ECHINODERMS, DOLLAR DOVES & PETRIFIED BISCUITS


Sand Dollar, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

ECHINODERMS, DOLLAR DOVES & PETRIFIED BISCUITS

Echinoderms (Gr. ‘Hedgehog Skin’) comprise a large variety of sea creatures characterised (mostly) by radial symmetry. In a nutshell a creature with radial (as opposed to bilateral) symmetry can be divided into equal portions from the centre, like a cake. It has no left or right side and no definable front or back.  It is multidirectional from the centre, where the mouth is located. It obviously has a distinct upper side and an underside, but that has no bearing on this form of symmetry. 

Ten dollar Sand Dollar coin, Bahamas

Within the family of radially symmetrical animals, echinoderms (starfish, sand dollars and sea urchins) are unique in having five-point radial symmetry. These are the creatures you are most likely to come across in Abaco. There are two particular aspects of dollars and biscuits that merit a closer look (made more difficult by me stupidly taking photos of white things on a white background).

Sand Dollar Doves, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

DOLLAR DOVES

I’m sure all Bahamians know or are aware of at least one version of the famous ‘Sand Dollar’ poem, in which the various characteristics of the test (the skeleton of the creature) are given religious significance. One verse of the poem may be puzzling: “Now break the centre open And here you will release The five white doves awaiting To spread good will and peace”.

The Sand Dollar Legend

A few years back, Senior Granddaughter was looking at some Abaco sand dollars I’d given her for her growing collection of shells. She picked one up, shook it and it rattled. She said a friend at school had told her that a rattling sand dollar has ‘doves’ inside it, and asked if we could break it open and see. I’ve learnt that it is useless to argue with her – she has the tenacity of a trial lawyer – so we did. This is what we found.

Sand Dollar with a spiky interior like a white cave with stalagmites and stalagtitesSand Dollar Doves, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

Five white doves (in fact, the separated parts of the creature’s feeding apparatus)Sand Dollar Doves, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

Two broken pieces showing where the doves are centrally locatedSand Dollar Doves, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

A regrettably poor photo of a single doveSand Dollar Doves, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

The image below, from Pinterest, shows the ‘mouth’ with its dove-parts intact, in an arrangement called ‘Aristotle’s Lantern‘, a five-sided globular structure that supports the mouth and jaws of an echinoderm.

Sand Dollar : Aristotle's Lantern : Doves (Pinterest)

PETRIFIED BISCUITS

In common parlance ‘petrified’ is an extreme version of ‘terrified’. Literally, it means ‘turned to stone’ (L. petrus, a rock). It is descriptive of a state of fossilisation, where an animal skeleton or dead wood or plant matter turns over aeons into stone. Senior GD (a most inquisitive girl) followed up on the doves research after discovering a box containing random stones and fossils. She found these two items:

Fossilised sea biscuitsPetrified / Fossilised Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen)

A closer look at the pair of rocksPetrified / Fossilised Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen)

The undersides of the fossils above – looking like stones but with some tell-tale small holesPetrified / Fossilised Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) Petrified / Fossilised Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen)

A close-up of the pale biscuitPetrified / Fossilised Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen)

Sea biscuits on the beach at Delphi – familiar white skeletons (‘tests’) but not yet fossilsSea Biscuits, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour)

A ‘modern’ non-Jurassic Abaco sea biscuit in close-upSea Biscuit, Abaco Bahamas (Rhonda Pearce)

FUN FACT

Florida has an unofficial but proposed State Fossil, the ‘Sea Biscuit (Eocene Age)’. I didn’t know it before, but it turns out that more than 40 US States have State Fossils. Whatever next? State Bacteria? State Viruses?

Sea biscuit from Madagascar (OS)

SO HOW OLD MIGHT A PETRIFIED BISCUIT BE?

The fossil biscuits I have looked at, from Florida to Madagascar (see small image above), are said to come from three specific historic epochs – from the oldest, Jurassic (145m – 201m years ago), to Eocene (34m – 56m) and Pleistocene (0.01m – 2.6m). 

