />

assistant, are on a lionfish hunt when a turtle happened to swim<br />

into view. Dr. Krzyszczyk is carrying a lionfish Zookeeper with a pole<br />

spear stored inside.<br />


I joined SFS as a waterfront assistant in <strong>Fall</strong> 2019, and<br />

soon afterwards <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r assistants and I began helping<br />

Dr. Ewa Krzyszczyk with logging <strong>the</strong>se lionfish catches.<br />

Dr. Krzyszczyk is pr<strong>of</strong>essor <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Principles <strong>of</strong> Resource<br />

Management course at SFS and gets <strong>the</strong> students involved<br />

with lionfish hunts and dissections every semester. As<br />

part <strong>of</strong> field exercises, done via snorkeling or scuba diving,<br />

students help staff locate lionfish on <strong>the</strong> reefs <strong>of</strong><br />

South Caicos. After staff spear <strong>the</strong> lionfish, students log<br />

<strong>the</strong> time and depth at which <strong>the</strong> fish are caught, as well as<br />

<strong>the</strong> fishes’ behavior. Finally, all <strong>the</strong> fish are safely brought<br />

back to <strong>the</strong> center with a cylinder called a Zookeeper.<br />

Several things are recorded <strong>the</strong>re, including gut contents<br />

(what <strong>the</strong> lionfish had recently been eating), sex <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

fish and body length.<br />

As early as 2009, <strong>the</strong> DECR began lionfish “derbies” in<br />

which fishermen competed to bring in <strong>the</strong> highest number<br />

<strong>of</strong> lionfish. Hundreds <strong>of</strong> specimens were dissected,<br />

with information entered in <strong>the</strong> database. More recently<br />

in 2016, a nation-wide derby called <strong>the</strong> Lionfish Festival<br />

was hosted by <strong>the</strong> DECR and <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos Reef<br />

Fund, in which competitions were held in Providenciales,<br />

Grand Turk and South Caicos. Fishermen on South Caicos<br />

brought in nearly 40 fish, and SFS students assisted with<br />

measuring <strong>the</strong>m. All <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se fish were filleted and served<br />

at <strong>the</strong> Heritage Day Festival. Lionfish are quite tasty, after<br />

all!<br />

Our current SFS Center Director Dr. Heidi Hertler,<br />

discusses <strong>the</strong> event here: (https://fieldstudies.<br />

org/2016/11/lionfish-derby-on-south-caicos/).<br />

In terms <strong>of</strong> what you can do personally, some TCI<br />

dive shops will allow guests to bring speared lionfish<br />

back to <strong>the</strong>ir hotel restaurant for preparation. This is a<br />

great way to reduce <strong>the</strong> population <strong>of</strong> an invasive species<br />

while enjoying a great dinner—talk to a local dive shop to<br />

find out more.<br />

40 www.timespub.tc

green pages newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> department <strong>of</strong> environment & coastal resources<br />


Lionfish are one <strong>of</strong> many human-caused introductions <strong>of</strong> invasive<br />

species. The new reality for many Caribbean reefs is that lionfish are<br />

<strong>the</strong>re to stay.<br />

Long-term research by SFS suggests that lionfish<br />

populations are decreasing on some South Caicos sites,<br />

which is likely due to culling efforts. However, <strong>the</strong>se sites<br />

do not represent <strong>the</strong> lionfish population throughout <strong>the</strong><br />

entirety <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> TCI, and it is important to stay vigilant and<br />

continue monitoring. Dr. Claydon has a few thoughts on<br />

this as well:<br />

Q: The new reality for many Caribbean reefs is that lionfish<br />

are <strong>the</strong>re to stay, even accounting for culling efforts.<br />

What would you recommend as a long-term response to<br />

<strong>the</strong> issue?<br />

JC: Localised areas <strong>of</strong> reef will benefit from regular culling,<br />

and this will be important for particularly vulnerable<br />

sites, but we are not going to get rid <strong>of</strong> lionfish completely.<br />

The lionfish invasion has helped to promote a<br />

better understanding <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> value <strong>of</strong> coral reefs to people<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wider Caribbean region. We can keep using <strong>the</strong><br />

lionfish issue to raise awareness and help protect coral<br />

reefs in o<strong>the</strong>r ways.<br />

You can help support <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos Reef Fund<br />

lionfish project by submitting any lionfish sightings here:<br />

(https://www.tcreef.org/projects). a<br />

For additional information about The School for Field<br />

Studies, visit www.fieldstudies.org or contact us on<br />

South Caicos at hhertler@fieldstudies.org.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 41

green pages newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> department <strong>of</strong> environment & coastal resources<br />

If Rocks Could Talk . . .<br />

Their story would be fascinating.<br />

By Carmen Hoyt, Waterfront Assistant, The School for Field Studies<br />

After how many birthdays do you stop keeping track? If it’s any consolation, <strong>the</strong> Earth is 4.54 billion years<br />

old and still going strong.<br />

42 www.timespub.tc

green pages newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> department <strong>of</strong> environment & coastal resources<br />

This huge cave on <strong>the</strong> beach at Mudjin Harbor in Middle Caicos is<br />

known as a flank margin cave, originally a dry cave formed when<br />

<strong>the</strong> ocean level was higher.<br />

4.54 billion years . . . think about it. A billion is difficult<br />

to grasp, not to mention four times over. If every<br />

second <strong>of</strong> our day counted for a year <strong>of</strong> Earth’s life, it<br />

would take about 144 years, far beyond <strong>the</strong> current<br />

capacity for a human lifespan.<br />

The history <strong>of</strong> our planet is so incredibly long that<br />

it’s easier to conceptualize as a calendar year. If our planet’s<br />

first day on <strong>the</strong> job was January 1, modern humans<br />

didn’t evolve until December 31 at 11:38 PM. Twenty-one<br />

minutes later, at 11:59 PM, began <strong>the</strong> Holocene Epoch,<br />

<strong>the</strong> equivalent <strong>of</strong> 12,000 years ago when <strong>the</strong> most recent<br />

ice age—<strong>the</strong> Paleolithic Ice Age—came to an end and <strong>the</strong><br />

Earth as we know it began.<br />

So, what happened in that metaphorical year before<br />

humans existed? If <strong>the</strong> planet could talk, what stories<br />

would it tell us? Unfortunately, our Earth is vocally inhibited,<br />

but it tells us stories in different ways. Geology, <strong>the</strong><br />

study <strong>of</strong> rocks and <strong>the</strong> processes that impacted <strong>the</strong>m, is<br />

an excellent method <strong>of</strong> communication, especially if you<br />

are interested in a little history lesson. I decided to listen<br />

to a chapter about <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>, and here’s<br />

what I learned.<br />


<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 43

green pages newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> department <strong>of</strong> environment & coastal resources<br />

In <strong>the</strong> context <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> calendar year analogy, <strong>the</strong> Turks<br />

& Caicos have <strong>the</strong>ir origin somewhere around December<br />

15, after <strong>the</strong> fourth mass extinction marked <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Triassic period, <strong>the</strong> beginning <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Jurassic period,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> slow break-up <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> supercontinent Pangea. It<br />

was during this time that dinosaurs ruled and <strong>the</strong> climate<br />

across <strong>the</strong> planet didn’t stray far from hot and dry. The<br />

fourth mass extinction failed to wipe out <strong>the</strong> dinosaurs,<br />

but <strong>the</strong>ir luck would be tried again all too soon.<br />

Pangea’s demise began when Gondwana (<strong>the</strong> agglomeration<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> African, South American, Antarctic, Indian<br />

and Australian continents) drifted away from Laurasia<br />

(Eurasia and North America). The foundation for <strong>the</strong><br />

Turks & Caicos, along with <strong>the</strong> Bahamas, grew from <strong>the</strong><br />

continental crust that North America pulled away from<br />

Africa during <strong>the</strong> split <strong>of</strong> Gondwana and Laurasia 200 million<br />

years ago. The crust on most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> planet, including<br />

<strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos, is composed <strong>of</strong> basalt, a dark, dense<br />

rock that results from <strong>the</strong> cooling <strong>of</strong> lava or magma.<br />

The basaltic crust was buried deep under layers <strong>of</strong><br />

limestone that formed during <strong>the</strong> Jurassic, Cretaceous<br />

and <strong>the</strong> Tertiary periods (a time span <strong>of</strong> nearly 197 mil-<br />

44 www.timespub.tc

green pages newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> department <strong>of</strong> environment & coastal resources<br />

Conch Bar Caves in Middle Caicos are one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> largest cave systems<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean.<br />

lion years) from biological sources in warm, shallow seas<br />

typical <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Caribbean we know and love. Less typical,<br />

however, was <strong>the</strong> marine life responsible for such limestone<br />

deposition. Limestone is made from <strong>the</strong> mineral<br />

calcite, which is derived from <strong>the</strong> calcium carbonate<br />

structures found in reef-building species <strong>of</strong> prehistoric<br />

hard corals or <strong>the</strong> boxy shells <strong>of</strong> conical, clam-like organisms<br />

called rudists. Calcite can also be deposited from<br />

<strong>the</strong> ocean water itself, though this process is not quite as<br />

common.<br />

During this time, reefs were growing and thriving,<br />

and about 3 million years ago, <strong>the</strong> closure <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Central American Seaway with <strong>the</strong> surfacing <strong>of</strong> Panama<br />

definitively sealed <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> Caribbean from <strong>the</strong> Pacific, separating<br />

species indefinitely. The Tertiary period lasted up<br />

until <strong>the</strong> ice ages <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pleistocene, a three-and-a-halfhour<br />

time period on December 31 in our grand analogy<br />

just prior to <strong>the</strong> start <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> modern Holocene at 11:59<br />

PM. It was during <strong>the</strong>se chilly hours that reef development<br />

(and limestone deposition) in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean and<br />

elsewhere came to a halt with cooler temperatures and<br />

falling sea levels.<br />


<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 45

green pages newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> department <strong>of</strong> environment & coastal resources<br />

Two interesting features <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> limestone-dominated<br />

geology <strong>of</strong> both <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos and <strong>the</strong> Bahamas are<br />

an intricate cave system and blue holes, both products<br />

<strong>of</strong> what is called a Karst landscape. The Turks & Caicos<br />

<strong>Islands</strong> boast one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> largest cave systems in <strong>the</strong><br />

Caribbean: <strong>the</strong> Conch Bar Caves located in Middle Caicos.<br />

Caves like <strong>the</strong>se form when rainwater (which is slightly<br />

acidic through interactions with carbon dioxide in <strong>the</strong><br />

atmosphere) percolates through depressions and cracks<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> limestone, collecting in cavities that grow in volume<br />

as weaker parts <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> limestone dissolve, eventually<br />

connecting as underground caves.<br />

In South Caicos, students studying at The School for<br />

Field Studies’ Center for Marine Resource Studies are<br />

always oriented to <strong>the</strong>ir new home at <strong>the</strong> beginning <strong>of</strong><br />

every session with a town tour. One feature we always<br />

point out is <strong>the</strong> “Boiling Hole” at <strong>the</strong> center <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> decommissioned<br />

salinas, where valuable salt was produced<br />

during <strong>the</strong> 1700s. The Boiling Hole is an entrance to an<br />

underground cave system that is connected to <strong>the</strong> ocean,<br />

and it was used to control <strong>the</strong> saltwater entering <strong>the</strong> salinas.<br />

Blue holes, in my humble opinion, are even more<br />

mysterious and alluring. They are appropriately named;<br />

even if you’ve never seen one, you can imagine what it<br />

would be like. They’re spectacular geological features<br />

with an unrivaled appreciation for geometry. Like deep,<br />

circular, underwater sinkholes with sheer walls, <strong>the</strong>y look<br />

more like a relic <strong>of</strong> plugs taken by extraterrestrial life<br />

than a story <strong>of</strong> Earthly geology.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> world’s most famous blue holes is in<br />

Belize, but <strong>the</strong> Bahamas’ best kept secret is that <strong>the</strong>re are<br />

quite a few around <strong>the</strong> archipelago, with guest appearances<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>. I once noticed one on<br />

a flight from Providenciales to South Caicos. Turns out, if<br />

you look at a satellite map <strong>of</strong> Middle Caicos, its deep blue<br />

color stands out among <strong>the</strong> light sand <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Caicos Bank<br />

just <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> coast <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> land.<br />

So, what is responsible? Limestone is <strong>the</strong> necessary<br />

ingredient, but a few key steps must take place. First,<br />

<strong>the</strong> stone must be exposed to <strong>the</strong> atmosphere to start<br />

<strong>the</strong> wea<strong>the</strong>ring process. It is during cooler periods in <strong>the</strong><br />

Earth’s climate that ice is created, absorbing some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

ocean water and lowering sea levels. On limestone-based<br />

islands, <strong>the</strong> less-dense freshwater source floats atop <strong>the</strong><br />

more-dense marine ground water.<br />

This is massive Ocean Hole <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> south coast <strong>of</strong> Middle Caicos.<br />

The initial forms <strong>of</strong> blue holes resemble small freshwater<br />

ponds. Similar to <strong>the</strong> way rain water dissolves rock<br />

by intruding along cracks and seams to form caves, <strong>the</strong><br />

freshwater source exposed to <strong>the</strong> atmosphere dissolves<br />

carbon dioxide and forms a weak acid. However, <strong>the</strong>re is<br />

an additional acidic solution created from <strong>the</strong> interaction<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> fresh water with <strong>the</strong> salt water at <strong>the</strong> mixing zone<br />

below. Picture a liquid plunger <strong>of</strong> sorts, drilling deep into<br />

<strong>the</strong> Earth over millions <strong>of</strong> years. These two processes<br />

carve <strong>the</strong> vertical walls <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> blue hole as sea level rises<br />

and falls with changes in <strong>the</strong> climate.<br />

Such changes were characteristic <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Quaternary<br />

period, starting with <strong>the</strong> ice ages <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pleistocene. It<br />

was during this three-and-a-half-hour time period that <strong>the</strong><br />

sea level was 300–400 feet lower than it is today, exposing<br />

<strong>the</strong> Caicos Bank as a cliff-fringed plateau where <strong>the</strong>se<br />

caves and holes started forming.<br />

It’s hard to imagine <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos as anything<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r than <strong>the</strong> warm, tropical islands <strong>the</strong>y are today, but<br />

