ABACO’S FORGOTTEN LIGHTHOUSE: THE “OLD LIGHTHOUSE”, LITTLE HARBOUR


ABACO’S FORGOTTEN LIGHTHOUSE: THE “OLD LIGHTHOUSE”, LITTLE HARBOUR

Little Harbour Abaco, Aerial View -Simon Rodehn annotated

Little Harbour Abaco, Aerial View (Simon Rodehn)

There’s relatively little that a casual investigator can discover about the ruined lighthouse at Little Harbour, Abaco. This hurricane-damaged wreck is Abaco’s third and largely unknown light, after the icon on ELBOW REEF and the desolate but romantic HOLE-IN-THE-WALL that stands on the southern tip of Abaco, down 15 miles of dodgy track through the National Park. Two specific sources of information begin our tour of the “Old Lighthouse at Little Harbour.

Extract from ROWLETT LIGHTHOUSES OF THE BAHAMAS

“LITTLE HARBOUR Date unknown (station established 1889). Inactive. Ruins of a 1-story concrete keeper’s quarters, known locally as the “old lighthouse.” A modern steel framework tower carried an active light until it was blown over by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012; Trabas has Darlene Chisholm’s photo of the toppled light. A photo and a very distant view are available, and Bing has a satellite view. In an aerial view of the harbor, the light is on the peninsula at upper right. Located at the entrance to Little Harbour, about 25 km (15 mi) south of Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island. Accessible by a short walk to the end of the peninsula sheltering the harbor. Site open, tower closed. Site manager: unknown. ARLHS BAH-021; Admiralty J4576; NGA 11808.”

The “Old Lighthouse” – Little Harbour, Abaco

Abaco Escape  - Sandy Estabrook’s essential GUIDE TO THE ABACOS

Often overlooked is (or should we say was) the “Old Lighthouse” as it is called. It was established in 1889 at the entrance to of Little Harbour channel, the southern entrance to Abaco Sound. Once it was a manned light, with the lighthouse keeper and his wife being the only inhabitants of Little Harbour. Of course the keepers are long gone and so is most of the house. The light tower was converted to solar in modern times but was dealt a devastating blow by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Access is via a path which starts from the shoreline and winds up the hill through seagrapes and bush. Few people venture up here these days. If there is a big ocean swell running, walk down to the cliff top in front of the lighthouse, where you’ll find a blowhole known as the Dragon. Depending on swell height, it could be roaring, snorting and shooting out clouds of spray. Sandy Estabrook

Photos referenced by Rowlett  - see extract above

Note the steel frame tower on the right, a structure replacing the old light destroyed by Hurricane Floyd in 1999; and itself toppled by Hurricane Sandy in 2012

A GALLERY OF RECENT IMAGES

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco, Patrick Shyu

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco, Patrick Shyu. The only interior shot I could find. Note the fallen steel tower (2012) (and seen from the outside below)

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco - Patrick Shyu

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco – Patrick Shyu

Little Harbour lighthouse Abaco - Darlene Chisholm

Little Harbour lighthouse Abaco, post Hurricane Sandy – Darlene Chisholm

Little Harbour Lighthouse Ruins, Abacos - MV Shingebiss

The Old Lighthouse ruins, taken during a cruise (MV Shingebiss)

LOCATION

In the header image, the location of the Light, looking very roughly north, is shown as a grey pimple on the eastern peninsula that forms the Little Harbour bay. There is no other building in this area. Below are some additional aerial maps showing the path to the Light and its relative remoteness. It is not covered in the wonderful book on Bahamas lighthouses by Annie Potts entitled “Last Lights” (2011, Fish House Press). I surmise that this small Light was more of a beacon to pinpoint the location of the entrance to Little Harbour, and perhaps to enable triangulation with the large lights at ELBOW REEF and HOLE-IN-THE-WALL.

Little Harbour Lighthouse 1 jpg copy

Little Harbour Lighthouse 2 jpg

An unusual aerial view of Little Harbour Lighthouse from the north, showing the path to it. You can see the ‘modern steel framework tower’ referred to in the ROWLETT entry above, replacing the original lighthouse tower destroyed by Hurricane Floyd and later toppled by Hurricane Sandy.