HOW DOES THAT HELP ANYBODY? BE MORE PRECISE

By all means. Here is an excellent Geochart that gives an idea of the time span. A Jurassic sea biscuit would be more than 145m years old. This chart also helpfully helps avoid confusion with the Eon Era Period Epoch ordering.

geotimescale

You will find more echinoderm entertainment using this link to my fellow-blogger ‘Dear Kitty’ https://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/2007/01/01/big-hedgehog-small-sand-dollars-diving-schools/

All photos ‘in-house’ except the Delphi biscuits, Clare Latimer; & the single biscuit Rhonda Pearce; Sand Dollar poem on Postcard, Dexter Press; the Geochart was in my ‘useful chart photos’ folder but I can’t now find the source. I did try.

 

BREADFRUIT: NATURE’S BOUNTY (WITH ADDED MUTINY)


Artocarpus altilis - breadfruit (Hans Hillewaert)

BREADFRUIT: NATURE’S BOUNTY (WITH ADDED MUTINY)

Capt. William Bligh achieved fame for all the wrong reasons. Despite a distinguished and wide-ranging seafaring career he is widely remembered for just two things: (1) The Bounty and (2) Mutiny On. In 1787, he was dispatched to Tahiti to collect specimens of BREADFRUIT (a fruit of the Pacific islands, in particular Polynesia) to help provide food for the British colonies in the West Indies. To be clear, the breadfruit was intended to be a basic and cheap staple food not just for settlers but also for the indigenous population. I think we can all guess the status of the latter at that time.

Breadfruit 2

‘BLIGH’S BLIGHT’ – MUTINY!

Capt. Bligh’s Bounty crew unfortunately mutinied – possibly to do with the amount of water the breadfruit required in transit, compared to their own meagre rations. So they threw overboard the hundreds of breadfruit plants that were in transit. Then they set Bligh with his loyal officers and crew adrift… He was later court-martialled but cleared of culpability for provoking a mutiny by his conduct. 

Mutiny on the HMS Bounty (Robert Dodd)

This isn’t the place for a disquisition on the Mutiny. You can read all about it HERE. Or better still, watch one of the rollicking all-star-cast films based loosely on the episode for a careful and accurate historical record of the events that will buckle your swash…

Mutiny_on_the_Bounty_Poster (1935) 220px-Poster_for_Mutiny_on_the_Bounty

BLIGH’S SECOND CHANCE

Following that skirmish, and indeed blemish, on his record, in 1793 Capt. Bligh was yet again charged with the task of shipping breadfruit trees from their origin to the Caribbean. His heart must have sunk, yet finally he succeeded, only for those on the eating end to express considerable distaste for such a bland, starchy fruit. It took a long time to catch on, and its culinary versatility was only discovered many decades later. By which time slavery had thankfully been abolished anyway.

 Breadfruit image (Pacific site)

The most famous breadfruit tree in all Abaco is to be found in Hope Town, on Elbow Cay. I can do no better than display the notice that proudly proclaims the historic significance of the tree and its eponymous fruit.

Breadfruit Tree Notice, Hope Town Abaco (Dp PatersonBreadfruit Tree, Hope Town Abaco (Dp Paterson)

Unusually for a fruit plant, a true breadfruit Artocarpus altilis does not produce seeds. It is propagated by removing the suckers that grow at at the base of the tree.

For those unfamiliar with the fruit and its interior, here it is in both slice and cross-sectionBreadfruit sliced (US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center)

BREADFRUIT IN ART

Breadfruit has (somewhat surprisingly?) received some artistic recognition over the years. Here are a few examples. The first, very jolly, includes early representations of the Polydamus Swallowtail butterfly; the second is quite dull; the third is instructional (oddly equating breadfruit with tea, coffee and chocolate); and the fourth, frankly not at all appetising to look at…

Breadfruit with butterflies (Royal Botanic Garden, Kew)Breadfruit (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

                                 Breadfruit (John Frederick Miller)                                  Breadfruit drawing John Frederick Miller

      Breadfruit & related plants used as food (William Rhind (1841)     Breadfruit etc William Rhind (1841)

Breadfruit - Bahamas Stamp

SO WHERE DOES BREADFRUIT GROW NOW?