<strong>the</strong>y have endured quite <strong>the</strong> journey through time. What<br />

started <strong>of</strong>f as dense, volcanic rock deep below <strong>the</strong> surface<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> sea became a thriving coral reef, built up by many<br />

layers until exposed to <strong>the</strong> atmosphere and intricately<br />

carved by rainwater. Of course this is a vast oversimplification<br />

<strong>of</strong> many hundreds <strong>of</strong> millions <strong>of</strong> years <strong>of</strong> change,<br />

but it’s a lesson in patience and metamorphosis. Any<br />

exposed rock formation can give you a clue as to how it<br />

ended up <strong>the</strong> way it is if you’re willing to look and listen,<br />

carefully. a<br />

For additional information about The School for Field<br />

Studies, visit www.fieldstudies.org or contact us on<br />

South Caicos at hhertler@fieldstudies.org.<br />


46 www.timespub.tc

poetry<br />

Summer in <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong><br />

By David P. Carroll ~ Photo By Marta Morton<br />

Summer by <strong>the</strong> sea and<br />

It’s so beautiful to stop<br />

And see watching <strong>the</strong><br />

Children smiling so bright<br />

Having fun in <strong>the</strong> warm<br />

Summer sunlight feeling <strong>the</strong> warmth<br />

On my face and Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> is just<br />

A beautiful sunny place and<br />

Taste <strong>the</strong> sweetest fruits and I’m<br />

Watching <strong>the</strong> butterflies flow<br />

Oh how I love <strong>the</strong> summer days<br />

Smiling so bright kissing my beautiful wife<br />

And all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> songs we sung were so<br />

Beautiful and bright in <strong>the</strong> warm<br />

Summer sunlight and it’s truly<br />

Beautiful to see <strong>the</strong> little birds singing<br />

To me it’s summer time and I’ll remember this summer’s day<br />

And all <strong>of</strong> my memories will never fade away<br />

Oh how I love summer time in beautiful Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> every day.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 47


feature<br />

Opposite page: This photo <strong>of</strong> West Caicos’ windward coast is where Thomas Brown and his crew would have drifted ashore following <strong>the</strong><br />

battle with pirates.<br />

Above: This is a typical six-pounder cannon such as might have been used in <strong>the</strong> West Caicos pirate attack <strong>of</strong> 1798. It is currently displayed<br />

at Cheshire Hall Plantation in Providenciales.<br />


Pirate Attack!<br />

Rediscovering <strong>the</strong> epic battle <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos.<br />

By Ben Stubenberg<br />

On an early summer morning in 1798, a balmy breeze filled <strong>the</strong> luffing sails <strong>of</strong> five sturdy sloops setting<br />

<strong>of</strong>f in search <strong>of</strong> a ship that had run aground. From Ft. George Cay, <strong>the</strong> boats glided south along <strong>the</strong> white<br />

sand beaches <strong>of</strong> Pine Cay, <strong>the</strong>ir long booms reaching far over <strong>the</strong> turquoise water to catch <strong>the</strong> following<br />

wind and speed <strong>the</strong>m along. The leader <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> small flotilla, Loyalist planter Col. Thomas Brown <strong>of</strong> North<br />

Caicos, must have anticipated trouble for he loaded <strong>the</strong> boats with cannons and muskets. Then he did<br />

something seemingly counter to common sense, and not for <strong>the</strong> first time; he put those weapons in <strong>the</strong><br />

hands <strong>of</strong> an all-Black crew <strong>of</strong> enslaved men. Brown’s hunch proved right, as pirates showed up in <strong>the</strong><br />

afternoon <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos, guns blazing and spoiling for a fight.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 49

Launching a journey <strong>of</strong> rediscovery<br />

Now, 223 years later on a summer afternoon in <strong>2021</strong>,<br />

local Captain Ernesto Von Der Esch, Agile LeVin, Lynn<br />

Pelowski and I set out to find <strong>the</strong> spot <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> long-ago<br />

battle. We admit to a juvenile thrill, once again imagining<br />

ourselves as pirates back in <strong>the</strong> day. Didn’t we all want to<br />

hoist <strong>the</strong> Jolly Roger and raid ships with cutlass in hand<br />

while living free on <strong>the</strong> high seas? Reality is somewhat<br />

different, we know. But on this day, we recaptured a bit<br />

<strong>of</strong> our childhood on our way to rediscovering <strong>the</strong> baddest<br />

pirate attack in Turks & Caicos history.<br />

But Brown’s encounter with pirates was no ordinary<br />

swashbuckling adventure. The showdown <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos<br />

brought to <strong>the</strong> fore a confluence <strong>of</strong> slavery, trust, bravado,<br />

foolhardiness and courage under fire, all against<br />

a backdrop <strong>of</strong> French and British forces clashing on <strong>the</strong><br />

edge <strong>of</strong> empire for dominance <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Caribbean and <strong>the</strong><br />

world.<br />

Some 15 years before us, Providenciales veterinarian<br />

Mark Woodring came across a cannon and <strong>the</strong> remnants<br />

<strong>of</strong> a wreck <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> eastern shore <strong>of</strong> West Caicos. He contacted<br />

a historian friend who recognized <strong>the</strong> spot as<br />

<strong>the</strong> possible scene <strong>of</strong> Brown and crew’s encounter with<br />

pirates. After reading my article, “Hidden Legacy: Slavery<br />

and Loyalists in ‘Grand Caicos’” (<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>,<br />

Spring 2020), which included Brown’s skirmish with<br />

pirates, Mark contacted me and generously provided <strong>the</strong><br />

coordinates for follow-up.<br />

The COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on plans for<br />

an expedition in 2020. Even after restrictions eased, we<br />

waited for <strong>the</strong> normally choppy seas on <strong>the</strong> windward<br />

eastern shore <strong>of</strong> West Caicos to abate to have <strong>the</strong> best<br />

shot <strong>of</strong> finding <strong>the</strong> cannon. Then we could place <strong>the</strong> battle<br />

with some confidence and game out <strong>the</strong> story <strong>of</strong> what<br />

probably happened. The summer winds blowing from <strong>the</strong><br />

sou<strong>the</strong>ast didn’t let up, however, so on July 31, <strong>2021</strong> we<br />

decided to just go for it.<br />

Heading to West Caicos<br />

At Little Water Cay, <strong>the</strong> sloops cut through <strong>the</strong> Leeward<br />

Channel that led to <strong>the</strong> Caicos Banks while <strong>the</strong> tide was still<br />

high enough for <strong>the</strong> keels to clear <strong>the</strong> shallow bottom. The<br />

boats continued sailing downwind along Providenciales’<br />

south coast past Long Bay, Gussy Cove, (now South Dock)<br />

and Five Cays Bay. From here <strong>the</strong>y took a straight shot to<br />

Southwest Reef just <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> south end <strong>of</strong> West Caicos and<br />

<strong>the</strong> wreck <strong>the</strong>y hoped to find. The enslaved crew relished<br />

<strong>the</strong> chance to be on <strong>the</strong> water and away from field work<br />

on <strong>the</strong> plantations. But <strong>the</strong>y also knew that pirates lurked<br />

<strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> coast and so steeled <strong>the</strong>mselves to <strong>the</strong> prospect <strong>of</strong><br />

an attack.<br />

Just before noon, Brown and <strong>the</strong> crew ate pieces <strong>of</strong><br />

johnnycake and knocked back a slug <strong>of</strong> rum, as was <strong>the</strong><br />

custom <strong>the</strong>n. Just ahead, <strong>the</strong>y caught <strong>the</strong>ir first glimpse<br />

50 www.timespub.tc


<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> masts from <strong>the</strong> stranded merchant ship protruding<br />

above <strong>the</strong> reef. The name <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> ship is lost to history, but<br />

it had sailed from <strong>the</strong> state <strong>of</strong> Rhode Island loaded with<br />

supplies <strong>the</strong> planters had ordered and badly wanted to<br />

recover.<br />

Local artist Richard McGhie painted this depiction <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> battle<br />

between Thomas Brown and his crew and <strong>the</strong> pirates <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos.<br />

He has been avidly drawing and painting since moving to Turks &<br />

Caicos in 2014. Captivated by his surroundings, he tries to capture<br />

<strong>the</strong> beauty and rich history <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> in his art. You can see more<br />

<strong>of</strong> his work on Instagram at richmcghie_art or contact him directly at<br />

richardmcghie@outlook.com.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 51

I sat down with local mariner David Douglas who<br />

has sailed <strong>the</strong>se waters for more than 35 years in his<br />

locally built schooner, <strong>the</strong> Atabeyra, (suncharters.tc)<br />

and asked him if this route made sense. “Yes, from Ft.<br />

George Cay, Brown most likely would have sailed south <strong>of</strong><br />

Providenciales to get to Southwest Reef. The o<strong>the</strong>r alternative<br />

would be to sail across Grace Bay to Northwest<br />

Point. And from <strong>the</strong>re cross <strong>the</strong> channel to West Caicos.<br />

That would have taken quite a bit longer and leave <strong>the</strong>m<br />

much more exposed to pirates. So <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn route<br />

makes much more sense.”<br />

Casting <strong>of</strong>f from South Side Marina on Providenciales<br />

in Captain Ernesto’s boat MV Bonita (OceanFrontiersTCI.<br />

com), we followed Brown’s probable route heading to<br />

West Caicos. No doubt Brown and his crew would have<br />

stared in disbelief at <strong>the</strong> superbly comfortable and fast<br />

37-foot fiberglass Axopar with two huge 300 hp outboard<br />

motors. As we closed in on Southwest Reef using<br />

<strong>the</strong> coordinates Mark had provided, Captain Ernesto cut<br />

<strong>the</strong> engines. Somewhere below lay <strong>the</strong> cannon. Agile,<br />

co-founder <strong>of</strong> visittci.com and a font <strong>of</strong> TCI historical<br />

knowledge, prepped his underwater camera while Lynn<br />

began filming.<br />

We took in <strong>the</strong> scene as our boat rocked in a sea<br />

awash with endless hues <strong>of</strong> blue and streaked with<br />

golden brown Sargassum seaweed reflecting <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> midday<br />

sun. To <strong>the</strong> south, rows <strong>of</strong> cresting waves splashed<br />

over <strong>the</strong> shallow reefs that had claimed so many ships<br />

passing through. And fur<strong>the</strong>r <strong>of</strong>f lay <strong>the</strong> shore <strong>of</strong> West<br />

Caicos, a line <strong>of</strong> scrubby white bluffs mixed with sand<br />

and limestone stretching for miles without a trace <strong>of</strong><br />

human presence. Unchanged over years, we could see<br />

what <strong>the</strong>y saw and slipped for a moment back in time.<br />

“Burntfoot” Brown’s defiance<br />

Just who was Thomas Brown and what plight in his vastly<br />

different world brought him here? The man is no stranger<br />

to <strong>the</strong> pages <strong>of</strong> this magazine. Dr. Charlene Kozy’s four<br />

articles—“Hidden History” (Winter 2007/2008), “Revealing<br />

Thomas Brown” (<strong>Fall</strong> 2009), “All <strong>the</strong> King’s Men” (<strong>Fall</strong><br />

2010) and “The Rest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Story” (Spring 2012)—provide<br />

illuminating portraits <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Loyalists in <strong>the</strong> Turks<br />

& Caicos and Brown in particular. As one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most<br />

resilient, headstrong and paradoxical characters in TCI<br />

history, he warrants continued examination.<br />

In 1775, just shy <strong>of</strong> his 25th birthday, Brown sailed<br />

from <strong>the</strong> bleak but prosperous North Sea town <strong>of</strong> Whitby,<br />

England to Georgia in <strong>the</strong> American Colonies. Thanks to<br />


This map <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Caicos Banks shows <strong>the</strong> route that Thomas Brown likely took to <strong>the</strong> pirate attack area <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos.<br />

52 www.timespub.tc

financial help from his prominent fa<strong>the</strong>r and contacts<br />

made in Savannah, he bought land to establish a cotton<br />

plantation in <strong>the</strong> back country near Augusta. But this was<br />

also <strong>the</strong> year that calls for independence from Britain<br />

reached a fever pitch that sharply divided <strong>the</strong> Colonists<br />

between Loyalists and Patriots. Brown had not been shy<br />

about declaring his Loyalist support for King George III.<br />

In his book, The King’s Ranger, Edward J. Cashin<br />

describes a definitive moment in Brown’s life. One<br />

evening, a mob <strong>of</strong> 100 or so members <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> fervent proindependence<br />

group Sons <strong>of</strong> Liberty ga<strong>the</strong>red in front <strong>of</strong><br />

his house and demanded that he swear allegiance to <strong>the</strong><br />

revolutionary cause. Brown tried to steer a noncommittal<br />

path, saying that he did not want to oppose <strong>the</strong> country<br />

<strong>of</strong> his birth, but nor did he want to <strong>of</strong>fend those in his<br />

new home. But Sons <strong>of</strong> Liberty boys would hear none <strong>of</strong><br />

it and closed in on him. Brown fired a pistol and fended<br />

<strong>the</strong>m <strong>of</strong>f with a saber until one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> mob smashed him<br />

over <strong>the</strong> head with <strong>the</strong> butt <strong>of</strong> a musket.<br />

The Patriots <strong>the</strong>n tied him to a tree, tarred and fea<strong>the</strong>red<br />

him, partially scalped him and lit his feet on fire.<br />

Somehow, he survived, even after losing consciousness<br />

for two days. A doctor performed what passed for brain<br />

surgery in <strong>the</strong> 18th century to repair his fractured skull,<br />

but he would suffer severe headaches for <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong> his<br />

life. He also lost two toes in <strong>the</strong> fire, earning him <strong>the</strong> lifelong<br />

nickname “Burntfoot” Brown.<br />

The bitterness from <strong>the</strong> attack, as well as Brown’s<br />

commitment to king and country, led him to join <strong>the</strong><br />

King’s Rangers, a Loyalist unit <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> British Army fighting<br />

George Washington’s men in <strong>the</strong> American South. He<br />

displayed remarkable courage and leadership in battle,<br />

<strong>of</strong>ten forging alliances with native Indian tribes and fighting<br />

alongside <strong>the</strong>m. He may also have sought revenge.<br />

Legend has it that Brown hanged 13 captured American<br />

Patriots so he could gloat while watching <strong>the</strong>m die.<br />

Second chance in North Caicos<br />

After <strong>the</strong> war, <strong>the</strong> victorious Patriots forced Brown and<br />

tens <strong>of</strong> thousands <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r Loyalists out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> new<br />

American republic and confiscated <strong>the</strong> property <strong>the</strong>y<br />

left behind. Most Loyalists from <strong>the</strong> American South fled<br />

to eastern Florida before taking refuge in <strong>the</strong> Bahamas.<br />

Some, like Brown, made <strong>the</strong>ir way to North Caicos where<br />

Britain compensated Loyalists for <strong>the</strong> loss <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir plantations<br />

with land grants and money.<br />

Brown soon became a successful cotton planter on<br />

North Caicos—made possible, <strong>of</strong> course, by <strong>the</strong> forced<br />

labor <strong>of</strong> men, women and children he had enslaved and<br />

This image <strong>of</strong> a Loyalist being tarred and fea<strong>the</strong>red is similar to what<br />

was done to Thomas Brown by members <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Sons <strong>of</strong> Liberty.<br />

brought with him. In what was <strong>the</strong>n called “Grand Caicos,”<br />

Brown is said to have permitted slaves to cultivate small<br />

plots <strong>of</strong> land for <strong>the</strong>mselves. On occasion, if one <strong>of</strong> those<br />

he had enslaved wanted to marry someone held in bondage<br />

at ano<strong>the</strong>r plantation, he “bought” that person so<br />

<strong>the</strong>y could be toge<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