Little Harbour Lighthouse Marinas.com

Little Harbour lighthouse Marinas.com

Credits:  Simon Rodehn (LH aerial view - thanks again!), Rowlett’s Lighthouses, Sandy Estabrook / Abaco Escape, Wiki Map, Patrick Shyu, Darlene Chisholm, MV Shingbiss, marinas.com

ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE, HOPE TOWN, ABACO: 150 YEARS OLD TODAY!


HT Lighthouse 1

HOPE TOWN LIGHTHOUSE ABACO: THE WORKS

ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE, as it is properly called, is 150 years old. It is the stripy icon of Abaco – and quite flashy as well. One of the last remaining kerosene-lit lighthouses in the world, it retains its mechanisms and fresnel lenses in remarkable condition, a tribute to the conservation lovingly devoted to the building. Below is a re-post of an article I wrote some time ago, with photos of some of the internal works and some facts and figures thrown in, There’s a big event in the lighthouse’s honour today – here’s the flyer for it. We’ve donated a signed copy of “The Birds of Abaco” for auction, and I hope it makes a few $$$$ for the cause.

photo copy

Bahamas Lighthouse Pres Soc Logo     Bahamas Lighthouse Pres Soc Logo    Bahamas Lighthouse Pres Soc Logo    Bahamas Lighthouse Pres Soc Logo    Bahamas Lighthouse Pres Soc Logo

Hope Town Lighthouse, Abaco

Our visit to Elbow Cay was one part of our day’s Island Hopping / Reef Snorkelling expedition with Kay Politano. In Hope Town, while most of the party wandered round the streets (and shops…) Mrs RH took the boat across the harbour to the Hope Town Lighthouse. This must be the best known landmark of Abaco – ‘iconic’, perhaps, in the modern sense of the word. The weather on the day was pretty poor, with thick cloud and intermittent rain and drizzle. Which is a pity, because the photos would have looked even better with sunshine and blue sky… 

                                          All photos: Mrs Rolling Harbour


HOPE TOWN LIGHTHOUSE FACTS

(CLICK  on Coordinates below for position and Hope Town info)

Location: Elbow Cay, port of Hope Town
Coordinates 26.539421°N 76.958840°W
Year first constructed: 1862
Year first lit: 1864
Construction: Masonry
Tower shape: Conical
Markings/Pattern: Red and white bands
Focal Height: 37 m (121 ft)
Original lens: First order Fresnel
Range: 23 nmi
Characteristic: Fl(5) 15s
Admiralty number: J4572
NGA number: 11800
ARLHS number: BAH-010

THE HOPE TOWN LIGHTHOUSE is one of only three Manual Lighthouses left in the World. It has a spring mechanism that has to be hand cranked every few hours to maintain the sequence of five white flashes every 15 seconds. The lamp burns kerosene with a wick and mantle. The light is then focused as it passes through the optics of a first order (largest size) Fresnel lens which floats on a bed of mercury.

A FRESNEL LENS (pron. ‘Fray-nel’) is a type of lens originally developed by a French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel specifically for lighthouses.Compared to conventional bulky lenses, the Fresnel lens is much thinner, larger, and flatter, and captures more oblique light from a light source, thus allowing lighthouses to be visible over much greater distances. Fresnel’s lighthouse lenses ordinarily fell into six orders based on their focal length, first order being the largest (wiki-assist)

For some more images of this iconic – or do I mean symbolic (discuss) – building CLICK===>>> ILOVEHOPETOWN You’ll find that around half the images are of the lighthouse, internal and external. Then look at the colourful remainder. Then it’s a short step to the Facebook page and more info about this charming Cay

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

MARSH HARBOUR ONLINE MUSEUM: A NEW RESOURCE FOR OLD ABACO


Marsh Harbour, Abaco - Old Photo

MARSH HARBOUR ONLINE MUSEUM: A NEW RESOURCE FOR OLD ABACO

There’s a new arrival on Facebook, and the word is already out. Within 12 hours the page has gained 119 followers*. Already there are some wonderful old photos of family groups and MH residents. Some are named; some may be waiting for someone to recognise them. The header image (thanks for use permission, MHOM) is both instantly recognisable yet puzzling. Is that Snappas over there… no, look, there…? To get straight to the page, click HERE. I guess they’ll want to hear from anyone who has old photos or postcards of MH; or who can help with ID of people and places.