Breadfruit will flourish only within a certain latitude range where the rainfall and temperature suit it, as this map shows. I include this information in case you ever find yourself in the awkward position of being socially stranded with someone whose conversation has become soporific. Be armed with some useful worldwide breadfruit stats for just such an occasion – the fact that Madagascar is a suitable yet not a very good location, for example (not enough rainfall). You will soon find yourself alone…

Breadfruit - the world propagation range

A CULINARY TREAT

Breadfruit is sometimes thought to be a dull and untasty, at least compared with many other fruits. I thought I’d include a recipe or two that rather appealed to me – the second because even I could do that… it’s within my shamefully limited culinary skill-set.

Breadfruit Recipe (myrecipefriends.com)

BAKED BREADFRUIT

Large, ripe breadfruit 1 cup water Butter 1 lime or lemon

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Put the water in a shallow pan and place the whole breadfruit in the water. Bake in oven for three hours. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, peel, removing the large core and stem. Cut the fruit into sections and place in a serving dish. Cover with butter and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.

A PERFECT HOPE TOWN BREADFRUIT
Breadfruit, Hope Town Abaco (Dp Paterson)

This post was inspired by an article on breadfruit and the Hope Town tree by local historian Deb ‘DP’ Patterson, who will be known to many for her committed involvement with the Wyannie Malone Historical Museum in Hope Town. I’m grateful to her for permission to use her idea and indeed some of her material, in particular her photos of the tree and its notice. I originally posted this about 4 years ago, and have dusted it off for the benefit of new (thank you!) followers who might also have breadfruitphilia.

If you do visit this delightful little town, the museum is a treasure house of Abaconian history that deserves a visit. You can check out its website HERE and the FB page HERE.

Wyannie Malone Museum Crest, Hope Town, Abaco

BLIGH’S END

Capt. Bligh managed to put his breadfruit adventures and the mutiny behind him. He continued a distinguished naval career with successive command of an impressive number of  ships. He ended up a Vice-Admiral, and (on his death in 1817) in a grave in Lambeth, London.

V-A William Bligh (1814)

Grave of William Bligh, Lambeth, London (Geograph, Commons Media

HMS BOUNTY II (Full Sails). A 1960 reconstruction (Dan Kasberger)HMS_BOUNTY_II_Full_Sails 1960 reconsrtuction (Dan Kasberger)

Credits: First and foremost, Deb Patterson; Magpie Pickings including Hans Hillewaert, US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, Royal Botanic Garden Kew, myrecipefriends, M Kwek, whatsonbahamas, Wyannie Malone Historical Museum, ‘Geograph’, Dan Kasberger, and Wiki; and anyone else I have omitted…

MAPPING ABACO: ON THE MAP IN 1702


Map of the Bahama Islands - Samuel Thornton - c1702

MAPPING ABACO: ON THE MAP IN 1702

In the Old World, 1702 was a turbulent year politically, royally, and militarily. Treaties made were broken; new treaties were made. Queen Anne succeeded to the throne after William III died of complications after falling off his horse. Anne went on to have 17 children, any one of whom would have secured the succession, but the extraordinary and sad fact is that none survived beyond childhood. In the New World, English troops were abroad, attacking St Augustine in (then-Spanish) Florida.

Map of the Bahama Islands - Samuel Thornton - c1702

Meanwhile in the world of cartography, the development of mapping continued apace with the Dutch retaining their pre-eminence, and the French and British making important contributions. Which brings me to Samuel Thornton, hydrographer, and his mapping ways. He was the son of the more famous cartographer, John Thornton, considered the principal English chart-maker of the late c17. As his father aged, a degree of uncertainty seems to have crept in over the authorship of Thornton maps. It is clear that after John’s death in 1708, Samuel took over the business and reissued maps under his own name, sometimes with little alteration other than the name in the cartouche. However there was possibly a ‘grey area’ for a few years before, when the same practice applied. 

Map of the Bahama Islands - Samuel Thornton - c1702

Samuel Thornton’s ‘…New Chart of the Bahama Islands and the Windward Pafsage (sic)’ is thought originally to date from c1702, when presumably the enjoyably colourful Cartouche (above) in fact bore his father’s name. The map covers an extensive geographical area besides the Bahamas, with the Florida coastline revealed as remarkably unpopulated. Zeroing in on the northern Bahamas (and as is usual with historic maps), certain features stand out, not least with spelling. Andros was written Androfs (sic). The Bahama Banck (sic) is shown to extend quite a long way north of Abbaco (sic) and Grand Bahama (shown as Bahama I). And as noted in earlier posts relating to Abaco’s history (see links below), ‘Hole in the Rock’ (ie Wall) is the only mainland location marked. This was not because there was any sizeable settlement there, but because for at least a century beforehand, Abaco’s most notable topographic feature was a significant and instantly recognisable navigation marker for shipping at the southern end of the island.