Loyalist slaveholders, like <strong>the</strong>ir counterparts throughout<br />

<strong>the</strong> Caribbean and American South, portrayed <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

relations with <strong>the</strong> enslaved as paternalistic or benevolent<br />

to justify keeping <strong>the</strong>m in oppressive bondage. Their<br />

narrative also served as an effort to <strong>of</strong>fset growing abolitionist<br />

agitation to end slavery that Brown would be quite<br />

aware <strong>of</strong>.<br />

We have no written accounts <strong>of</strong> what <strong>the</strong> enslaved on<br />

North Caicos thought about Brown’s “generosity.” We do,<br />

however, have a first hand account by formerly enslaved<br />

Mary Prince that details <strong>the</strong> horrific treatment meted out<br />

by Bermudian enslavers on Grand Turk. Though conditions<br />

differed for <strong>the</strong> enslaved on North Caicos who<br />

toiled in fields ra<strong>the</strong>r than salt ponds, shards <strong>of</strong> oral history<br />

handed down from generation to generation from<br />

<strong>the</strong> 1800s present a different version <strong>of</strong> Brown, who is<br />

remembered as a cruel slave holder. These two contradictory<br />

versions <strong>of</strong> Brown are not necessarily mutually<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 53

exclusive, however, as he may have alternated between<br />

affection and abuse that characterized many slaveholders<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> time.<br />

Arming slaves<br />

The story gets complicated because Brown did in fact<br />

develop a trust for many <strong>of</strong> those he had enslaved, contrary<br />

to <strong>the</strong> mindset <strong>of</strong> most plantation owners who had a<br />

well-founded fear <strong>of</strong> slave uprisings. Indeed, slave rebellions<br />

flared up throughout <strong>the</strong> Americas, but <strong>the</strong>y were<br />

almost always quashed by colonial armies and local militias.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> 1790s, <strong>the</strong> prospect <strong>of</strong> a successful revolt<br />

became terrifyingly real when slaves in <strong>the</strong> French colony<br />

<strong>of</strong> St. Domingue, now Haiti, rose up and beat back<br />

French forces and took control <strong>of</strong> wide swaths <strong>of</strong> territory.<br />

Stories <strong>of</strong> rebellion in Haiti also circulated widely<br />

among <strong>the</strong> slave population in TCI, just 90 miles (150 km)<br />

to <strong>the</strong> north, that would later inspire several successful<br />

slave escapes by boat. (See “Sailing to Freedom” in <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> Winter 2018/2019 issue.)<br />

For slaveholders living with <strong>the</strong>se anxieties, proposals<br />

to arm slaves would be an ana<strong>the</strong>ma to <strong>the</strong>ir way <strong>of</strong><br />

life. None<strong>the</strong>less, exigencies arose that from time to time<br />

necessitated taking <strong>the</strong> risk <strong>of</strong> giving <strong>the</strong> enslaved weapons<br />

to fight a foreign enemy and protect <strong>the</strong> interests <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> enslaver.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> book Arming Slaves, historians Philip D.<br />

Morgan and Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy write, “The<br />

arming <strong>of</strong> slaves in <strong>the</strong> Americas was never part <strong>of</strong> a deliberate<br />

or concerted policy but ra<strong>the</strong>r was warily adopted as<br />

an urgent measure in response to a crisis.” They go on to<br />

write, “An inherent ambiguity <strong>the</strong>refore existed in colonial<br />

society between keeping firearms out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hands<br />

<strong>of</strong> slaves and arming <strong>the</strong>m whenever it seemed necessary<br />

or useful. Arming slaves was a dangerous expedient, but<br />

one resorted to frequently.”<br />

A driving force for arming Blacks in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean<br />

was <strong>the</strong> high mortality rates <strong>of</strong> troops arriving from<br />

Europe compared to enslaved Africans. For example, <strong>the</strong><br />

British lost more than 5,000 troops to disease during <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

occupation <strong>of</strong> Havana in 1762–63. During <strong>the</strong> American<br />

Revolutionary War, 11% <strong>of</strong> European soldiers bound for<br />

<strong>the</strong> Caribbean died on <strong>the</strong> troop transport ships. And<br />

once in <strong>the</strong> region, <strong>the</strong> annual mortality rate <strong>of</strong> soldiers<br />

was 15% compared to just 6% <strong>of</strong> those stationed in New<br />

York. Of <strong>the</strong> 1,008 men <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Seventy-Ninth Regiment<br />

stationed in Kingston, Jamaica in 1778, “Scarcely a man<br />

remained <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> original number” 12 months later.<br />

During <strong>the</strong> American Revolution, British military <strong>of</strong>ficers<br />

experimented with forming units drawn from slaves<br />

who escaped Patriot slaveholders. Loyalist slaveholders<br />

sharply disapproved, but British commanders held more<br />

sway. By 1782, near <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> war, <strong>the</strong> British had<br />

more than 700 enslaved Blacks in uniform and under<br />

arms, along with thousands more in auxiliary positions,<br />

with <strong>the</strong> promise <strong>of</strong> freedom after <strong>the</strong> war.<br />

Patriot slaveholders opposed <strong>the</strong> arming <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

enslaved as fervently as <strong>the</strong>ir Loyalist counterparts. But<br />

<strong>the</strong> Patriots largely succeeded in preventing <strong>the</strong> recruitment<br />

<strong>of</strong> fighting units made up <strong>of</strong> slaves to serve <strong>the</strong><br />

American Revolution. None<strong>the</strong>less, many Blacks, some<br />

enslaved but most free, did serve honorably and proudly<br />

on <strong>the</strong> side <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Revolutionaries. Indeed, some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

enslaved on both sides had been warriors in Africa before<br />

being captured and sold into slavery and so adapted well<br />

to warfare.<br />

At <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> war, <strong>the</strong> British evacuated <strong>the</strong> slaves<br />

who had given <strong>the</strong>m loyal service from <strong>the</strong> American colonies<br />

and deployed <strong>the</strong>m to Jamaica and o<strong>the</strong>r Caribbean<br />

colonies as part <strong>of</strong> a larger West India Regiment. However,<br />

Britain reneged on <strong>the</strong> promise to free many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> slaves<br />

<strong>the</strong>y had recruited, underscoring <strong>the</strong> continuing disagreement<br />

within British colonial society over slavery.<br />

Brown almost certainly would have been familiar with<br />

<strong>the</strong> British arming slaves for military action during <strong>the</strong><br />

American Revolution and may have seen first-hand <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

capabilities in combat. That may have imbued him with<br />

confidence that he could rely on enslaved men to defend<br />

TCI and serve him, as <strong>the</strong> need arose.<br />

Defending <strong>the</strong> Caicos Cays<br />

Simultaneously in <strong>the</strong> 1790s, tensions between <strong>the</strong><br />

British and French escalated into what became known<br />

as <strong>the</strong> “French Revolutionary Wars” for who would reign<br />

supreme. France in particular supplemented its navy in<br />

<strong>the</strong> Caribbean by recruiting private vessels and outright<br />

pirates as “force multipliers” to raid British ships and disrupt<br />

trade. The French “Commissions,” also known as<br />

“Letters <strong>of</strong> Marque,” gave <strong>the</strong> private and pirate vessels<br />

<strong>the</strong> status <strong>of</strong> “privateers,” a tacit pass to rampage, as long<br />

as <strong>the</strong>y left French ships alone. All European powers and<br />

<strong>the</strong> United States played <strong>the</strong> same game. Using <strong>the</strong>ir thin<br />

veneer <strong>of</strong> legitimacy, many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se French pirates now<br />

sailing as privateers called on French-controlled ports<br />

along <strong>the</strong> north coast <strong>of</strong> Haiti to resupply before heading<br />

back out for raids.<br />

With more enemy French ships now searching for<br />

54 www.timespub.tc

British ships to sink or capture (as well as American<br />

merchant vessels that had resumed supplying British colonies),<br />

TCI became dangerously exposed. The Loyalists<br />

had good reason to believe <strong>the</strong> privateer pirates or even<br />

<strong>the</strong> French Navy might attack <strong>the</strong>m at <strong>the</strong>ir most vulnerable<br />

spot—<strong>the</strong> deep water basin near what is now Fort<br />

George Cay. This was <strong>the</strong> only place where merchant ships<br />

could sail through a cut in <strong>the</strong> reef and anchor securely to<br />

<strong>of</strong>foad supplies for <strong>the</strong> North Caicos Loyalists. 1<br />

To protect this choke point, <strong>the</strong> Loyalists, with Brown<br />

taking a lead, built a small fort in 1795 (possibly earlier),<br />

naming it Fort Saint George. When finished, Brown probably<br />

made <strong>the</strong> case for arming TCI slaves as a defense<br />

force, most likely in response to a shortage <strong>of</strong> white soldiers.<br />

It is plausible that many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Black soldiers may<br />

have been recruited from <strong>the</strong> North Caicos plantations.<br />

Thus <strong>the</strong> Loyalists apparently relied on <strong>the</strong> very people<br />

<strong>the</strong>y had enslaved to protect <strong>the</strong>m, <strong>the</strong>ir families and<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir property from an enemy attack. And <strong>the</strong>y did this<br />

despite <strong>the</strong> ongoing slave revolt in Haiti.<br />

Hierarchies <strong>of</strong> enslavement<br />

Brown appears not to have been troubled by <strong>the</strong> contradictions<br />

<strong>of</strong> his actions. Instead, he seems to have<br />

possessed an unwavering confidence that he could inspire<br />

fealty among <strong>the</strong> enslaved he had armed. This begs <strong>the</strong><br />

question, <strong>of</strong> course, <strong>of</strong> why armed slaves would stay loyal<br />

instead <strong>of</strong> using <strong>the</strong> weapons against <strong>the</strong> enslavers, especially<br />

if <strong>the</strong>re was no promise <strong>of</strong> freedom.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> Introduction to Arming Slaves, history pr<strong>of</strong>essor<br />

David Brion Davis states, “For slaves, military duty<br />

<strong>of</strong>fered a welcome escape from <strong>the</strong> misery <strong>of</strong> plantation<br />

labor. The allure <strong>of</strong> a promise <strong>of</strong> freedom also entailed<br />

upward mobility, dignity, prestige and a chance to prove<br />

one’s manhood and to receive awards that would impress<br />

one’s peers as well as white authorities.”<br />

In <strong>the</strong> brutal, unforgiving world during Brown’s time,<br />

<strong>the</strong> enslaved leveraged and took advantage <strong>of</strong> cracks<br />

in <strong>the</strong> system <strong>of</strong> oppression to improve <strong>the</strong>ir lot. While<br />

a full-on slave revolt was at times a possibility, it also<br />

entailed a risk <strong>of</strong> failure, followed by more oppressive<br />

servitude or death. That risk had to be weighed against<br />

sporadic opportunities to gain privileges, status and<br />

capital, even if short <strong>of</strong> freedom. In fact, many enslavers<br />

dolled out concessions to split slave societies into hierarchies<br />

as a way to divide and conquer.<br />

1<br />

Merchant vessels could also sail through <strong>the</strong> shallower Caicos<br />

Bank to <strong>the</strong> south and unload cargo onto smaller skiffs in Five<br />

Cays or near Bellefield Landing in North Caicos. But <strong>the</strong> Loyalists<br />

did not deem <strong>the</strong>se locations as worth defending with a fort.<br />

TWATIMES_Layout 1 2/16/17 7:49 AM Page 1<br />

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<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 55

Brown, perhaps in part due to his experience in<br />

forming alliances with Indians on <strong>the</strong> American frontier,<br />

more capably straddled <strong>the</strong> gray space <strong>of</strong> bondage and<br />

“bondage with benefits” without having to actually free<br />

<strong>the</strong> people he had enslaved (with a few exceptions). He<br />

undoubtably calculated that by elevating <strong>the</strong> enslaved<br />

to <strong>the</strong> stature <strong>of</strong> armed soldiers he could create incentives<br />

for loyalty and discourage <strong>the</strong> impulse to revolt or<br />

escape. 2<br />

When Brown sailed in search <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> ship that had run<br />

aground <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos, he could easily have tapped a<br />

reservoir <strong>of</strong> enslaved men he may have trained and drilled<br />

at Fort Saint George and whom he could count on.<br />

Pirates on <strong>the</strong> horizon<br />

Brown’s sloops reached <strong>the</strong> wreck around noon. He and<br />

<strong>the</strong> men were excited to see <strong>the</strong> goods still on board and<br />

largely undamaged. But <strong>the</strong>y noticed <strong>the</strong> absence <strong>of</strong> crew<br />

members from <strong>the</strong> ship, even though <strong>the</strong> vessel appeared<br />

intact. Their fate, too, is lost to history. Brown and <strong>the</strong><br />

men did not dwell on <strong>the</strong> mystery, for <strong>the</strong>y had work to<br />

do.<br />

Sometime in <strong>the</strong> early afternoon as <strong>the</strong> men unloaded<br />

<strong>the</strong> cargo onto <strong>the</strong> sloops, <strong>the</strong>y spotted a single ship under<br />

full sail larger than <strong>the</strong>ir sloops rounding <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

shoulder <strong>of</strong> West Caicos. The ship may have flown a<br />

British or American flag to signal a friendly vessel, in an<br />

effort to lull <strong>the</strong> Loyalists into complacency. As <strong>the</strong> ship<br />

drew closer, however, <strong>the</strong>y struck a French enemy flag<br />

flying atop <strong>the</strong> mast, forcing an urgent decision: Sail<br />

away with <strong>the</strong> supplies recovered or take on <strong>the</strong> pirates<br />

and maybe keep salvaging what was left on <strong>the</strong> wreck.<br />

Brown implored <strong>the</strong> Loyalists in <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r boats to<br />

stick toge<strong>the</strong>r and fight, arguing that <strong>the</strong>ir five boats<br />

could take on one pirate ship. The Loyalists shouted<br />

back that <strong>the</strong>y had no chance and called for Brown to<br />

make haste and leave with what he had. Brown staunchly<br />

refused. Revealing <strong>the</strong> limits <strong>of</strong> Brown’s clout, <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

Loyalists trimmed <strong>the</strong> sails <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir four sloops and tacked<br />

back toward Providenciales. That left Brown, ever <strong>the</strong><br />

fighter, to face <strong>the</strong> pirates alone with his crew.<br />

The enslaved men in Brown’s boat, seeing <strong>the</strong> odds<br />

stacked against <strong>the</strong>m, also tried to persuade him to<br />

flee with <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs. Brown wouldn’t budge, though,<br />

and ordered <strong>the</strong>m to ready for battle. At this point <strong>the</strong><br />

enslaved may have considered <strong>the</strong> option <strong>of</strong> commandeering<br />