cropped-option-7-copy

There is a similar resource for GREEN TURTLE CAY, where Amanda has a great blog LITTLE HOUSE BY THE FERRY. In part it records the restoration of her family home. However, it is also packed with old photos (with people invited to name the unknowns) and details of a fascinating genealogy project through DNA samples. MAN-O-WAR CAY has a Facebook Group called Man-o-War Cay and Abaco Family History with similar aims. HOPE TOWN has a very active Facebook page fronted by the iconic LIGHTHOUSE. And so on. Not forgetting the museums such as the WYANNIE MALONE MUSEUM, Hope Town and the MAN-O-WAR CAY HERITAGE MUSEUM.

‘Elbow Reef’ – antique engraving Hope Town Abaco - historic print

I am neither Abaconian nor even a second-homer, so I tread lightly in these matters for obvious reasons. However, I have posted a few items about Abaco’s history from time to time so I’ll add a few links below in case anyone is tempted to investigate further. Meanwhile, I notice that in the time I have put this post together, the followers for MHOM have risen to 139…

ABACO HISTORY: SHIPS, MAPS & HOLE-IN-THE-WALL

CHARLES CORY’S C19 BIRDING EXPEDITIONS TO ABACO

“GLIMPSES OF LIFE ALONG A CORAL REEF” A c19 NATURALIST VISITS ABACO

MAN-O-WAR CAY, ABACO: THE HIDDEN BOAT-BUILDING VILLAGE

HOPE TOWN LIGHTHOUSE, ELBOW CAY, ABACO – A BEACON ICON

I’ll end with what I believe to be the oldest known depiction of Hole-in-the-Wall in all its glory, before Hurricane Sandy did for it. It’s an aquatint published in the Naval Review in 1803. If you want to know what the ships are, you’ll have to click the top link. This will also offer you a number of other posts about Hole-in-the-Wall and Abaco more generally, traced through historic maps. Or just open a Kalik, why not. hole-in-the-wall-print-1803

*In the same time, poor Miley Cyrus has lost 2314. Wrecking Ball indeed. Whoops! There go another 249…

MAN-O-WAR CAY, ABACO: THE HIDDEN BOAT-BUILDING VILLAGE


hole-in-the-wall-print-1803

MAN-O-WAR CAY, ABACO: THE HIDDEN BOAT-BUILDING VILLAGE 

I am very pleased to be able to feature a Guest Contributor Fabian Fernander, managing editor and owner of SANDY SLIPPER TRAVEL and online magazine. The boat-building history of the Bahamas, of Abaco, and in particular of Man-o-War Cay, is a fascinating one. It is not a subject in my own repertoire, so I welcome the chance to showcase Fabian’s article and the wonderful historic photos courtesy of the MAN-O-WAR HERITAGE MUSEUM.

maurice-albury-building-dinghy-mow-19xx

Maurice Albury building dinghy on MOW cay 19xx

“Who would ever think nestled in the heart of the Bahamas. Hidden away from view. Inaccessible by large planes and removed from the hum of technology; would be a boat building village in the Bahamas.

Man of war cay (named after the bird) is a small yet well knitted community of bustling boat builders, that have been graced with their skill from generation to generation.

Residents here have always depended on shipbuilding for its livelihood and some boats are still handmade-without-plans in a tradition that has been passed down for centuries.”

boat-under-construction-wa-albury-yard-19602

Boat under construction W.H. Albury yard 1960

“The town has remained untransformed over time and resembles a New England sea-side village; and rightly so.

As its original inhabitants were both religious and political escapees; loyalist to be exact.

It is through resilience that these men and women who fled from their homes, picked up and honed the trait of boat building.

In the early days of boat building the residents began by using Abaco Pine to craft their world renowned fishing and sailing vessels.”

basil-sands-working-on-a-boatwh-albury-yard-1960

Basil Sands working on a boat, at the W.H. Albury yard 1960

“Boats were originally built by crafting a skeleton or rib of the boat from pine that grew locally in the Abaco forests. These skeletons were then hand carved and shaved to conform perfectly to the palms-up-spread template of the hull.

After the ribs were coupled, pine wood planks were then affixed to form the hull of the boat.

