Overview of Island
The Bahamas archipelago is an ecological oasis sprinkled over 100,000 square miles of ocean, starting just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. It comprises 700 breathtaking islands, over 2,000 rocks and cays, and boasts the clearest water on the planet—with a visibility of over 200 feet. You can see your toes as easily as you can the world’s third largest fringing barrier reef.
Language: English and Bahamian Creole
The first people to arrive in The Bahamas came by canoes from what is now known as Cuba. They enjoyed a peaceful way of life and had developed a 'viable political, social and religious system'. The Bahamas was one of the few areas in the region in which the Arawak people were not displaced by the more warlike Caribs.
Then in 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the New World in The Bahamas. The people who met him were Arawaks who, he wrote, ‘have opened their hearts to us. We have become great friends.’ Columbus is believed to have landed at Watling’s Island (Amerindian: Guanahani; Columbus’s designation: San Salvador). He describe them as 'bajar mar' because of the shallow seas surrounding some of the Islands. In spite of the 'friendship offered', over the next 20 years plus the Spaniards enslaved and transported some 40,000 Arawaks to Hispaniola where they died working in mines.
The same shallow waters in and between the islands made it a great hiding place for pirates including the British. Their first settlers were refugees from religious persecution under Charles I, in 1648. The island which they inhabited was renamed Eleuthera, meaning freedom. The settlers introduced the plantation economy and African slave labour.
The civil war ended and brought the economical boom to an end. But then the USA imposed the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol. The new product for transportation by the pirates now became alcohol until Prohibition ended. Around the same time as well came the collapse of the sponge harvesting industry. Once again the economy of The Bahamas plummeted.
In 1898 The Hotel and Steam Ship Service Act provided the opportunity and resources to start the building of hotels and services that would accommodate the wealthy Americans who could no longer go to Cuba started even during the Prohibition. It was the start of the tourism industry.
On July 10, 1973, The Bahamas became a free sovereign country, and maintained its membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. This day is celebrated as the Bahamian Independence Day after 325 years of British rule.