Map of the Bahama Islands - Samuel Thornton - c1702

One problem with Samuel Thornton’s reissues of his father’s maps was that flaws an original map from which a reproduction was derived went uncorrected. For example if you look at the header image of the full map, there’s a dark band right down the centre of the map, which persisted in later versions. More importantly, there was probably little or no correction of errors that new expeditions in the area might have revealed. Be that as it may, the Thornton map plays a significant role in the mapping of the Bahama Islands and beyond, and marks the start of an increasing sophistication as the new century progressed.

RELATED POSTS

MAPPING ABACO Bahamas and Florida in the c17

MAPPING ABACO Bellin’s Map 1764

MAPPING ABACO A journey back to c18

A HISTORY OF HOLE-IN-THE-WALL IN MAPS

Map of the Bahama Islands - Samuel Thornton - c1702

A LIGHT EXTINGUISHED: LITTLE HARBOUR LIGHTHOUSE REVISITED


Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

A LIGHT EXTINGUISHED: LITTLE HARBOUR LIGHTHOUSE REVISITED

The words ‘Abaco Lighthouse’ are near-synonymous with the splendid striped edifice in Hope Town, Elbow Cay. This beloved building is truly iconic, in the modern sense of the word (see HERE). But it would not do to forget the other principal lighthouse of Abaco at Hole-in-the-Wall, also with its original Fresnel lenses (see HERE for a post written ages ago).

Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

However, there’s a third lighthouse on Abaco. The small light at Little Harbour is, by contrast with the other two beacons, relatively unknown, unvisited, and unloved. Derelict, in fact, and a sad  relic on its lonely promontory. Recently we prised ourselves away from the delights of Pete’s Pub and found the start of the overgrown track to the light. There’s a wooden sign that helps to locate the path. 

Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

This small lighthouse station – “The Old Lighthouse” – was established in 1889 close to the entrance to Little Harbour. Originally, it was manned, with the first lighthouse keeper and his wife being the only inhabitants of that part of Little Harbour. The light presumably served to guide shipping to the channel leading to the secluded and safe harbour.

Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

In due course the living quarters fell into dereliction and the existing beacon (type unknown?) on a small tower was converted to a solar-powered light. This arrangement did not survive the devastation of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The replacement was a modern steel framework tower that carried an active light until eventually it was blown over by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Sandy was also the hurricane that destroyed forever the rock ‘hole’ – an important navigation mark for centuries – that gave Hole-in-the-Wall its distinctive name (see HERE and links).

Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen) Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

The views from the elevated position of the ruin are spectacular, both from the outside and from inside. In good weather, anyway… It remains to be seen whether the lonely light is now considered completely redundant, or whether another automatic light will in the end be positioned here when funds or willpower permit. I’m not aware of any groundswell of opinion suggesting that, in the absence of a beacon at Little Harbour, there is a potential safety issue. 

The view north from the light to the tip of the promontoryLittle Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

The view roughly south past the fallen tower towards CherokeeLittle Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

Over time, I have been contacted by people with family associations to previous keepers; and with personal experiences of life there. One or two Americans have wanted to track newly discovered family connections to the light, and even possible relatives. I have the makings of ‘Lighthouse Family’ tree. When I last wrote about the light, Chuck Rickey contacted me with his story, which gives a wonderful insight into the history of the light and its hardy occupants: 

“My grandmother’s first cousin, Curtis Lowe, was lighthouse keeper here for many years and along with his wife, Bessie, raised children Hartley, Maitland, Lois and Robert, obtaining staples buy walking a tract road or sailing to Cherokee Sound. Later on, they were able to motor to Snake Cay, to get provisions from Owens Illinois’ company store aboard the “Robert Fulton”, an old side-wheel steamer, permanently moored there. I was fortunate to spend much fun time there during school vacations growing up”.