During the 1960′s when Abaco pine became a quintessential element in building structures and homes in all of the islands, the procurement of pine for boat building became harder and harder.

It is during that period that innovation reared its head once again and fiberglass became the material of choice to continue the successful process of building renown fishing and sailing vessels.

Using fiberglass as molds was a very expensive process, but in modernization a necessary tool that reduced the amount of manual labor required.

The frame of the wooden boat was coated with the fiberglass material and from this a permanent mold was created, which was then used to make the outer shell of numerous boats.

This style of boat is called the Outboard Runabout (or the Outboard Fishing Boat).

Many other types of boats are also made including model boats, 14 ‘ wooden Man O’War sailing dinghies and 21′ Man O’War speed boats.

The boats have become collectors items and much requested custom designed artifacts.”

william-h-albury-schooner1

The William H Albury Schooner

“Man o’ War Village: another one of the hidden secrets of the Bahama Islands”

“About the author: Fabian Christopher is the Managing editor and owner of Sandy Slipper Travel and online magazine. An avid enthusiast of the Bahamas, he is always ready and available to make your vacation dreams in the islands a memorable experience.”

Sandy Slipper Logo

MoW Museum Logo

Photo credits  MAN-O-WAR HERITAGE MUSEUM 

(except for historic 1803 aquatint header of the ‘late’ Hole-in-the Wall)

[RH note: If you have enjoyed this article, I recommend a visit both to Fabian's website (link in the first para), and to the Museum's website, also linked above, where you will find a wealth of historical Abaco material]

ABACO HISTORY: SHIPS, MAPS & HOLE-IN-THE-WALL


Schooner (Wiki)

I have posted several times about Hole-in-the-Wall, the geological feature and historic nautical landmark at the southern tip of Abaco. I’ve covered the frankly concerning 15-mile trip to reach it and the eponymous lighthouse;  its history in both maps and pictures; and its destruction by Hurricane Sandy last October. A full index of the related Hole-in-the Wall posts can be found at the foot of this page (most recent first). I am returning to one specific early picture of HitW because of interesting information supplied by Capt Rick Guest.

THE PICTURE The lovely aquatint below is by J. Wells, based on a sketch by a naval officer (“Half-Pay”), published in the 1803 NAVAL CHRONICLE by founder J.Gold of Shoe Lane, London. It’s quite small picture, measuring 5½” x 9″. As I said in the original post, “you may be looking at a screen clip of a scan of the book plate of the earliest surviving depiction of Hole-in-the Wall. If anyone knows of an older one, please get in touch. And can anyone identify what kind of sailing vessels these are (I wouldn’t know a brigantine from a clipper…)?”.

THE SHIPS I am now better informed about historic ships (though no wiser). I am very grateful to Rick Guest for his various contributions, including his ID of the ships in the aquatint: “The vessel on the left (west) is a Topsail (‘tops’l’) SCHOONER. Because of the angle on the other vessel, my guess is it’s a BRIG. Brigs have 2 masts, usually with a large ‘Spanker’ (aft sail).” The schooner is flying the Union Jack. The two rowing boats setting off from the ships seem from the detail to be heading towards land – perhaps to find fruit or other provisions.

hole-in-the-wall-print-1803

THE GEOLOGY Besides showing Hole-in-the-Wall between the 2 ships (as it was until Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012), there is an additional feature that I did not originally remark on. To the right of the aquatint is a single rocky islet. Its left side and the corresponding end of the mainland clearly evidence the previous existence of another longer-arched hole, its roof presumably long gone by 1803. Earlier maps make no reference to a second Hole, though it’s possible the oldest refer to the larger, more significant hole until it collapsed and left the smaller hole to bear the name. At all events, the islet to the right in the aquatint is now largely submerged, though it can be seen from an aerial view. If anyone has a photo of it taken from the sea, with the promontory and lighthouse behind, please get in touch.

Hole-in-the-Wall aerial view

MAPS

I have found some more images of historic maps of Abaco to add to the earlier collection.