<strong>the</strong> sloop and escaping, which would have been easy<br />

enough. But <strong>the</strong>y understood too that <strong>the</strong>re was really no<br />

place to go where <strong>the</strong>y didn’t risk death by exposure or<br />

capture and far harsher re-enslavement. So <strong>the</strong> enslaved<br />

unlucky enough to be in Brown’s sloop had little choice<br />

but to put <strong>the</strong>ir confidence in Brown’s blustery bravado in<br />

hopes <strong>the</strong>y could survive as <strong>the</strong> pirates closed in on <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

Though fatigued from sailing most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> day and<br />

moving heavy cargo in <strong>the</strong> heat <strong>of</strong> summer, Brown and<br />

<strong>the</strong> men rallied. Adrenaline pumped through <strong>the</strong>ir veins<br />

as <strong>the</strong>y rammed gunpowder and ball tight into <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

cannon. They loaded <strong>the</strong>ir muskets, careful to keep <strong>the</strong><br />

powder dry. In <strong>the</strong> excitement, Brown called for his men<br />

to stay steady, just as he had with his troops back in<br />

Georgia two decades earlier when fighting <strong>the</strong> American<br />

Patriots. Hearts pounding and fortified with ano<strong>the</strong>r slug<br />

<strong>of</strong> rum, <strong>the</strong>y faced down <strong>the</strong> French pirates toge<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

As <strong>the</strong> pirate ship drew closer, Brown and <strong>the</strong> crew<br />

could see it had as many as 10 cannons, all bigger than<br />

<strong>the</strong>irs. The pirate ship fired <strong>the</strong> first cannon volley.<br />

Artillery back <strong>the</strong>n had little accuracy, especially when<br />

fired from a ship, so <strong>the</strong> cannon ball splashed harmlessly<br />

away from <strong>the</strong> boat. Brown fired back to let <strong>the</strong>m know he<br />

wasn’t about to retreat. But his cannon ball fell well short<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> pirate ship, making plainly clear <strong>the</strong> pirate ship’s<br />

greater range.<br />

Brown hoped that his more maneuverable sloop<br />

would have a chance <strong>of</strong> getting close enough to <strong>the</strong> pirate<br />

ship to kill or maim at least enough <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> crew with his<br />

smaller cannon and muskets, even if he could not actually<br />

sink <strong>the</strong> ship. Brown surely attempted, but <strong>the</strong> pirate<br />

ship kept just out <strong>of</strong> range. Each time Brown approached<br />

closer to <strong>the</strong> pirate ship, he only increased <strong>the</strong> accuracy<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> pirate cannons. Tacking back and forth over <strong>the</strong><br />

choppy sea, <strong>the</strong> two ships dueled with cannons and muskets,<br />

trying to get in <strong>the</strong> one shot that would count.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> late afternoon, a pirate cannon ball finally<br />

smashed into Brown’s sloop, injuring two <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> men,<br />

though not mortally. Water rushed in and <strong>the</strong> game was<br />

up. Brown and <strong>the</strong> men strived to stay afloat in <strong>the</strong> choppy<br />

sea as <strong>the</strong>y made <strong>the</strong>ir way toward <strong>the</strong> West Caicos shore<br />

<strong>the</strong>y could see in <strong>the</strong> distance.<br />

2<br />

Brown and <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r Loyalists experienced few if any slave escapes largely because <strong>the</strong>re was no place for <strong>the</strong>m to safely flee. Only<br />

after 1804 when <strong>the</strong> Haitian Revolution succeeded and welcomed escaped slaves did <strong>the</strong> enslaved <strong>of</strong> TCI have a nearby sanctuary<br />

to which <strong>the</strong>y could sail to freedom. In fact, <strong>the</strong>re were so many TCI slaves escaping that enslavers eventually formed a local coast<br />

guard to discourage and capture <strong>the</strong>m. But this possibility for escape was only available well after Brown’s 1802 departure from<br />

North Caicos.<br />

56 www.timespub.tc

Finding <strong>the</strong> cannon<br />

We only have two contemporary accounts <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> battle.<br />

The first is a letter from Brown to his fa<strong>the</strong>r in Whitby<br />

dated August 8, 1798 in which he cites <strong>the</strong> clash and says<br />

that he was so proud <strong>of</strong> his men that he did not mind <strong>the</strong><br />

loss <strong>of</strong> his goods.<br />

The second is a publication in <strong>the</strong> Bahamas Gazette<br />

on August 21, 1798 that Pr<strong>of</strong>essor Cashin summarizes in<br />

The King’s Ranger:<br />

“A ship bound for Grand Caicos was wrecked on<br />

nearby West Caicos. Brown and o<strong>the</strong>r planters sent<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir boats to retrieve goods belonging to <strong>the</strong>m. As<br />

<strong>the</strong> supplies were being transferred into <strong>the</strong> small<br />

boats, a French privateer came up under full sail. Four<br />

vessels made a run for it, but Brown’s men decided<br />

to fight for possession <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wrecked ship. The<br />

all-Black crew was armed with only a two-pounder<br />

cannon and muskets, but <strong>the</strong>y drove <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> French<br />

repeatedly. The heavier armed privateer stayed out <strong>of</strong><br />

range <strong>of</strong> Brown’s defenders and used its cannon to<br />

sink Brown’s boat. The valiant crew swam to shore. 3 ”<br />

Based on <strong>the</strong>se contemporary accounts, <strong>the</strong> fluid<br />

nature <strong>of</strong> slavery, and descriptions <strong>of</strong> boats, pirates and<br />

cannons <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> time—all seasoned with a dash <strong>of</strong> imagination—a<br />

narrative can be created, as I have done. But<br />

more concrete evidence could help confirm <strong>the</strong> setting.<br />

For that we had to jump in and see <strong>the</strong> cannon for ourselves.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> rolling sea just a few yards from <strong>the</strong> Bonita<br />

anchor line, we noticed a dark patch surrounded by sand.<br />

Agile and I put on our dive masks and fins to get a better<br />

look. Within minutes Agile cried out, “I found it!” And sure<br />

enough, 10 feet (3 meters) below <strong>the</strong> surface in water<br />

as clear as a window pane, <strong>the</strong> rough shape <strong>of</strong> a cannon<br />

appeared covered in sponges and sea plants. Mark’s<br />

coordinates were spot-on.<br />

Captain Ernesto leaped in as well, and <strong>the</strong> three <strong>of</strong><br />

us took turns free diving down to take pictures and measure<br />

<strong>the</strong> cannon’s length and muzzle width to determine<br />

what we had. Lynn rolled <strong>the</strong> video and took photos from<br />

<strong>the</strong> boat as we barely contained our excitement. A tape<br />

measure showed <strong>the</strong> cannon to be about 5 feet (1.5 m)<br />

in length (adjusted for marine vegetation) with a 3.5<br />

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Pr<strong>of</strong>essor Cashin’s quoted summary differs a bit from <strong>the</strong> actual<br />

article in <strong>the</strong> Gazette that relies on an unsourced “Letter from<br />

Grand Caicos.” The Gazette recounts <strong>the</strong> pirate attack on <strong>the</strong><br />

Loyalist sloops near West Caicos, but <strong>the</strong> battle descriptions are<br />

questionable and <strong>the</strong> story is incomplete. I’m using Pr<strong>of</strong>essor<br />

Cashin’s summary that gives a clearer picture.<br />

p.o.box 21, providenciales, turks & caicos is.<br />

tel.: 9464440 cell: 2314569 email: redmond@tciway.tc<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 57


This summer, a crew <strong>of</strong> residents in <strong>the</strong> MV Bonita followed Thomas<br />

Brown’s possible route to West Caicos and searched for <strong>the</strong> cannon<br />

that may have been used in Brown’s skirmish with pirates.


Article author Ben Stubenberg freedives to <strong>the</strong> cannon found by following Mark Woodring’s coordinates <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos. Note <strong>the</strong> large field<br />

<strong>of</strong> ballast stones appearing in <strong>the</strong> shape <strong>of</strong> a boat at <strong>the</strong> top <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> photo.<br />

inch (9 cm) muzzle, which would be consistent with a<br />

six-pounder. But just whose cannon did we find? The sixpounder<br />

(based on <strong>the</strong> weight <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> projectile it fired)<br />

could have fit on Brown’s sloop, but <strong>the</strong> Gazette letter<br />

and Pr<strong>of</strong>essor Cashin’s summary noted a much smaller<br />

two-pounder.<br />

Right next to <strong>the</strong> cannon, a large field <strong>of</strong> ballast<br />

stones appeared in <strong>the</strong> shape <strong>of</strong> a boat that looked to be<br />

about 40 feet long and at least 15 feet wide. That would<br />

have been just big enough to be a small ocean-going vessel,<br />

but could also have been a large local sloop. The<br />

stones <strong>the</strong>mselves, however, were granite, which would<br />

probably not have been used in local TCI sloops since this<br />

type <strong>of</strong> rock is not found here. Could <strong>the</strong> cannon and remnants<br />

be from <strong>the</strong> Rhode Island vessel with <strong>the</strong> supplies<br />

Brown and his men wanted to recover?<br />

It’s not clear what sank this boat. The cannon and<br />

remnants <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wreck were about 1/2 mile (800 m) from<br />

<strong>the</strong> reef, well past <strong>the</strong> narrow channel <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

end <strong>of</strong> West Caicos that ships used for transit. It might<br />

have hit a coral head that ripped a gash in <strong>the</strong> hull, causing<br />

it to take in water. Or <strong>the</strong> ship may simply have gotten<br />

stuck in <strong>the</strong> sand on a shallow bank. In ei<strong>the</strong>r case, <strong>the</strong><br />

deck could have been above <strong>the</strong> waterline, thus preserving<br />

<strong>the</strong> cargo for salvage. The waters around TCI are<br />

replete with ships wrecking on <strong>the</strong> reef or a sandbar,<br />

some visible above <strong>the</strong> surface today.<br />

A more intriguing possibility is that <strong>the</strong> vessel was<br />

sunk by pirates who left <strong>the</strong> boat half submerged as bait<br />

for <strong>the</strong> salvage sloops sure to come looking for it, as in<br />

fact happened. If <strong>the</strong> pirates anchored <strong>the</strong>ir boat on <strong>the</strong><br />

calmer lee (west) side <strong>of</strong> West Caicos, <strong>the</strong>y could remain<br />

hidden. Then from <strong>the</strong> hills on West Caicos, <strong>the</strong> pirates<br />

would have a good vantage point to see any boats heading<br />

from <strong>the</strong> Caicos Bank south <strong>of</strong> Providenciales and<br />

prepare to attack <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

60 www.timespub.tc

Pr<strong>of</strong>essor Cashin’s summary and <strong>the</strong> original Gazette<br />

report stated that <strong>the</strong> men swam to shore after <strong>the</strong> boat<br />

sank, but it’s not clear where <strong>the</strong>y ended up. As an open<br />

water swimmer in TCI, I am familiar with <strong>the</strong> currents<br />

around <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> and <strong>the</strong> challenges <strong>the</strong>y present. From<br />

where we found <strong>the</strong> cannon, <strong>the</strong> shore <strong>of</strong> West Caicos<br />

is about 2 miles (3.2 km) away. Swimming that distance<br />

requires some training, something we can be fairly sure<br />

Brown and his men didn’t have, even if <strong>the</strong>y knew how<br />

to swim. Moreover, <strong>the</strong>y would have been fatigued from<br />

unloading supplies followed by an afternoon gun battle.<br />

However, from our spot, a strong sou<strong>the</strong>ast to northwest<br />

current pushed <strong>the</strong> water towards <strong>the</strong> eastern shore<br />

<strong>of</strong> West Caicos. So assuming <strong>the</strong> pirates sank Brown’s<br />

sloop in <strong>the</strong> vicinity <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wreck we found, it is quite<br />

possible <strong>the</strong> men made it to <strong>the</strong> beach this far out without<br />

actually having to swim <strong>the</strong> whole way. If <strong>the</strong>y clung to<br />

something floatable, <strong>the</strong>y could have just drifted to <strong>the</strong><br />

shore. Had Brown’s boat been sunk in any o<strong>the</strong>r location<br />

<strong>of</strong>f West Caicos close to a reef, such as <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> north tip <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> island, he and <strong>the</strong> crew would have likely been swept<br />

out to sea.<br />

To be sure, <strong>the</strong> assessments made are far from conclusive.<br />

The contemporary accounts <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> attack, even<br />

with questionable descriptions and crucial omissions, at<br />

least confirm a battle with pirates <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos. We<br />

don’t know if <strong>the</strong> cannon and remnants <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wreck we<br />

found were from <strong>the</strong> Rhode Island vessel <strong>the</strong> Loyalists salvaged.<br />

However, <strong>the</strong> location and size <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> ship based<br />

on ballast stones suggest that possibility. When taken<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r with <strong>the</strong> prevailing current that Brown and his<br />

men would have relied on to get to shore after <strong>the</strong>ir sloop<br />

was sunk, a plausible case can be made that <strong>the</strong> windward<br />

side <strong>of</strong> West Caicos was <strong>the</strong> scene <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> battle.<br />

We need to go back to collect additional evidence<br />

from this cannon and wreck, as well as do a larger search<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> area for o<strong>the</strong>r cannons and wreckages. If we are<br />

lucky enough to find Brown’s sloop and cannon, we could<br />

make <strong>the</strong> case with a high level <strong>of</strong> confidence.<br />

Questions for Brown from <strong>the</strong> 21st century<br />

Let’s start by asking what in <strong>the</strong> world propelled Brown<br />

to risk his life to take on <strong>the</strong> pirates just to secure a few<br />

more supplies from <strong>the</strong> Rhode Island wreck? If he only<br />

carried a couple <strong>of</strong> two-pounder cannons, he had almost<br />

no chance <strong>of</strong> succeeding against a ship with bigger guns<br />

with more range. Even if he had a larger six-pounder<br />

cannon (which seems more likely if he truly believed he<br />

might encounter pirates), he still would have been at a<br />

From left: Ben Stubenberg, Agile LeVin and Captain Ernesto Von Der<br />

Esch review <strong>the</strong> nautical chart to try to determine if <strong>the</strong> wreck <strong>the</strong>y<br />

found could have been Brown’s sloop.<br />

significant disadvantage. Perhaps he wanted to relive <strong>the</strong><br />

thrill <strong>of</strong> battle again, a hero who refuses to turn and run,<br />

even though he had nothing to prove. Or maybe he really<br />

did think he could get <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> crucial shot that would<br />

cause <strong>the</strong> pirates to cut and run—though foolhardy, as<br />

<strong>the</strong> outcome shows. He could have escaped with honor<br />

and most supplies to fight ano<strong>the</strong>r day.<br />

What happened after Brown and <strong>the</strong> enslaved men<br />

were stranded on West Caicos, and how were <strong>the</strong>y rescued?<br />

That is itself a compelling story. How long did <strong>the</strong>y<br />

go without food or water? Did <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r Loyalists return<br />

to get <strong>the</strong>m even though it could have entailed ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

confrontation with pirates? If so, was Brown grateful or<br />

did he chastise his Loyalist rescuers with sharp words for<br />

fleeing when he stayed to fight?<br />

What <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> ship from Rhode Island? How did <strong>the</strong><br />

