(Help to make sure that the creatures pictured below stay off the IUCN ‘threatened species’ list) 

Art for the Parks: Abaco National Parks




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


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 (see also

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!




The wonderful parrots of Abaco are often featured hereabouts, and with good reason. They are the only subspecies of cuban parrot to nest underground, a unique species adaptation that protects them from fires in the pine forest of the ABACO NATIONAL PARK where they breed. However this in turn makes them vulnerable to predation. An intensive long-term conservation and predation-reduction program headed by scientist Caroline Stahala has reversed the decline of this iconic bird. Numbers have increased from fewer than 2500 some years ago to an estimated 4000. 

There are places on Abaco – south Abaco in particular – where the parrots congregate in noisy groups during the day. Many people manage to take photographs of them. Good photographers with a decent lens can get outstanding results. Even the camera-incompetent (I hear my name!) can manage the occasional first-class photo, given time and plenty of spare space on the camera card… But very few can do justice to these colourful birds in paint.

The spectacular series of paintings below are by well-known Bahamian artist and sculptor Antonius Roberts. Caroline has already posted about these on the ABACO PARROT RESEARCH F/B page. The originals of these paintings have (unsurprisingly) been sold, but they are available as limited-edition prints. Antonius will generously be donating proceeds of sale from the series to support the on-going parrot research. The images are ©Antonius Roberts – thanks to him and to Caroline for use permission

A recent reception was held in Nassau to showcase this series of paintings. You will find more about them by clicking the link to open a pdf of the reception brochure ABACO PARROT PAINTINGS Caroline Stahala contributed an excellent one-page article about the Abaco Parrots and their conservation – click on it to enlarge to legible size

Contact Antonius via email to or check out his website by clicking the parrot



I recently traced the history of Hole-in-the-Wall, Abaco through maps from the 16th century onwards – its significance, the name changes, and so on. To see that post CLICK HERE . I have just come across some historical material about HITW that is so fascinating that I have awarded the accolade of a separate post, rather than lumping it in with the earlier one. The extract below is from THE NAVAL CHRONICLE (Vol 9) * for January – July 1803. It gives a short but detailed description of the Hole in the Wall in the context of a remarkable sketch (reproduced as a Plate in the book) submitted by the contributor, who signed himself  ‘Half-Pay’. That was the name traditionally used in both Navy and Army to refer to the pay or allowance an officer received when in retirement or not in actual service – or, metonomously, to the officer receiving the reduced pay. I greatly like the charming deference with which the contribution is offered.

The whole book is well worth examining for the light it sheds on Naval matters at the very start of the c19. The comprehensive personnel and other lists hold plenty of interest. This was an era of almost continuous major military and naval campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic. The Battle of Trafalgar was still 2 years away when this book was published. If you want to see the downloadable online version CLICK HERE  [I had to zoom the page and clip it in two to make it easily readable  - hence the gap. And apologies for the purple highlight - it was my place-mark...]

Here is the amazing aquatint  by J. Wells of Half-Pay’s sketch, published in the 1803 Naval Chronicle by founder J.Gold of Shoe Lane, London. It’s quite small, measuring 5½” x 9″. You may even 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…)?

To answer queries arising from my earlier post, I added a map and photos showing exactly where the actual Hole at HITW is, and how to get there (if you are wearing the right shoes). It’s worth revisiting the topic. People are always fascinated by the extremities of land – ‘Land’s End’, ‘Finisterre’, ‘Finistère’ and so on – especially where they are remote and relatively inaccessible. I think HITW qualifies. As far as I am aware, apart from the lighthouse its abandoned outbuildings at the southeast corner of the first map below, there is no other building in the area covered by this map. The nearest road is 15 miles up the inhospitable track to the north of the lighthouse.

Here is the map showing the location of the actual Hole in the Wall, and below that, a distance shot taken at sea

 * According to The Philadelphia Print Shop “Between 1799 and 1818, The Naval Chronicle, was the pre-eminent maritime journal reporting news about the British navy. Issued twice a year, it was published during a period in which the British navy fought the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812, and came to “rule the waves.” This wonderful journal included action reports, intelligence on various matters related to the British and other navies, and biographies of naval officers. Many of the reports were accounts by officers directly involved, such as Lord Horatio Nelson. Included with the articles were portraits, images of naval action, and views of the many ports in which the navy called. These are important, first-hand images of this turbulent period”




The images below tell you all you need to know about this excellent festival presented by the BNT in conjunction with the Abaco Beach Resort. From this blog’s point of view, the highlights are:

PRESENTATIONS by Nancy Albury on ‘The Blue Holes of Abaco’; by Ricky ‘Blue’ Jones on Bush Medicines / teas; and by Caroline Stahala on the Breeding & Behaviour of Abaco Parrots

ART The Art. Yes, all of it. Ok?

PRODUCE Something of everything, please. 