1. Johannes van Keulen 1728  c17/ early c18 Dutch cartographer. The top image of two is from a less well-reproduced edition, possibly an early one. The HitW area is uncompromisingly called ‘Hole Rok’. This is a rare instance of another ‘Hole Rok’ being marked of the south-west tip of Abaco. The main island itself is often described at this time as I. Lucaj(y)onesque, or similar derivative from the word ‘LUCAYA’ (Lucyan people being the early inhabitants of the Bahamas region). Notable here is the use of the word ‘I. Abbaco’ for a cay on the east side rather than the whole island.

van Keulen mod

This second much clearer (and later?) print of the same van Keulen map demonstrates why Hole-in-the-Wall is of such historic importance to the Abacos. It clearly marks the only settlement of any significance known to seafarers and cartographers of the time. Other contemporary maps are the same. It is the only named place on Abaco. Buildings are even shown here, though nowhere else on the island. It may well be fair to conclude that until at least 1800, HitW was the ‘capital’ of Abaco. Nowadays it is simply a functioning lighthouse in urgent need of attention and repair, with the abandoned buildings of the lighthouse station clustered round it (the light was automated in 1995). There is no settlement and there are no dwellings, not even visible ruins.van Keulen 1728

2. Thomas Kitchin 1782 Kitchin was a well-known English c18 cartographer who famously mapped the counties of Britain. He also worked in the Caribbean for a time. The clip below is taken from his map “West Indies according to Best Authorities“. The image doesn’t do the map justice. I own it (thanks, Mrs RH) and had just framed it when someone asked for a quick photo, so it is taken through glass (too lazy to remove it – will try to improve the image later). Great Abaco is now specifically named in its own right as an island, though the Abacos group as a whole retains its historic Lucayan name. Again, ‘The Hole in the Rock’ is the only place-name included. As a side-note, Grand Bahama has progressed from ‘Bahama Eyland’ to ‘Great Bahama’Abaco map

3. B.T.Welch, published F.Lucas Jr 1823 The top map shows the entire West Indies. I have located a clearer version of it and added the clip below it showing the detail of the top left corner Northern Bahamas corner

Abaco Map B.T.Welch published F.Lucas Jr 1823One hundred years on from the van Keulen map, and a few familiar names are starting to appear, especially with the ‘Kays’. ‘Hole of the Rock’, as it was now called, is still almost the only named place on the main island. I can’t make out what the bearing and date under the name means – any suggestions welcome. In passing, I note that ‘Gordo K(ay)’ is named, the earliest mention I have found. It is now of course ‘Disney Island’, and good luck to it… ‘Great Bahama’ has now become. finally, Grand Bahama.Abaco B.T.Welch published F.Lucas Jr 1823

4. George Cram 1898 This map demonstrates how, even in relatively modern times, mapmakers can take their eye off the globe, as it were, and go wrong. True, ‘Hole in the Rock’ is named and its lighthouse (completed 1836) is marked. However, some of the attributed place-names seem surprising – for example, Moore’s Island has strangely been called Moose Isl. And for a map not much more than 100 years old, in the ‘Superior Atlas of the World‘, the general topography of Abaco is way off the mark. Either that or the Crossing Rocks area in the lower quarter of the island below “Cheering Sound” – a slim land-narrow just few metres wide from east to west coast – has been on a crash diet in the intervening century… It’s basically the width of the road with a beach on either side.

Abaco 1898 George Cram

LIST OF PREVIOUS HitW POSTS

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, ABACO: THE ‘HOLE’ THAT’S NO LONGER A WHOLE December 9, 2012

HOLE-IN-THE WALL ABACO: “MIND THE GAP” – A NEW ISLET IS BORN November 8, 2012

ABACO’S ‘HOLE-IN-THE-WALL’ BEFORE SANDY DEMOLITION: FIRST & LAST EVER IMAGES November 5, 2012

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL TO GAP-IN-THE-WALL: HURRICANE SANDY SMASHES ABACO LANDMARK November 3, 2012

 HOLE-IN-THE-WALL ABACO: HISTORIC 1803 DESCRIPTION & AQUATINT May 23, 2012

 ABACO & HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, BAHAMAS: A SHORT HISTORY IN MAPS April 8, 2012

 “TO THE LIGHTHOUSE…” A TRIP TO HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, ABACO May 25, 2011

 

ABACO’S ‘HOLE-IN-THE-WALL’ BEFORE SANDY DEMOLITION: FIRST & LAST EVER IMAGES


ABACO’S HOLE-IN-THE-WALL BEFORE HURRICANE SANDY DESTRUCTION

THE FIRST & LAST EVER IMAGES OF A GEOGRAPHICAL LANDMARK

This post follows on directly from my PREVIOUS POST about Hurricane Sandy’s destruction of Abaco’s Hole-in-the -Wall rock ‘bridge’. Thanks to Abaco resident Jack Bowers, his camera and his kind permission, I am able to show what are almost certainly the very first and the very last pictures of Abaco’s Hole in the Wall aka ‘Hole in the Rock’, the landmark rock formation at the southeastern tip of the island.