Loyalists get word that it had wrecked? If <strong>the</strong> ship’s<br />

supplies were intended for <strong>the</strong> North Caicos Loyalists,<br />

why was it attempting to negotiate <strong>the</strong> narrow passage<br />

between Southwest Reef and <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>ast coast <strong>of</strong> West<br />

Caicos instead <strong>of</strong> sailing to Fort Saint George? Perhaps it<br />

was trying to reach <strong>the</strong> Caicos Banks and Gussy’s Cove on<br />

Providenciales, but clearly something went terribly wrong.<br />

Perhaps it was a navigation error, perhaps a storm, perhaps<br />

a cannon ball from pirates. But if <strong>the</strong> ship was in fact<br />

intending to deliver supplies in Providenciales, that would<br />

call into question who really owned <strong>the</strong> supplies on <strong>the</strong><br />

ship.<br />

Finally, what happened to <strong>the</strong> pirate ship that had<br />

sunk Brown’s sloop? Did <strong>the</strong> pirate ship launch smaller<br />

tenders armed with cannons to chase down Brown along<br />


<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 61

<strong>the</strong> reef over shallow water? Did it try to recover <strong>the</strong> supplies<br />

still on <strong>the</strong> wreck? After a lengthy battle and taking<br />

some risk, <strong>the</strong> pirates would probably want to recover<br />

some booty for <strong>the</strong>ir efforts ra<strong>the</strong>r than just sail away.<br />

Brown’s choice<br />

Most noteworthy is <strong>the</strong> undaunted courage <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> men in<br />

battle, as indicated in Brown’s prideful letter to his fa<strong>the</strong>r<br />

and <strong>the</strong> Gazette account. The crew may even have saved<br />

Brown after his imprudent brawl with <strong>the</strong> better armed<br />

pirates, though <strong>the</strong>y surely fought to survive and save<br />

<strong>the</strong>mselves first.<br />

In an astonishing twist <strong>of</strong> irony, <strong>the</strong> pirate ship <strong>the</strong>y<br />

encountered may well have included escaped slaves.<br />

Indeed, former slaves sometimes made up as much as<br />

1/4 <strong>of</strong> a pirate ship’s crew. On board, <strong>the</strong>se men instantly<br />

went from bondage to liberation with <strong>the</strong> same claim to<br />

a share <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> booty and a vote in <strong>the</strong> election <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

ship’s captain as <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> crew. Many pirate ships<br />

practiced this early form <strong>of</strong> democracy decades before<br />

citizens <strong>of</strong> imperial regimes acquired anything resembling<br />

equal rights.<br />

It is entirely possible that Brown’s crew, caught up in<br />

his reckless showdown, were in fact battling free men who<br />

were recently enslaved like <strong>the</strong>m. On occasion, pirates<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Caribbean would deliberately put Black pirates<br />

prominently on deck brandishing weapons to intimidate<br />

merchant vessels <strong>the</strong>y intended to attack. If <strong>the</strong> pirates<br />

attacking Brown’s sloops did this, <strong>the</strong>y <strong>the</strong>y could have<br />

been quite visible to Brown’s Black crew in <strong>the</strong> course <strong>of</strong><br />

battle. We’ll never know if <strong>the</strong>y actually saw each o<strong>the</strong>r or<br />

if <strong>the</strong>y reflected on <strong>the</strong>ir respective fates in <strong>the</strong> moment.<br />

But it is fascinating to speculate, as it adds ano<strong>the</strong>r layer<br />

to <strong>the</strong> tangled, intriguing history <strong>of</strong> our <strong>Islands</strong>.<br />

Though Brown clearly admired his men’s performance,<br />

he still could not muster <strong>the</strong> courage to see <strong>the</strong>m<br />

as fellow human beings deserving <strong>of</strong> freedom. Standing<br />

shoulder to shoulder as cannon and musket balls and<br />

grape shot whizzed past <strong>the</strong>ir heads was not enough to<br />

crack Brown’s conviction that <strong>the</strong> men risking <strong>the</strong>ir lives<br />

for him were still his property. And that is <strong>the</strong> saddest<br />

part <strong>of</strong> this tale.<br />

Thanks to influential contacts in England, Brown<br />

would be granted a large tract <strong>of</strong> fertile land on St. Vincent<br />

to cultivate sugar cane. In 1802 he began moving those<br />

he had enslaved (he says 623, but I believe that number<br />

to be vastly overstated) from North Caicos to St. Vincent.<br />

“Black Caribs,” a cultural and racial mix <strong>of</strong> Carib Indians<br />

and shipwrecked slaves from Africa, already inhabited <strong>the</strong><br />

This oil painting depicts <strong>the</strong> “Black Caribs” who lived on St. Vincent<br />

when Thomas Brown was granted land <strong>the</strong>re to cultivate sugar cane.<br />

land Brown had been granted. But that is ano<strong>the</strong>r story<br />

for ano<strong>the</strong>r time. Suffice to say that <strong>the</strong> Black Carib values<br />

<strong>of</strong> acceptance and integration were lost on <strong>the</strong> planters<br />

who took over. Brown died <strong>the</strong>re in 1825 at <strong>the</strong> age <strong>of</strong><br />

75 without freeing any <strong>of</strong> those he had enslaved, except<br />

maybe for one or two who may have been his <strong>of</strong>fspring,<br />

which itself is telling.<br />

History passes judgment on how we handle <strong>the</strong><br />

challenges handed us by fate. But <strong>the</strong> light glares more<br />

harshly on those with means and privilege because <strong>the</strong>y<br />

have <strong>the</strong> power to change <strong>the</strong> lives <strong>of</strong> those who have<br />

none. In <strong>the</strong> end, Brown is both hero and anti-hero <strong>of</strong><br />

his own story. His audacious bravery, force <strong>of</strong> character<br />

and defiance <strong>of</strong> convention remain undisputed. But on<br />

that searing summer afternoon <strong>of</strong>f West Caicos, when <strong>the</strong><br />

enslaved men in <strong>the</strong> stout sloop stood tall for Brown, he<br />

chose to keep <strong>the</strong>m captive. And for that he must be held<br />

to account, even centuries later. a<br />

Ben Stubenberg (bluewaterben@gmail.com) is a contributing<br />

writer to <strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> and a popular story<br />

teller about pirates in TCI. He is <strong>the</strong> co-founder <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> TCI<br />

swim and tour adventure company, Caicu Naniki, and <strong>the</strong><br />

annual “Race for <strong>the</strong> Conch” Eco-SeaSwim.<br />


62 www.timespub.tc


usiness<br />

Opposite page: Ano<strong>the</strong>r lovely sunset <strong>of</strong>f Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales reflects <strong>the</strong> “gold standard” <strong>of</strong> beauty found throughout <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>Islands</strong>.<br />

Above: The view over Long Bay from this three bedroom/four bathroom penthouse at The Shore Club encompasses 70 linear feet <strong>of</strong> oceanfront,<br />

and exemplifies <strong>the</strong> luxury and expansive living to be found in properties available throughout <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos.<br />


Striving for Gold<br />

The TCI’s “gold standard” continues to attract investors.<br />

By Kathy Borsuk<br />

Although <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> are not able to participate in <strong>the</strong> Olympics, <strong>the</strong> country has earned<br />

a gold medal for its superb handling <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> COVID-19 pandemic. It has also broken records in real estate<br />

sales since <strong>the</strong> border’s reopening a little over a year ago. Both efforts go hand in hand—because <strong>the</strong> TCI<br />

is seen as a beautiful, healthy, peaceful place to live, it is attracting people from around <strong>the</strong> world who<br />

are looking for a safe haven in which to retire or have a second home.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 65

Response to COVID is gold standard<br />

Following a four-month shutdown on March 23, 2020,<br />

<strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> reopened <strong>the</strong> border on July<br />

22, 2020. Many herald <strong>the</strong> country’s COVID-19 mitigation<br />

plan as among <strong>the</strong> best in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean. Initial lockdown<br />

restrictions for residents were strict. Over time, local<br />

businesses were cautiously reopened with capacity limitations<br />

and enforcement <strong>of</strong> masks and hand-sanitizing.<br />

When it came time to re-welcome visitors, <strong>the</strong> TCI<br />

Government thoughtfully established entry protocols<br />

designed to strike a balance between mitigating risk<br />

while not discouraging travellers. The TCI Assured portal,<br />

available on (www.turksandcaicostourism.com), handles<br />

<strong>the</strong> issuance <strong>of</strong> travel authorization certificates with<br />

speed and agility. Initial requirements included a negative<br />

COVID-19 PCR test result taken within five days <strong>of</strong> travel<br />

along with medical/travel insurance that covers medevac.<br />

As visitor arrivals increased, COVID-19 cases surged<br />

at times. The government responded by increasing restrictions<br />

internally as needed to help curb local transmission<br />

while still allowing tourists to come to <strong>the</strong> country.<br />

By <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> March <strong>2021</strong>, over 47,000 doses <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Pfizer-BioNTech and 300 doses <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> AstraZeneca<br />

vaccines had been shipped to <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> and disseminated.<br />

At press time (late August <strong>2021</strong>), it’s estimated<br />

that approximately 67% <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> adult TCI population is<br />

vaccinated, with <strong>the</strong> goal <strong>of</strong> vaccinating 75%.<br />

On July 4, <strong>2021</strong>, <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos celebrated <strong>the</strong><br />

milestone <strong>of</strong> being able to report zero active COVID cases<br />

for <strong>the</strong> first time in about one year. Shortly afterwards,<br />

a third wave <strong>of</strong> cases billowed, with most coming into<br />

<strong>the</strong> territory from international guests. After careful consideration,<br />

<strong>the</strong> TCI Government determined that as <strong>of</strong><br />

September 1, <strong>2021</strong>, all visitors ages 16 and above must<br />

be fully vaccinated and provide a negative PCR or antigen<br />

COVID-19 test taken within three days <strong>of</strong> travel. In<br />

explaining <strong>the</strong> rationale behind this decision, Minister <strong>of</strong><br />

Health Hon. Jamell Robinson states, “90 <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 133 persons<br />

tested positive from early July to date (August 12)<br />

were tourists, so we know we have to put measures in<br />

place to deal with that . . . we can market TCI as a vaccination-only<br />

destination, which is a safer choice for holiday<br />

makers.”<br />

At <strong>the</strong> same time, <strong>the</strong> Royal Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong><br />

Police Force is operating a special COVID enforcement<br />

Task Force team. Its focus is on social events and large<br />

ga<strong>the</strong>rings <strong>of</strong> liquor-licensed premises and o<strong>the</strong>r businesses.<br />

They also strongly enforce <strong>the</strong> current curfew<br />

period between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM as well as social<br />

distancing and masking rules, issuing tickets for breaches<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> regulations.<br />

Real estate sales are breaking all records<br />

Turquoise waters, ivory-toned beaches and sparkling<br />

sunlight all make <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> among <strong>the</strong><br />

most “Beautiful by Nature” places in <strong>the</strong> world. At <strong>the</strong><br />

same time, <strong>the</strong> country is not as developed as most in<br />

<strong>the</strong> Caribbean, still affording purchasers <strong>of</strong> real estate<br />

<strong>the</strong> space, privacy and ability to realize <strong>the</strong>ir own dream.<br />

The Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association (TCREA) is<br />

a group <strong>of</strong> 15 independent real estate agencies who work<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r under a managed Multiple Listing System (MLS)<br />

accessed at www.tcrea.com. The industry compiles and<br />

reports detailed statistics and <strong>the</strong> most recent continue<br />

to break all records.<br />

The second quarter <strong>of</strong> <strong>2021</strong> again soared to never-before-seen<br />

levels. In fact, <strong>the</strong> first half <strong>of</strong> <strong>2021</strong> closed out<br />

with a staggering $328 million in sales volume, a figure<br />

that is typically <strong>the</strong> annual sales volume in a very strong<br />

year! Compounding this is an average price increase <strong>of</strong><br />

26%, with all segments <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> market contributing to this<br />

incredible spike in sales.<br />

According to The Agency Turks & Caicos, <strong>the</strong> single<br />

biggest driver in recorded sales in <strong>the</strong> second quarter<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>2021</strong> is land—with beachfront at a premium. TCREA<br />

reports for <strong>the</strong> first half <strong>of</strong> <strong>2021</strong>, 105 parcels sold at an<br />

average price <strong>of</strong> $540,000, a 46% rise in sales volume.<br />

The single-family homes market is hot, as well. Rental<br />

revenues are strong and <strong>the</strong> number <strong>of</strong> homes coming<br />

to market is not close to meeting demand. According to<br />

The Agency, “Purchasers retain a strong demand for preconstruction<br />

development properties where <strong>the</strong> certainty<br />

<strong>of</strong> cost and quality are set.” To date in <strong>2021</strong>, single-family<br />

homes sales volume increased 127%, with 82 sold at<br />

an average price <strong>of</strong> $2.3 million. Among <strong>the</strong> top sales<br />

in this market were Turtle Tail Estate at $20.25 million,<br />

Villa Salacia at $16 million and Casa Tremer at nearly $8<br />

million.<br />

The condominium market re-established itself in <strong>the</strong><br />

second quarter <strong>of</strong> <strong>2021</strong>, driven by <strong>the</strong> luxury sector. For<br />

<strong>2021</strong>, a total <strong>of</strong> 69 condominiums sold at an average<br />

price <strong>of</strong> $1.023 million, a 153% rise in sales volume.<br />

Among <strong>the</strong> top sales was The Estate at Grace Bay Club<br />

unit G504 at $5 million.<br />

As <strong>2021</strong> moves forward, <strong>the</strong> performance is expected<br />

to continue as new projects enter <strong>the</strong> marketplace. The<br />

long-anticipated Grand Opening <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Ritz-Carlton<br />

Residences—located in <strong>the</strong> heart <strong>of</strong> Grace Bay—took place<br />

66 www.timespub.tc

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on June 22. Amenities include a Club Lounge, casino,<br />

adults-only pool with private cabanas and access to <strong>the</strong><br />

resort’s private catamaran. There’s also a signature Ritz-<br />

Carlton spa and kids program. Dining concepts include<br />

Coralli, a locally-inspired eatery and BLT Steak, part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

world-renowned steakhouse chain.<br />

Rock House Resort is on target to open in December<br />

<strong>2021</strong>. Buyers at <strong>the</strong> luxurious cliffside development<br />

receive an added perk—becoming members <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> exclusive<br />