OTHER Everything else on offer…

The very best of luck with this event and best wishes for successful fundraising from Rolling Harbour



In August 2011 the Bahamas National Trust published a documentary about the resident Abaco and Inagua populations of this Cuban Parrot subspecies. It features research scientist Caroline Stahala, and contains plenty of information about these birds, their nesting and breeding habits, and the problems they face from predation. In places, some of the devastation caused by the extensive forest fires in March 2011 is still evident (see images in earlier POST). If you want to know more about these attractive (but noisy) birds, the documentary video below covers a great deal in 8 minutes…


This is one of a number of sequential images posted by cfinke3856 on the website Webshots. It seems to have been taken in 2004, and shows 4 Abaco parrots in a pine tree (location unspecified – the National Park, maybe?). They look pleasingly convivial, and they provide a chance to roll out the newly created  rh parrot logo

Normally I would have cleared permission for use (and slight cropping) and given a click-through link so you could see the rest of the (similar) images. However, the website is a nightmare. A pop-up offered me the chance – apparently a near-certainty – of winning $10,000, and froze my cursor when I tried to delete it. Twice. Other untempting offers were made in a rage-inducing way. So I’ll spare you all that, warn you briskly off the site, and apologise to Mr or Ms Finke for ‘borrowing’ the image, duly credited but in tiny writing…



You will need: One truck with plenty of fuel (for the return journey); courage, patience and determination; picnic; bird book – borrow the HALLETT (KS copy) from Club library; camera / binoculars; willingness to cope with and explore derelict buildings; good shoes if you want to walk from the lighthouse; life insurance if you want to climb the uninvitingly hazardous lighthouse stairs

Map credit as elsewhere

Like marriage, this expedition is not by any to be undertaken lightly or ill- advisedly… Driving to the lighthouse at Hole-in-the-Wall involves a 15-mile (each way) return journey on a track south from the Highway. It starts promisingly but gradually turns nasty as the track degenerates. Rental cars are banned; Sandy will have strong views about using the Club car… Realistically, it can only be done in a truck. We took a truck… I don’t want to be unduly off-putting but we were still considering turning back at mile 14. Especially at mile 14. The view is as shown below for most of the way, the trees thinning out as one nears the coast.An optimistically good stretch of track

During the journey, you pass through the heart of the National Park, breeding ground for the Abaco Parrots. Uniquely for this species, they nest on the ground in limestone holes, making them vulnerable to predators. Logging roads cross the track at regular intervals, and are a good place to pull in and look for the birds of the pine forest –from large red-tailed hawks through gray catbirds, loggerhead kingbirds and hairy woodpeckers down to small warblers. If you take a picnic with you, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to bird watch.Loggerhead Kingbird in the National Park

This is what you will find when (if?) you reach the end of the road…

Park here. Mind the rocks. Far from advisable to continue further…

Hole-in-the-wall Lighthouse and outbuildings

The Entrance

No sign of renovation in Spring 2010

Land’s End – the southern tip of Great Abaco, and a good place for whale-watching

The internal staircase – access is easy, the door isn’t even kept shut let alone locked

THE UNEXPECTED REWARD for our endurance was to find, beside the path back to the car, a small group of Bahama Woodstars. This is the endemic species of hummingbird, and they are rare where there are the Cuban Emerald imports (at Delphi, for example). The ones we saw were all female – the males are iridescent green with a purple front. They were amazingly unafraid of us, flying back and forth around us,  and quite happy to perch almost within arms’ reach and watch us watching them. They were completely enchanting, and cheered us up for the forthcoming journey back – fortunately it gets easier – and a picnic by a logging road once the track-terror had subsided.

STOP PRESS: Courtesy of batfa242 / Panoramio who braved the dodgy-looking spiral staircase in the lighthouse, here is a fantastic shot of ‘Land’s End’ taken across the lamp and through the glass. Many thanks for permission to use this – it makes me regret not having had the spirit of adventure to make the climb… Double-click for a very detailed view, including the in-built fresnel lens… (and see HOPE TOWN LIGHTHOUSE post)

POST SCRIPT: I am very grateful to for permission to download this wonderful aerial image of Hole-in-the-Wall lighthouse and its outbuildings, looking towards the southern tip of Abaco. They have generously enabled a completely cost and watermark-free download. I have added the © detail. Thanks, guys. 


The National Parks of Abaco

Abaco National Park Created in 1994, it encompasses over 20,500 acres of pine forest / coppice and is the principal habitat for the endangered Bahama Parrot and other important species of Bahamian wildlife. The tract covers a large area of the Great Abaco water table and has significant recreational value for the people of Abaco. 

Black Sound Cay Nature Reserve This two acre mangrove reserve is nestled in the harbour of Abaco’s historic Green Turtle Cay. The reserve was established in 1988 to protect a vital waterfront ecosystem and wildlife.

Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park A 2,100 acre area just north of Cherokee Sound in Great Abaco that contains stunning undersea caves, extensive coral reefs and is noted for its fish, plant and bird life.

Tilloo Cay National Park Acquired by the Trust through private donation, this 11 acre area encompasses a tropical wilderness shoreline of outstanding beauty. Exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, the area is an important sea bird nesting site.

Fowl Cay Land and Sea Park Recently created in 2009, an excellent place for reef snorkelling [I will be posting about this in due course…] 

CLICK LINK for Article (Abaconian March 3 2011): The Two Abaco Sea Parks, Fowl Cay & Pelican Cay (BNT)

(Info mostly courtesy of Bahamas National Trust; Article “The Abaconian”)