THE EARLIEST KNOWN PICTURE OF HOLE-IN-THE-WALL

The earliest picture that I have been able to trace is a fine nautical aquatint dated 1803 by J.Wells based on a shipman’s sketch. There’s more detail about it in the previous post, but for the full details of this picture, its origin, and a very early description of  one of Abaco’s best-known features CLICK HOLE-IN-THE-WALL AQUATINT 

THE LAST PICTURES EVER TAKEN OF THE HOLE IN THE WALL, ABACO

Jack Bowers and some friends visited Hole-in-the-Wall a week before Hurricane Sandy swept in from the south. He writes “I hiked all around (and foolishly IN) the Hole on 10/17/12, a week before its demise. I may have the last photos taken of various aspects of it, if needed. I noticed some serious cracks (mostly on the proximal side of the arch) and placed my feet carefully away from them, but the collapse did not seem this imminent. I also shot some nice shots of the lighthouse from the distal point of the rocks (a shot not easily obtainable now). Trying to find a positive, the new “Window” should provide some spectacular new splashes that the arch used to largely contain”. Please note that the very fine photos below are all ©Jack Bowers

The ‘Land’s End’ promontory of Abaco, taken from the lighthouse station. The Hole is (was) near the tip.

Looking back to the lighthouse on the hike south

Rough seas ahead…  foreshadowing the later rock destruction                

A last view of ‘Hole in the Wall’ as it used to look….     

The dramatic view from below the arch – it will never be seen like this again…

ABACO’S CHANGED GEOGRAPHY AS FROM 10.24.12 FOR ALL ETERNITY

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL: LATE PLEISTOCENE EPOCH to LATE OCTOBER 2012

Very soon after these photos were taken, the history of the Hole and the geography of Abaco abruptly changed. The weather worsened, Tropical Storm Sandy gathered strength north of Cuba to reach hurricane force, and a week later the rock arch had been simply smashed into the boiling sea by the combined power of wind and the water. It seems unlikely that in the intervening week, with a major storm approaching, anyone else will have made the long rough drive 15 miles along the track to the lighthouse, traversed the difficult terrain of the promontory, risked the increasing winds and swelling seas, and calmly toted a camera at the underside of the arch. So unless and until I hear otherwise, I shall consider Jack’s pictures to be the final record of an Abaco landmark known to sailors for many centuries, mapped by name since 1738 (or earlier), first depicted in 1803 and probably in existence since the last ice-age. R.I.P. (Rest in Pieces)

AFTERWORD: DOES THIS SORT OF THING HAPPEN OFTEN ON ABACO?

Yes. As elsewhere in the Bahamas or indeed any hurricane zone. Here’s an example from last year demonstrating the power of Hurricane Irene, which also scored a direct hit on Abaco. The top photo is a shot of the Delphi Club beach at Rolling Harbour looking south, taken by me in early 2011. I have cropped it to enlarge the view of the large rock in the sea beyond the small bay on the middle left. It’s a substantial, solid, slab visible at all tides.

Hurricane Irene passed directly overhead on August 26 / 27 2011. Here’s my photo taken this year, showing the rock with the centre blasted out during the storm. Impressive damage! (That little piece of foreshore needs a clean-up… most of that stuff looks like plastic junk / nylon rope etc, the sort of detritus that takes a mere century or three to degrade…)

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL TO GAP-IN-THE-WALL: HURRICANE SANDY SMASHES ABACO LANDMARK


HOLE-IN-THE-WALL TO GAP-IN-THE-WALL

HURRICANE SANDY SMASHES ABACO LANDMARK

A ‘heads-up’ from the excellent ABACO SCIENTIST shows the devastating power of a hurricane-force wind, even at Cat 1 level. After centuries, the eponymous Hole-in-the-Wall has been blasted by Sandy into a Gap-in-the-Wall. Abaco has acquired a new islet, as yet to be named (I propose ‘Sandy Isle’… Or maybe ‘Storm Rock’). The photo below is by Justin Sands, and shows the new view of the southeastern extremity of Abaco. There was until recent times a very similar rock formation on Eleuthera, the Glass Window. It, too, was smashed by a storm and a new road bridge had to be built to link the separated parts (see end of post for image).