WHEREABOUTS IN LITTLE HARBOUR IS WAS THE LIGHTHOUSE

Little Harbour Lighthouse 1 jpg copyLittle Harbour Lighthouse 4 jpg

RELATED POSTS

ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE: A BEACON ICON

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL LIGHTHOUSE

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL: HISTORY, SHIPS AND MAPS

Little Harbour Lighthouse, Abaco Bahamas (Darlene Chisholm)

Credits: all photos Keith Salvesen except the last, Darlene Chisholm. Also, with thanks to Sandy Estabrook. 

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

A HISTORIC MONUMENT TO MARITIME HISTORY: CHEROKEE, ABACO


Tribute Monument to the Sailing Smacks of Cherokee Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

A HISTORIC MONUMENT TO MARITIME HISTORY: CHEROKEE, ABACO

The small and – until quite recently – remote settlement of Cherokee is said to have been founded by one Colonel Thomas Brown with his cohort of Loyalists from the Carolinas. The origin of the name has given rise to various theories, one of which stems from Col. Brown’s supposed link to Cherokee Indians.

The early settlers established themselves at this natural harbour, and life there was largely dependent on the sea. Fishing provided food, wrecking provided goods and presumably the wherewithal for trade or barter. In due course, boat building became an important part of the community, as with other places on Abaco (e.g. Man-o-War Cay). Later still, smack fishing with the locally made boats brought stability and no doubt a degree of prosperity to the community.

The monument, and in the background right, the comms tower & the new SHELL MUSEUMTribute Monument to the Sailing Smacks of Cherokee Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

The fishing smacks of Cherokee were designed to carry 5 sails rather than the usual 7 sails. Not being a sailor, I can’t tell if this was just a local stylistic choice, or for simplicity, or perhaps for a specific sea-going reason in that particular area. As a tribute to this honourable industry, in October 1988 the community of Cherokee Sound erected a fine monument near the famous LONG DOCK dedicated to the Cherokee fishermen and their smacks, and naming many of the vessels involved over many decades.

Tribute Monument to the Sailing Smacks of Cherokee Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

The monument also sets out the long history of smack fishing dating from the early c19 until the 1960s, by which time the advent of the diesel engine had begun to make setting the sails for fishing redundant. The moving tribute speaks to the great pride of the community in its history and its forbears.

The short poem, with the authorship shown as Anon, is in fact based on a sea-song written by a non-seafaring Scotsman called Allan Cunningham (1784- 1842), A Wet sheet and a flowing sea – said to be his best known song. The full version is given at the end, and you’ll see that the second verse (with some minor changes) is the part chosen to form the shorter tribute.

Tribute Monument to the Sailing Smacks of Cherokee Abaco

The monument also includes a panel dedicated to the fishermen of the community who lost their lives in plying their trade from 1890 onwards. It is notable that every one of them bears a family name familiar to this day on Abaco in the succeeding generations.

Tribute Monument to the Sailing Smacks of Cherokee Abaco

A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea by Alan Cunningham (1784- 1842)

A Wet sheet and a flowing sea, 
    A wind that follows fast 
And fills the white and rustling sail 
    And bends the gallant mast; 
And bends the gallant mast, my boys, 
    While like the eagle free – 
Away the good ship flies, and leaves 
    Old England on the lee.

“O for a soft and gentle wind!” 
    I heard a fair one cry: 
But give to me the snoring breeze 
    And white waves heaving high; 
And white waves heaving high, my lads, 
    The good ship tight and free – 
The world of waters is our home, 
    And merry men are we.

There’s tempest in yon hornèd moon, 
    And lightning in yon cloud: 
But hark the music, mariners! 
    The wind is piping loud; 
The wind is piping loud, my boys, 
    The lightning flashes free – 
While the hollow oak our palace is, 
    Our heritage the sea.

Credits & research: Keith Salvesen, Kaderin Mills / BNT, Bahamas.com, National Geographic, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

LITTLE HARBOUR ABACO (1): JOHNSTON FOUNDRY & GALLERY


Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

LITTLE HARBOUR ABACO (1): JOHNSTON FOUNDRY & GALLERY

Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour needs no introduction. The place is an integral part of Abaco life, in much the same way as the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. Everyone knows that one runs effortlessly on beer and rum; the other on kerosene and a bed of mercury (just don’t mix up which is which, and best not to drink the mercury). Some visitors may happily while away an hour or three at Pete’s, not knowing of the amazing sculpture gallery almost next door, where works from the historic Johnston Foundry are displayed. Here is a taste of what you will find there.

Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

In the 1950s Randolph Johnston built a bronze casting foundry at Little Harbour that is still very much in use today. Much of the wonderful work produced by members of the Johnston family over 3 generations can be found on display in the Gallery. Here you will find genuinely locally produced sculptural works of art ranging from the simple to the incredibly complex. Some large outdoor pieces can also be found dotted around the settlement – here, a huge ray; over there, a pair of leaping dolphins.

Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

Unsurprisingly, the sculptures on display mostly relate to the sea, which laps the shoreline only a few yards in front of the gallery. These are works of art, and of skill refined over decades. They do not come cheap. There are however smaller and less expensive items to tempt the visitor who may have a baggage allowance to live down to. Here is a snapshot of some of these.

Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen) Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)Pete's Pub & Gallery / The Johnston Foundry Little Harbour Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

You might be entertained by this short video, which will give you an idea of Pete’s set-up at this unique off-grid settlement. And if you do visit, coincide with a mealtime – the freshly caught fish is outstanding.

All photos: Keith Salvesen, with thanks for permission to photograph some of the artworks on display. Video by Pete’s! [PS I have not been paid for my writing, not even a beer…]

“GIFTS FROM THE SEA”: THE CHEROKEE SHELL MUSEUM


Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

“GIFTS FROM THE SEA”: THE CHEROKEE SHELL MUSEUM

In the shadow of a tall pylon in the secluded settlement of Cherokee stands Abaco’s smallest museum. Make that one of the world’s smallest museums. As I mentioned after it opened last year, other contenders for the title include the MmuseumM in New York, housed in an elevator shaft (look through glass window + audio guide); a converted red telephone kiosk in Warley, Yorkshire UK dedicated to local history (one visitor at a time); and a tiny shed of 134 sq ft in Arizona featuring what might broadly be called ‘ephemera’, including a Beatles poster…

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

This tiny museum is dedicated to the shells of Abaco. It is almost certainly the smallest shell museum anywhere in the world (except maybe the one you kept in a small box under your bed when you were 10). 

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

“Gifts from the Sea” is housed in the former 1950s telegraph office that ceased to operate in 1987 and had fallen into disrepair. Leased from BTC for a nominal rent, the little building was restored, and given a smart new roof and a complete makeover. It’s the perfect space for displaying a selection of the wonderful shells and corals to be found in Abaco waters.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

This community project is the vision and creation of Curator Lee Pinder. Derek Weatherford fitted cabinets for the exhibits, and artist Jo-Ann Bradley painted a interior Cherokee-themed mural as a fitting backdrop to the displays.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The exhibition shows more than 200 shells, each catalogued with its Latin and common name, and clearly labelled in the display. Most were found locally; a few are from further afield. Some specimens are very rare. The collection will expand as people make shell donations to the museum. 

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Abaconian

The building has a door at each end to give natural light and provide a ‘walk-through’ arrangement, which makes viewing in the confined space easier. Entry is free but there’s a glass jar for donations towards the upkeep of the museum. I’m guessing here, but I reckon donations made ‘outside the jar’ (so to speak) are very welcome too…

Museum Curator Lee PinderCherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The opening ceremony took place on Easter Saturday 2017, when Cherokee resident Rev. Bateman Sands performed the official ribbon cutting ceremony preceded by a prayer at precisely 12 noon. As Jennifer Hudson in an Abaconian article pointed out, he was the ideal person for the task, having been “the first telegraph operator in Cherokee Sound, working in the little building using Morse code and in charge of the one and only telephone in the settlement until 1987 when the new BTC building was opened”.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The shell museum is not left open all the time, but visitors are welcomed on weekend afternoons, and private tours can be arranged by calling either number shown below on the notice attached to the door.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)

To see a selection of the many types of Abaco shells, check out my shell page HERE

Sources and Photo Credits: Bradley Albury / Jennifer Hudson / Abaconian; Cindy James Pinder (shells, interior 2017); Keith Salvesen (exterior, 2018)

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas (Keith Salvesen)