Beach Club at Rock House. It will <strong>of</strong>fer owners access<br />

to a private beach and its fully serviced jetty, complete<br />

with luxurious daybeds and chic parasols; world-class<br />

dining at <strong>the</strong> club’s oceanfront restaurant; private excursions<br />

including diving, fishing and snorkeling trips; and<br />

access to <strong>the</strong> white sand beaches at sister properties<br />

Grace Bay Club and West Bay Club.<br />

South Bank is a new residential resort and marina<br />

community on <strong>the</strong> south side <strong>of</strong> Providenciales. Each<br />

neighborhood and lot <strong>of</strong>fers a unique relationship with<br />

<strong>the</strong> water, designed for boating enthusiasts and watersports<br />

lovers. South Bank has so many villas and <strong>the</strong><br />

Boathouses foundation work under construction, and<br />

so many sales forthcoming, that it has actually halted<br />

new sales for a time to “catch up.” In fact, 60% <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Boathouses are now sold, <strong>the</strong> Lagoon neighborhood is<br />

fully sold out and over 60% <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Ocean Estate villas are<br />

sold out, with only one or two <strong>of</strong> each design remaining.<br />

The Strand is TCI’s newest residential resort community<br />

overlooking <strong>the</strong> sapphire waters <strong>of</strong> Cooper Jack Bay.<br />

This property features dramatic vistas with an array <strong>of</strong><br />

custom oceanfront residences, all with access to shared<br />

community amenities. The project is completing its first<br />

sales and getting closer to construction start.<br />

Just launched is The Sanctuary, a private collection<br />

<strong>of</strong> estate residences combining a sensitive lakefront<br />

architecture with progressive building technology. Its<br />

location on <strong>the</strong> peninsula overlooking Providenciales’<br />

Flamingo Lake is a natural habitat where flamingos can<br />

occasionally be found. Community amenities include a<br />

pickleball court, yoga pavilion, outdoor workspace, firepit<br />

amphi<strong>the</strong>ater, electric vehicle charging station and<br />

non-motorized watersports.<br />

Frontier Airlines anticipates <strong>the</strong> launch <strong>of</strong> weekly<br />

Friday service from Orlando to Providenciales. This opens<br />

up an important gateway to major US cities and more<br />

competitive pricing. Looking to <strong>the</strong> future, <strong>the</strong> Turks &<br />

Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> continue to maintain <strong>the</strong>ir “gold standard”<br />

as a global luxury and tourism brand. a<br />

68 www.timespub.tc

astrolabe<br />

newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum<br />

Front Street, PO Box 188, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>, BWI TKCA 1ZZ<br />

tel 649 247 2160/US incoming 786 220 1159 • email info@tcmuseum.org • web www.tcmuseum.org<br />


Thank You!<br />

The departure <strong>of</strong> our former director, Dr. Michael Pateman, and <strong>the</strong> outcome <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> COVID-19 pandemic<br />

have left me as <strong>the</strong> sole employee <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum. I have <strong>the</strong> responsibility <strong>of</strong><br />

running many aspects <strong>of</strong> both locations—Grand Turk and Providenciales. The only way I am able to do<br />

this is with <strong>the</strong> assistance <strong>of</strong> a dedicated group <strong>of</strong> enthusiastic volunteers who are committed to <strong>the</strong><br />

museum’s future success. They lend <strong>the</strong>ir time and ideas to assist us in remaining open and continuing<br />

with progress.<br />

Starting in 2019, Grand Turk volunteers were assisting with updating our collection database. This<br />

s<strong>of</strong>tware allows us to catalog all items in our collections including photographs, artifacts, and library and<br />

archived material. While <strong>the</strong> database, PastPerfect, had information about various objects, photographs<br />

were not attached. Volunteers’ efforts before and during <strong>the</strong> pandemic have made major progress and<br />

more than 90% <strong>of</strong> our photograph records are now complete.<br />

Now that some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, <strong>the</strong> museum and gift shop on Grand Turk have<br />

reopened; <strong>the</strong> Providenciales location is open with volunteers operating <strong>the</strong> museum, Heritage House<br />

and Heritage Garden. Several <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m have a special interest in <strong>the</strong> garden and <strong>the</strong>ir efforts are apparent.<br />

Without <strong>the</strong>se volunteers—who <strong>of</strong>ten go over and above what is expected <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m—we would not have<br />

been able to re-open <strong>the</strong> Providenciales location at this time.<br />

The Turks & Caicos National Museum Board is also all volunteers, including President Seamus Day,<br />

who assists me <strong>of</strong>ten. We have board members and directors with experience in a wide range <strong>of</strong> businesses<br />

and specialty areas <strong>of</strong> knowledge. Many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m have been involved since <strong>the</strong> museum’s inception.<br />

Thank you to everyone who has continued to support us over <strong>the</strong> years and especially during <strong>the</strong>se<br />

difficult times. We cannot say it <strong>of</strong>ten enough that our supporters and volunteers are <strong>the</strong> reason for our<br />

success and ability to carry on. If you are interested in volunteering or have an artistic, historic or cultural<br />

research question or article you would like to submit to Astrolabe, contact us at info@tcmuseum.org.a<br />

Lisa Turnbow-Talbot, Museum Manager<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 69

astrolabe newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum<br />


Two Turks & Caicos historians have gone to great lengths to promote <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>ory that Christopher Columbus’ first landfall in <strong>the</strong> “New World”<br />

was on Grand Turk.<br />

Small Island, Big History<br />

Grand Turk is an island <strong>of</strong> historical importance.<br />

By Dr. Carlton Mills and Debby-Lee Mills<br />

It has been commonly taught that Christopher Columbus’ first landfall in <strong>the</strong> “New World” was San<br />

Salvador in <strong>the</strong> Bahamas. In recent years, this <strong>the</strong>ory has been challenged by two Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong><br />

historians, <strong>the</strong> late H.E. Sadler and Josiah Marvel. These historians promoted <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>ory that Columbus’<br />

first landfall was Grand Turk in <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>.<br />

The late Josiah Marvel started his research in this area in <strong>the</strong> mid-1980s. Bolstered by his dear friend<br />

Tim Ainley, who accompanied him on his expedition, <strong>the</strong>y took <strong>the</strong>ir 43 foot catamaran and proceeded<br />

to retrace <strong>the</strong> first landfall made by Christopher Columbus on Grand Turk. According to Dave Calvert,<br />

<strong>the</strong> author <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> article, “Sailing <strong>the</strong> Caribbean in <strong>the</strong> Wake <strong>of</strong> Christopher Columbus,” <strong>the</strong> purpose <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> expedition was to retrace Marvel’s purported route on a sailing vessel to confirm distances, courses<br />

and descriptions <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> various islands as recorded by <strong>the</strong> famed admiral in <strong>the</strong> Diario <strong>of</strong> Christopher<br />

Columbus.<br />

70 www.timespub.tc

astrolabe newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum<br />

Columbus also recorded in his diary that when he<br />

made landfall, he encountered Indians on <strong>the</strong> island. Over<br />

<strong>the</strong> years, an argument arose as to whe<strong>the</strong>r or not <strong>the</strong>re<br />

is evidence to substantiate that <strong>the</strong>re were Indians in <strong>the</strong><br />

Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> at <strong>the</strong> time.<br />

In short, <strong>the</strong> following details tend to suggest that<br />

<strong>the</strong>re is strong evidence <strong>of</strong> Taíno/Lucayan presence in<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>. It commenced with Theodore De Booy (1912)<br />

when he obtained exquisite examples <strong>of</strong> Taíno art. Later<br />

on, archaeologist Dr. Shaun Sullivan devoted two years <strong>of</strong><br />

dedicated work to surveys and excavations in <strong>the</strong> Caicos<br />

<strong>Islands</strong> in an effort to track <strong>the</strong> Taíno colonization. He<br />

re-discovered forty Taíno sites; all but five were on Middle<br />

Caicos.<br />

In 1989, while attending a conference at which<br />

Robert Power and Josiah Marvel presented <strong>the</strong>ir case for<br />

Grand Turk as <strong>the</strong> first landfall <strong>of</strong> Columbus, Dr. Donald<br />

Keith found two Taíno sites on Grand Turk. This was <strong>the</strong><br />

beginning <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Taíno story on that island as an article in<br />

<strong>the</strong> Summer 1995 issue <strong>of</strong> <strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>, “History<br />

begins on Grand Turk,” suggests. Fur<strong>the</strong>r evidence also<br />

revealed that within a half century <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> European colonization<br />

efforts through conquest, degradation and<br />

extermination, this group <strong>of</strong> people were decimated<br />

through <strong>the</strong> imposition <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Spanish Encomienda<br />

System (<strong>the</strong>ir forced labour policy), inhumane treatment<br />

and <strong>the</strong> ingress <strong>of</strong> diseases by <strong>the</strong> Europeans which <strong>the</strong><br />

Taíno people were not immune to.<br />

Following <strong>the</strong> demise <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Taíno population, <strong>the</strong><br />

next main settlement attempt in Grand Turk was by <strong>the</strong><br />

Bermudians in 1678. The Bermudians first came to <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>Islands</strong> on a temporary basis to harvest salt. While <strong>the</strong>y<br />

waited on <strong>the</strong> process to take place, <strong>the</strong>y used <strong>the</strong>ir time<br />

to salvage wrecked ships and fish for turtles. In time,<br />

salt became a very lucrative business which encouraged<br />

<strong>the</strong>m to establish a permanent settlement on <strong>the</strong><br />

island. Remnants <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> old salt ponds on Grand Turk<br />

tell this story. The island still retains aspects <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> old<br />

colonial British-Bermudian heritage through its buildings,<br />

street designs and family names—in particular Astwood,<br />

Butterfield, Dean, Durham, Frith, Seymour and Taylor.<br />

Salt made Grand Turk a vitally important artery<br />

linking this small island (whe<strong>the</strong>r directly or indirectly)<br />

with several global partners including <strong>the</strong> USA, Canada,<br />

England and neighboring Caribbean countries, in particular<br />

Jamaica and Barbados. It was <strong>the</strong> salt from Grand Turk<br />

that was shipped to Newfoundland in Canada to make<br />

“salt cod” that was <strong>the</strong>n sold to <strong>the</strong> slave plantation owners<br />

in <strong>the</strong>se Caribbean countries as <strong>the</strong> main food for<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir slaves. As <strong>the</strong> salt trade expanded, it resulted in<br />

Grand Turk being declared <strong>the</strong> first port <strong>of</strong> entry in <strong>the</strong><br />

Turks & Caicos, with custom <strong>of</strong>ficials present to collect<br />

<strong>the</strong> revenue that was being generated from its sales.<br />

By 1681, salt was not only a thriving business but<br />

because <strong>of</strong> demand, it acquired <strong>the</strong> popular name “White<br />

Gold.” This flourishing business also saw <strong>the</strong> Bermudians<br />

establish Cockburn Town in Grand Turk as <strong>the</strong> capital<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> island. It was named after Sir Francis Cockburn,<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>n-governor <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Bahamas. Cockburn Town was a<br />

small Bermudian coastal settlement on <strong>the</strong> western side<br />

<strong>of</strong> Grand Turk, now <strong>the</strong> oldest permanent settlement on<br />

<strong>the</strong> island. Its boundaries extended from Duke Street on<br />

<strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn end heading north along Front Street to<br />

where Duke Street merges into Queen Street overlooking<br />

These iconic images <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Grand Turk salt industry feature <strong>the</strong> windmills that pumped sea water through <strong>the</strong> vast salinas and <strong>the</strong> laborers<br />

who toiled to rake <strong>the</strong> salt that dried in <strong>the</strong> hot sun.<br />


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<strong>the</strong> ocean. As <strong>the</strong> town developed into an important commercial<br />

center, several government buildings and <strong>of</strong>fices<br />

were created in <strong>the</strong> vicinity, particularly on Front Street.<br />

Salt was <strong>the</strong> lifeblood <strong>of</strong> Grand Turk. It single-handedly<br />

transformed <strong>the</strong> island into an economic hub.<br />

From as early as <strong>the</strong> 18th century, <strong>the</strong> French showed<br />

interest in <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> because <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>itable<br />

salt trade. At <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Seven Years War in<br />

1764, <strong>the</strong> French Admiral Comte d’ Estainy briefly occupied<br />

Grand Turk. The British did not take kindly to this<br />

aggressive move. They were reluctant to see ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

European power amassing wealth from <strong>the</strong> proceeds <strong>of</strong><br />

salt. In order to stamp <strong>the</strong>ir dominance on <strong>the</strong> island, <strong>the</strong><br />

British made Grand Turk <strong>the</strong> capital in 1766 and introduced<br />

<strong>the</strong> position <strong>of</strong> King’s Agent, with Andrew Symmer<br />

being <strong>the</strong> first to hold this new-found <strong>of</strong>fice. It was also<br />

an attempt by <strong>the</strong> British to maintain a strong physical<br />

governmental presence on <strong>the</strong> island to safeguard all proceeds<br />

from <strong>the</strong> salt trade for <strong>the</strong> British Crown.<br />

The British presence, however, did not deter <strong>the</strong><br />

French. They returned in 1783. This return trip was historical<br />

as it made Grand Turk more famously known for<br />

<strong>the</strong> Battle <strong>of</strong> Grand Turk which transpired on March 9,<br />

1783 during <strong>the</strong> American Revolutionary War. The French<br />

captured <strong>the</strong> Bermudians along with <strong>the</strong>ir salt workers<br />

before proceeding to exercise <strong>the</strong>ir political and military<br />

might over residents in <strong>the</strong> Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>. In response to<br />

<strong>the</strong> actions by <strong>the</strong> French, <strong>the</strong> British deployed a 28-gun<br />

frigate HMS Albermarle with a force <strong>of</strong> 100 men under<br />

<strong>the</strong> command <strong>of</strong> Captain Horatio Nelson. Their mission<br />

was to rescue <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> from <strong>the</strong> French. Unfortunately,<br />

this military mission ended in total failure.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> end, it took diplomatic action by both parties<br />

through <strong>the</strong> Treaty <strong>of</strong> Paris to formally conclude <strong>the</strong> war<br />

after six months. This raid by <strong>the</strong> French caused <strong>the</strong><br />

British to exercise closer oversight <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> island and its<br />

important role in <strong>the</strong> international salt trade.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r important historical feature <strong>of</strong> Grand Turk is<br />

Waterloo, constructed in 1815. It was later purchased by<br />

<strong>the</strong> British Government in 1857, eventually becoming <strong>the</strong><br />

home for <strong>the</strong> British resident governors in <strong>the</strong> territory.<br />

In 1898, <strong>the</strong> first cable was landed on Grand Turk<br />

by Halifax Cable Company, later called Direct West India<br />

Cable Company Limited <strong>of</strong> Canada. This investment made<br />

Grand Turk an important cable station linking <strong>the</strong> island<br />

with <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> world.<br />

These 1965 aerial views <strong>of</strong> Grand Turk show (at top) its capital<br />