This is what the same view looked like until last week, with the ‘bridge’ still standing

Here is a very good close shot by well-known and all-knowing Abaco nature guide Ricky Johnson. There won’t be any more photos like this now… You can see what a large amount of combined wind and wave force it must have taken to blow the bridge apart.

The landmark lighthouse and defunct outbuildings at Hole-in-the-Wall sit just north of a promontory, a sort of Land’s End jutting into the ocean between Abaco and New Providence. The road to it is 15 miles of deteriorating surface through the pine forest of the National Park, and is not for the faint-hearted… see TO THE LIGHTHOUSE

A while ago I traced the history of Abaco, and in particular Hole-in-the-Wall, in maps. I got back as far as 1584 for Abaco itself, a map by Ortelius where Abaco appears as ‘Haraco’ and the geographical relationships are… vague.

The first mention of Hole-in-the-Wall that I managed to trace was on a map by Couvens in 1737. The name is shown as ‘Hole in the Rock’, and that name alternated with the present one in both English and French, with variations, until settling on ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’ in the c20.

To see the full cartographical post see HISTORY OF ABACO / HOLE IN THE WALL IN MAPS

I also researched the pictorial history of Hole-in-the-Wall. Eventually I came across what may be the first pictorial representation of the Hole in the Wall. It is a fascinating aquatint from 1803 by J. Wells, published in The Naval Review and based on a sketch by a ship’s officer that accompanied a description of the southern end of Abaco for the Review. To put the picture’s age into perspective, it was completed 2 years before Nelson’s decisive victory against the combined French and Spanish navies at Trafalgar.

If you are still awake & would like to see the full post, click HOLE IN THE WALL: 1803 DESCRIPTION & AQUATINT

AN ARTISTIC PUZZLE OF LOCATION ATTRIBUTION – A WORK IN PROGRESS

The other notable depiction of Abaco is a print made by (or in conjunction with) the famous artist Winslow Homer, at the time that he was commissioned to produce work in the Bahamas in the 1880s. This print is the subject of ongoing research by myself and others. It is called ‘On Abaco Island’ and clearly shows the Hole in the Wall as we knew it until last week.

Winslow Homer also produced a well-known painting, the original of which is in the Brooklyn Museum, entitled ‘Glass Windows’. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to conclude that the painting is based almost exactly on the view in the print. Even if one ignores the geological evidence (eg the structural detail of the rock at the apex of the arch), note the cloud formations that match perfectly. The print predates and was the template for the painting. If the print was the result of Homer’s time in the Bahamas and an undocumented (?) visit ‘On Abaco Island’, so must the painting be…

However, the Homer / Brooklyn painting ‘Glass Windows’ is generally identified with the similar ‘rock hole’ formation on Eleuthera that is actually known as the Glass Window. As I mentioned earlier, the Eleuthera formation suffered the same fate in a storm, and a new road bridge now connects the two sides.Picture credit http://www.eleuthera-map.com (see also http://www.abacomapbahamas.com)

It isn’t easy to tell whether there is any geological similarity between rock structure in the painting and the Glass Window on Eleuthera. However the contention (mine, anyway) is that the Winslow Homer painting ‘Glass Windows’ is of the Hole in the Wall, Abaco and should be recognised as such. The poignancy of last week’s events at HitW – the loss of a well-loved island feature that can never be replaced – arguably makes the thesis more significant.

One further nugget in support of the case is that I have very recently discovered contemporary written evidence that in the second half of the c19, around the time that Homer was working in the Bahamas, the Hole in the Wall, Abaco was known locally as the ‘glass window’. That would explain Homer’s naming of the painting based on the Abaco print, and strengthens (concludes?) the argument that it is, indeed, of Abaco and not Eleuthera. QED. Repatriate Winslow!