Cockburn Town, which includes many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> structures that are standing<br />

today and (at bottom) <strong>the</strong> vast salinas that made <strong>the</strong> salt industry<br />

a thriving business for many years.<br />

Built in 1815, Waterloo served for many years as <strong>the</strong> residence for<br />

British governors in <strong>the</strong> territory. Ironically, in 1975 members <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Junkanoo Club marched on Waterloo to demand social, economic and<br />

political reform. Their protest secured a new constitution and <strong>the</strong><br />

start <strong>of</strong> TCI ministerial government in 1976.<br />

In 1921, <strong>the</strong> first high school was opened in Grand<br />

Turk providing secondary education for students on all<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>. This was in addition to <strong>the</strong><br />


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astrolabe newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum<br />

two government primary schools that were already operational<br />

in <strong>the</strong> island.<br />

An inter-island radio service was inaugurated in<br />

1923. This operated until 1941, following <strong>the</strong> takeover<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Grand Turk station by Cable and Wireless.<br />

A major historical development for <strong>the</strong> island took<br />

place in <strong>the</strong> 1950s when <strong>the</strong> US bases and radar tracking<br />

station were set up. The US NAVFAC 104 (known as North<br />

Base) was commissioned on October 23, 1954. This base<br />

was a part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) and<br />

underwater listening system that was designed to track<br />

Soviet submarines. It was eventually decommissioned on<br />

March 31, 1980.<br />

The Grand Turk Air Force Base, a missile tracking station,<br />

was built by a joint agreement between <strong>the</strong> UK and<br />

<strong>the</strong> US. It came into service in 1953. The purpose <strong>of</strong> this<br />

facility was to track long-range missiles launched from<br />

<strong>the</strong> US and also monitor satellites and manned flights<br />

launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida.<br />

The third facility that was constructed by <strong>the</strong> US on<br />

Grand Turk was on Colonel Murray’s Hill (known colloquially<br />

as “Nookie Hill.”) When John Glenn splashed down<br />

in <strong>the</strong> waters <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> TCI in his space capsule Friendship<br />

7 in 1962 after orbiting <strong>the</strong> earth, NASA never knew<br />

that Glenn was still alive. It was from Colonel Murray’s<br />

Hill that <strong>the</strong> heart rates and positions <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> astronauts<br />

John Glenn in Friendship 7 and later in <strong>the</strong> year, Scott<br />

Carpenter in Aurora 7, were monitored. US Vice President<br />

Lyndon Johnson came to Grand Turk to take Astronaut<br />

John Glenn back to <strong>the</strong> United States. These bases fur<strong>the</strong>r<br />

augmented Grand Turk’s strategic position in <strong>the</strong> US<br />

Global Surveillance Operations programme.<br />

The first hotel, Turks Head Inn, was opened on Grand<br />

Turk by <strong>the</strong> government in 1965 but sold three years later<br />

to a private individual. In 1966, <strong>the</strong> government opened<br />

a savings bank on Grand Turk and Barclays Bank (now<br />

CIBC/First Caribbean International Bank) was opened<br />

on April 12, 1966. As a means <strong>of</strong> boosting <strong>the</strong> tourism<br />

sector following <strong>the</strong> opening <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks Head Inn, <strong>the</strong><br />

government in 1969 constructed new air terminal buildings<br />

on both Grand Turk and South Caicos.<br />

An attempt at implementing <strong>the</strong> A Level programme<br />

in education was made in <strong>the</strong> early 1970s but this was<br />

short-lived. This failed effort did not impede plans <strong>of</strong><br />

developing post-secondary education however, as <strong>the</strong><br />

Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> Community College opened its<br />

This historic photo <strong>of</strong> Grand Turk’s “North Base” is an aerial view<br />

looking southwest. The large white area was used for catching and<br />

storing rainwater.<br />

Grand Turk residents greet US Vice President Lyndon Johnson in 1962<br />

when he came to accompany Astronaut John Glenn back to <strong>the</strong> United<br />

States following his splashdown in <strong>the</strong> ocean <strong>of</strong>f Grand Turk.<br />

This is <strong>the</strong> original Barclays Bank building which opened on Grand<br />

Turk in 1966.<br />

doors in Grand Turk on September 18, 1994 with assistance<br />

from <strong>the</strong> Caribbean Development Bank. The old<br />

Navy Base buildings were eventually refurbished to facilitate<br />

<strong>the</strong> transfer <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> community college to a permanent<br />

home.<br />


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astrolabe newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum<br />

Grand Turk is also <strong>the</strong> home to <strong>the</strong> $40 million cruise<br />

port, constructed in 2006. This facility is erected on 13<br />

acres <strong>of</strong> land and includes a 3,000-foot pier, welcome<br />

center, recreational center including a swimming pool,<br />

1,000 feet <strong>of</strong> beachfront, cabanas and shops and <strong>the</strong><br />

largest Margaritaville in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean. In 2019, Grand<br />

Turk captured <strong>the</strong> accolade for <strong>the</strong> Best Caribbean Beach<br />

Port by Porthole Magazine.<br />

Grand Turk is usually described as a “floating<br />

museum” and rightly so. It is <strong>the</strong> home to <strong>the</strong> lighthouse<br />

which was constructed in 1852 as an important landmark<br />

to guide sailing ships. In addition, <strong>the</strong>re is <strong>the</strong> old<br />

prison, <strong>the</strong> militia building, Victoria Public Library, post<br />

<strong>of</strong>fice, Odd Fellows Building and <strong>the</strong> St. Thomas Anglican<br />

Church. Built in 1823, it was <strong>the</strong> first church constructed<br />

on <strong>the</strong> island, followed by its sister church, St. Mary’s<br />

Anglican Church, built in 1899.<br />

Grand Turk was also home to several plantations,<br />

including Hawkes Nest Plantation which was developed in<br />

<strong>the</strong> 1900s to produce sisal, and Eve’s Family Plantation,<br />

used to produce cotton. Grand Turk is where <strong>the</strong> Junkanoo<br />

Club was founded, a social organization that was transformational<br />

and progressive in its actions. This group<br />

was instrumental in bringing about a new sense <strong>of</strong> consciousness<br />

in <strong>the</strong> 1970s which facilitated <strong>the</strong> ushering in<br />

<strong>of</strong> constitutional changes with wide implications for <strong>the</strong><br />

TCI. The People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), one <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> country’s major political parties, eventually emerged<br />

from this group <strong>of</strong> social advocates.<br />

To <strong>the</strong> present-day visitor, <strong>the</strong> National Museum on<br />

Grand Turk provides a wealth <strong>of</strong> fascinating displays<br />

including a historical Lucayan carved wood duho (ceremonial<br />

chair) and artifacts from <strong>the</strong> Molasses Reef Wreck<br />

which is believed to be <strong>the</strong> oldest European shipwreck<br />

excavated in <strong>the</strong> Western Hemisphere. The island is also<br />

known for excellent scuba diving and <strong>of</strong>fshore snorkeling<br />

with pristine and sheer wall sites defining <strong>the</strong> underwater<br />

experience. This wall has attracted many divers, as<br />

in certain places it can drop from 30 feet to well over<br />

7,000 feet. Along <strong>the</strong> Cockburn Town waterfront are<br />

many beautiful beaches, small hotels and resorts. The<br />

west side <strong>of</strong> Grand Turk is home to Governor’s Beach,<br />

Pillory Beach, English Point Beach, Cockburn Town Beach<br />

and White Sands Beach.<br />

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly halted<br />

most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> tourism activity on <strong>the</strong> island. As <strong>the</strong> main<br />

Prior to <strong>the</strong> COVID-19 pandemic, <strong>the</strong> Grand Turk Cruise Port was one<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most popular stops in <strong>the</strong> Caribbean.<br />

contributor <strong>of</strong> visitors, at press time <strong>the</strong> Carnival Cruise<br />

Lines have continued to cease operations. It is believed<br />

that once cruise ships again call on Grand Turk, it will<br />

regain its glory as being one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> leading tourism destinations<br />

in <strong>the</strong> TCI. a<br />


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astrolabe newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum<br />

Museum Matters<br />

Providenciales garden progress<br />

The Heritage Garden at <strong>the</strong> museum’s Village at Grace<br />

Bay location was in dire condition after <strong>the</strong> location was<br />

closed for over a year due to <strong>the</strong> COVID-19 pandemic.<br />

The site reopened in May <strong>2021</strong> and work on restoring<br />

<strong>the</strong> garden began. Thanks to our enthusiastic volunteers<br />

and private donors, <strong>the</strong> garden has been cleaned<br />

up, new plants have been added and regular watering<br />

is bringing <strong>the</strong> vegetation back to life.<br />

The garden includes edible vegetables such as sweet<br />

potato, okra, pigeon peas, spinach, kale, pumpkin,<br />

watermelon and corn. Various trees, cacti and native<br />

plants are also present. The original intent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> garden<br />

was to grow <strong>the</strong> indigenous plants that represented<br />

<strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> and to explain how Islanders<br />

cultivated, harvested, stored and prepared <strong>the</strong>m as a<br />

food source. The restoration and progress made so far<br />

is revitalizing that idea.<br />

indigenous vegetation. This initiative works with <strong>the</strong><br />

developers to allow us to remove <strong>the</strong> plants and re-plant<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Heritage Garden before <strong>the</strong>y are ruined during<br />

ground-breaking. a<br />

Evening with a local historian<br />

Grand Turk residents were pleased to have Dr. Carlton<br />

Mills speak at <strong>the</strong> Grand Turk museum location on June<br />

22. The presentation subject, “The Road to TCI’s First<br />

Constitution,” was vastly informative and generated<br />

many questions from <strong>the</strong> audience.<br />

Sugar apples are an especially tasty island fruit that are being cultivated<br />

in <strong>the</strong> museum’s Heritage Garden.<br />

We are working in collaboration with <strong>the</strong> TCI<br />

Government Department <strong>of</strong> Environment and Coastal<br />

Resources (DECR), Ocean Club Resort and various<br />

developers to replant displaced indigenous plants<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Heritage Garden. Development <strong>of</strong>ten destroys<br />

Dr. Mills is originally from South Caicos. He has been<br />

an educator in Turks & Caicos throughout his pr<strong>of</strong>essional<br />

life. He is committed to raising <strong>the</strong> quality <strong>of</strong><br />

educational facilities and resources in <strong>the</strong> country and<br />

to increasing educational opportunities for <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>’<br />

people. He is also a frequent contributor <strong>of</strong> articles to<br />

<strong>the</strong> Astrolabe and <strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 75

astrolabe newsletter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos National Museum<br />

As <strong>the</strong> COVID-19 restrictions are lifted we will once<br />

again be hosting <strong>the</strong>se types <strong>of</strong> events. Check our<br />

Facebook page and website for upcoming presentations,<br />

movies and o<strong>the</strong>r events. a<br />

Bricks on <strong>the</strong>ir way!<br />

Pre-pandemic, <strong>the</strong> museum launched a fund-raising<br />

campaign which involved selling engraved bricks that<br />

will be used on <strong>the</strong> various walkways.<br />

Finally . . . <strong>the</strong> bricks have been ordered! They should<br />

be ready to ship to <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> by early September.<br />

The fundraiser for <strong>the</strong> engraved bricks will continue.<br />

Once people see <strong>the</strong>m and are inspired by <strong>the</strong> ideas that<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs came up with for dedications and memorials, we<br />

hope that additional orders will be placed.<br />

The Grand Turk bricks will be installed shortly after<br />

arriving. The bricks for Providenciales are for <strong>the</strong> new<br />

building when it is finished, but we will have some on<br />

display at that location.<br />

• Providenciales—All proceeds from <strong>the</strong> brick purchases<br />

will go towards <strong>the</strong> new building for <strong>the</strong> museum here.<br />

• Grand Turk—All proceeds from <strong>the</strong> brick purchases<br />

will be used for <strong>the</strong> operations, projects and exhibits for<br />

<strong>the</strong> Grand Turk museum.<br />

Bricks can be purchased in three different sizes for<br />

a cost <strong>of</strong> $100, $250 or $500. You choose <strong>the</strong> wording,<br />

and for an additional $25 have <strong>the</strong> option to include artwork.<br />

Replica bricks are also available for an additional<br />

$25 if you would like a duplicate <strong>of</strong> your purchase. For<br />

more information, contact us at info@tcmuseum.org<br />

or visit our website www.tcmuseum.org. a<br />

Current operating hours<br />

Grand Turk—Tuesday and Thursday, 10 AM to 3 PM<br />

Located in historic Guinep House on Front Street, this<br />

location includes exhibits on <strong>the</strong> Salt Industry, Molasses<br />

Reef Wreck, <strong>the</strong> Lucayans, John Glenn landing and more.<br />

The bricks can be purchased for ei<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong><br />

Providenciales or Grand Turk museum locations. This<br />

is a great way to support <strong>the</strong> museum and leave an<br />

everlasting tribute for a loved one or show support from<br />

your family or business.<br />

Providenciales—Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday,<br />

10 AM to 2 PM<br />

Located in <strong>the</strong> Village at Grace Bay, this location includes<br />

a Historical Timeline that gives an overview <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most<br />

important dates in <strong>the</strong> history <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> TCI. Additional<br />

exhibits include <strong>the</strong> slave ship Trouvadore, Molasses<br />

Reef Wreck artifacts and Sapodilla Hill Rock Carvings.<br />

Tour <strong>the</strong> Heritage House (shown above), a historically<br />

correct re-creation <strong>of</strong> a typical 1800s Caicos <strong>Islands</strong><br />

dwelling, and <strong>the</strong> Heritage Garden. Days and times <strong>of</strong><br />

operation are subject to change, so please check our<br />

website or Facebook page for updated information.<br />

www.tcmuseum.org• info@tcmuseum.org<br />

(649) 247-2160<br />

76 www.timespub.tc

about <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong><br />

Map provided courtesy Wavey Line Publishing. Their navigation charts and decorative and historic maps <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>, The<br />

Bahamas, and Hispaniola are available in shops throughout <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>. Visit www.amnautical.com.<br />

Where we are<br />

The Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> lie some 575 miles sou<strong>the</strong>ast<br />

<strong>of</strong> Miami — approximately 1 1/2 hours flying time —<br />

with The Bahamas about 30 miles to <strong>the</strong> northwest and<br />

<strong>the</strong> Dominican Republic some 100 miles to <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>ast.<br />

The country consists <strong>of</strong> two island groups separated<br />

by <strong>the</strong> 22-mile wide Columbus Passage. To <strong>the</strong> west are<br />

<strong>the</strong> Caicos <strong>Islands</strong>: West Caicos, Providenciales, North<br />

Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos and South Caicos. To<br />

<strong>the</strong> east are <strong>the</strong> Turks <strong>Islands</strong>: Grand Turk and Salt Cay.<br />

The Turks & Caicos total 166 square miles <strong>of</strong> land<br />

area on eight islands and 40 small cays. The country’s<br />

population is approximately 43,000.<br />

Getting here<br />

There are international airports on Grand Turk,<br />

Providenciales, and South Caicos, with domestic airports<br />

on all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> islands except East Caicos.<br />

As <strong>of</strong> September 1, <strong>2021</strong>, all visitors ages 16 and<br />

above must be fully vaccinated and provide a negative<br />

PCR or antigen COVID-19 test taken within three days<br />

<strong>of</strong> travel. (Children under <strong>the</strong> age <strong>of</strong> 10 are not required<br />

to be tested.) Additionally, travellers must have medical/<br />

travel insurance that covers medevac, a completed health<br />

screening questionnaire and certification that <strong>the</strong>y have<br />

read and agreed to <strong>the</strong> privacy policy document. These<br />

requirements must be uploaded to <strong>the</strong> TCI Assured portal,<br />

which is available at www.turksandcaicostourism.<br />

com, in advance <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir arrival.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 77

The TCI has expanded COVID-19 testing capacity in<br />

response to testing requirements implemented for travellers<br />

entering <strong>the</strong> United States and Canada. Many resorts<br />

<strong>of</strong>fer on-site testing, along with numerous local health<br />

practitioners.<br />

Language<br />

English.<br />

Time zone<br />

Eastern Standard Time (EST)/Daylight Savings Time<br />

observed.<br />

Currency<br />

The United States dollar. The Treasury also issues a Turks<br />

& Caicos crown and quarter. Travellers cheques in U.S.<br />

dollars are widely accepted and o<strong>the</strong>r currency can be<br />

changed at local banks. American Express, VISA and<br />

MasterCard are welcomed at many locations.<br />

Climate<br />

The average year-round temperature is 83ºF (28ºC). The<br />

hottest months are September and October, when <strong>the</strong><br />

temperature can reach 90 to 95ºF (33 to 35ºC). However,<br />

<strong>the</strong> consistent easterly trade winds temper <strong>the</strong> heat and<br />

keep life comfortable.<br />

Casual resort and leisure wear is accepted attire for<br />

daytime; light sweaters or jackets may be necessary on<br />

some breezy evenings. It’s wise to wear protective clothing<br />

and a sunhat and use waterpro<strong>of</strong> sunscreen when out<br />

in <strong>the</strong> tropical sun.<br />

Entry requirements<br />

Passport. A valid onward or return ticket is also required.<br />

Customs formalities<br />

Visitors may bring in duty free for <strong>the</strong>ir own use one carton<br />

<strong>of</strong> cigarettes or cigars, one bottle <strong>of</strong> liquor or wine,<br />

and some perfume. The importation <strong>of</strong> all firearms including<br />

those charged with compressed air without prior<br />

approval in writing from <strong>the</strong> Commissioner <strong>of</strong> Police is<br />

strictly forbidden. Spear guns, Hawaiian slings, controlled<br />

drugs and pornography are also illegal.<br />

Returning residents may bring in $400 worth <strong>of</strong><br />

merchandise per person duty free. A duty <strong>of</strong> 10% to<br />

60% is charged on most imported goods along with a<br />

7% customs processing fee and forms a major source <strong>of</strong><br />

government revenue.<br />

Transportation<br />

A valid driver’s license from home is suitable when renting<br />

vehicles. A government tax <strong>of</strong> 12% is levied on all<br />

rental contracts. (Insurance is extra.) Driving is on <strong>the</strong><br />

left-hand side <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> road, with traffic flow controlled by<br />

round-abouts at major junctions. Please don’t drink and<br />

drive! Taxis and community cabs are abundant throughout<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> and many resorts <strong>of</strong>fer shuttle service<br />

between popular visitor areas. Scooter, motorcycle and<br />

bicycle rentals are also available.<br />

Telecommunications<br />

FLOW Ltd. provides land lines and superfast broadband<br />

Internet service. Mobile service is on a LTE 4G network,<br />

including pre- and post-paid cellular phones. Most resorts<br />

and some stores and restaurants <strong>of</strong>fer wireless Internet<br />

connections. Digicel operates mobile networks, with<br />

a full suite <strong>of</strong> LTE 4G service. FLOW is <strong>the</strong> local carrier<br />

for CDMA roaming on US networks such as Verizon and<br />

Sprint. North American visitors with GSM cellular hand-<br />

78 www.timespub.tc

sets and wireless accounts with AT&T or Cingular can<br />

arrange international roaming.<br />

Electricity<br />

FortisTCI supplies electricity at a frequency <strong>of</strong> 60HZ,<br />

and ei<strong>the</strong>r single phase or three phase at one <strong>of</strong> three<br />

standard voltages for residential or commercial service.<br />

FortisTCI continues to invest in a robust and resilient grid<br />

to ensure <strong>the</strong> highest level <strong>of</strong> reliability to customers. The<br />

company is integrating renewable energy into its grid and<br />

provides options for customers to participate in two solar<br />

energy programs.<br />

Departure tax<br />

US $60. It is typically included in your airline ticket cost.<br />

Courier service<br />

Delivery service is provided by FedEx, with <strong>of</strong>fices on<br />

Providenciales and Grand Turk, and DHL. UPS service is<br />

limited to incoming delivery.<br />

Postal service<br />

The Post Office and Philatelic Bureau in Providenciales are<br />

located downtown on Airport Road. In Grand Turk, <strong>the</strong><br />

Post Office and Philatelic Bureau are on Church Folly. The<br />

<strong>Islands</strong> are known for <strong>the</strong>ir colorful stamp issues.<br />

Media<br />

Multi-channel satellite television is received from <strong>the</strong> U.S.<br />

and Canada and transmitted via cable or over <strong>the</strong> air.<br />

Local station WIV-TV broadcasts on Channel 4 and Island<br />

EyeTV on Channel 5. People’s Television <strong>of</strong>fers 75 digitally<br />

transmitted television stations, along with local news<br />

and talk shows on Channel 8. There are also a number <strong>of</strong><br />

local radio stations, magazines and newspapers.<br />

Medical services<br />

There are no endemic tropical diseases in TCI. There are<br />

large, modern hospitals on Grand Turk and Providenciales.<br />

Both hospitals <strong>of</strong>fer a full range <strong>of</strong> services including:<br />

24/7 emergency room, operating <strong>the</strong>aters, diagnostic<br />

imaging, maternity suites, dialysis suites, blood bank,<br />

physio<strong>the</strong>rapy and dentistry.<br />

In addition, several general practitioners operate in<br />

<strong>the</strong> country, and <strong>the</strong>re is a recompression chamber, along<br />

with a number <strong>of</strong> private pharmacies.<br />

Immigration<br />

A resident’s permit is required to live in <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>. A<br />

work permit and business license are also required to<br />

work and/or establish a business. These are generally<br />

granted to those <strong>of</strong>fering skills, experience and qualifications<br />

not widely available on <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong>. Priority is given<br />

to enterprises that will provide employment and training<br />

for T&C Islanders.<br />

Government/Legal system<br />

TCI is a British Crown colony. There is a Queen-appointed<br />

Governor, HE Nigel John Dakin. He presides over an executive<br />

council formed by <strong>the</strong> elected local government.<br />

Hon. Charles Washington Misick is <strong>the</strong> country’s premier,<br />

leading a majority Progressive National Party (PNP) House<br />

<strong>of</strong> Assembly.<br />

The legal system is based upon English Common<br />

Law and administered by a resident Chief Justice, Chief<br />

Magistrate,and Deputy Magistrates. Judges <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Court<br />

<strong>of</strong> Appeal visit <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> twice a year and <strong>the</strong>re is a final<br />

Right <strong>of</strong> Appeal to Her Majesty’s Privy Council in London.<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 79

Taxes<br />

There are currently no direct taxes on ei<strong>the</strong>r income<br />

or capital for individuals or companies. There are no<br />

exchange controls. Indirect taxation comprises customs<br />

duties and fees, stamp duty, taxes on accommodations,<br />

restaurants, vehicle rentals, o<strong>the</strong>r services and gasoline,<br />

as well as business license fees and departure taxes.<br />

Economy<br />

Historically, TCI’s economy relied on <strong>the</strong> export <strong>of</strong> salt.<br />

Currently, tourism, <strong>the</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore finance industry and fishing<br />

generate <strong>the</strong> most private sector income. The <strong>Islands</strong>’<br />

main exports are lobster and conch. Practically all consumer<br />

goods and foodstuffs are imported.<br />

The Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> are recognised as an<br />

important <strong>of</strong>fshore financial centre, <strong>of</strong>fering services<br />

such as company formation, <strong>of</strong>fshore insurance, banking,<br />

trusts, limited partnerships and limited life companies.<br />

The Financial Services Commission regulates <strong>the</strong> industry<br />

and spearheads <strong>the</strong> development <strong>of</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore legislation.<br />

People<br />

Citizens <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Turks & Caicos <strong>Islands</strong> are termed<br />

“Belongers” and are primarily descendants <strong>of</strong> African<br />

slaves who were brought to <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> to work in <strong>the</strong><br />

salt ponds and cotton plantations. The country’s large<br />

expatriate population includes Canadians, Americans,<br />

Brits and Europeans, along with Haitians, Jamaicans,<br />

Dominicans, Bahamians, Indians and Filipinos.<br />

Churches<br />

Churches are <strong>the</strong> center <strong>of</strong> community life and <strong>the</strong>re<br />

are many faiths represented in <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> including:<br />

Adventist, Anglican, Assembly <strong>of</strong> God, Baha’i, Baptist,<br />

Catholic, Church <strong>of</strong> God, Episcopal, Jehovah’s Witnesses,<br />

Methodist and Pentecostal. Visitors are always welcome.<br />

Pets<br />

Incoming pets must have an import permit, veterinary<br />

health certificate, vaccination certificate and lab test<br />

results to be submitted at <strong>the</strong> port <strong>of</strong> entry to obtain<br />

clearance from <strong>the</strong> TCI Department <strong>of</strong> Agriculture, Animal<br />

Health Services.<br />

National symbols<br />

The National Bird is <strong>the</strong> Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis).<br />

The National Plant is Island hea<strong>the</strong>r (Limonium<br />

bahamense) found nowhere else in <strong>the</strong> world. The<br />

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80 www.timespub.tc

National Tree is <strong>the</strong> Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea var.<br />

bahamensis). The National Costume consists <strong>of</strong> white cotton<br />

dresses tied at <strong>the</strong> waist for women and simple shirts<br />

and loose pants for men, with straw hats. Colors representing<br />

<strong>the</strong> various islands are displayed on <strong>the</strong> sleeves,<br />

sashes and hat bands. The National Song is “This Land<br />

<strong>of</strong> Ours” by <strong>the</strong> late Rev. E.C. Howell. Peas and Hominy<br />

(Grits) with Dry Conch is revered as symbolic island fare.<br />

Going green<br />

TCI Waste Disposal Services currently <strong>of</strong>fers recycling<br />

services through weekly collection <strong>of</strong> recyclable aluminum,<br />

glass and plastic. Single-use plastic bags have been<br />

banned country-wide as <strong>of</strong> May 1, 2019.<br />

Recreation<br />

Sporting activities are centered around <strong>the</strong> water. Visitors<br />

can choose from deep-sea, reef or bonefishing, sailing,<br />

glass-bottom boat and semi-sub excursions, windsurfing,<br />

waterskiing, parasailing, sea kayaking, snorkelling,<br />

scuba diving, kiteboarding, stand up paddleboarding and<br />

beachcombing. Pristine reefs, abundant marine life and<br />

excellent visibility make TCI a world-class diving destination.<br />

Tennis and golf—<strong>the</strong>re is an 18 hole championship<br />

course on Providenciales—are also popular.<br />

The <strong>Islands</strong> are an ecotourist’s paradise. Visitors can<br />

enjoy unspoilt wilderness and native flora and fauna in 33<br />

national parks, nature reserves, sanctuaries and areas <strong>of</strong><br />

historical interest. The National Trust provides trail guides<br />

to several hiking trails, as well as guided tours <strong>of</strong> major<br />

historical sites. There is an excellent national museum on<br />

Grand Turk, with an auxillary branch on Providenciales. A<br />

scheduled ferry and a selection <strong>of</strong> tour operators make it<br />

easy to take day trips to <strong>the</strong> outer islands.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>r land-based activities include bicycling, horseback<br />

riding and football (soccer). Personal trainers are<br />

available to motivate you, working out <strong>of</strong> several fitness<br />

centres. You will also find a variety <strong>of</strong> spa and body treatment<br />

services.<br />

Nightlife includes local bands playing island music<br />

at bars and restaurants and some nightclubs. There are<br />

two casinos on Providenciales, along with many electronic<br />

gaming parlours. Stargazing is extraordinary!<br />

Shoppers will find Caribbean paintings, T-shirts,<br />

sports and beachwear and locally made handicrafts,<br />

including straw work and conch crafts. Duty free outlets<br />

sell liquor, jewellery, watches, perfume, lea<strong>the</strong>r goods,<br />

crystal, china, cameras, electronics, brand-name clothing<br />

and accessories, along with Cuban cigars. a<br />

<strong>Times</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Islands</strong> <strong>Fall</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 81

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Community Fellowship Centre<br />

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Visitors Welcome!<br />

Tel: 649.941.3484 • Web: cfctci.com<br />

D&Bswift_Layout 1 5/8/18 7:24 AM Page 1<br />





649-941-8438 and 649-241-4968<br />

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We’re here to<br />

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Provo & North-Middle Caicos<br />

Office: 946-4684<br />

Amos: 441-2667 (after hours)<br />

Yan: 247-6755 (after hours)<br />

Bob: 231-0262 (after hours)<br />

scooterbobs@gmail.com<br />

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82 www.timespub.tc



Our executive team: (L-r) Senior Vice President <strong>of</strong> Operations Devon Cox; Vice President <strong>of</strong> Corporate<br />

Services and CFO Aisha Laporte; President and CEO Ruth Forbes; Vice President <strong>of</strong> Grand Turk and<br />

Sister Island Operations Allan Robinson; Vice President <strong>of</strong> Innovation, Technology and Strategic Planning<br />

Rachell Roullet and Vice President <strong>of</strong> Engineering and Energy Production and Delivery Don Forsyth<br />

The energy landscape is changing.<br />

And at FortisTCI, we are leading <strong>the</strong> transition to cleaner energy with<br />

innovative solutions, and <strong>the</strong> highest level <strong>of</strong> service to customers.<br />

With sustainability as a guiding principle, we are strategically investing<br />

in new technologies, people and processes to deliver least-cost, reliable,<br />

resilient and sustainable energy to keep <strong>the</strong> Turks and Caicos <strong>Islands</strong><br />

economy moving forward.<br />

At FortisTCI, we are powered by a team <strong>of</strong> energy experts, who are proud<br />

to serve as your energy partners.<br />

www.fortistci.com | 649-946-4313 |

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Each franchise is Independently Owned and Operated.

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