АБАKО: SOVIET RUSSIAN MILITARY MAP OF ABACO


Soviet Russian Military Map of Abaco 1979

АБАKО: SOVIET RUSSIAN MILITARY MAP OF ABACO

I had been toying with a plan to write something fishy today. Lifting the lid on the secrets of the creole wrasse, maybe. Then something arrived in my inbox overnight that changed my course entirely. I was struck  by an idea  harder than a torrent of mixed metaphors speeding towards a bullseye in the motherlode. A map! A map of Abaco!! All in Russian!!! From the Soviet Russian Military Survey!!!! Irresistible. An occasion for multiple exclamation marks.509px-hammer_and_sickle_black_large_on_transparent-svg

‘Russian Soviet Military Topographic Maps’

Map sheet G-18-1 GREAT ABACO ISLAND ed. 1979 – scale 1:500 000, map size 66 cm x 55 cm

Soviet Russian Military Map of Abaco 1979

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My blog is stuffed full of maps. They are scattered everywhere, like cartographical confetti. There’s even a page for some of them HERE. Want a map of Abaco’s HIGHEST POINT (134m, if you have the energy).  Need to see what Abaco looked like 300 years ago? Try HERE. Need a history of Hole-in-the-Wall in maps? Try THIS. And so on.
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The header map is a merely the bottom-left corner of the much larger map immediately above. As a crop of the much larger area, it’s illegible. Which is next to useless, because the best thing about this map is that it is all in Russian. And I really wanted to see how they had mapped Marsh Harbour. Treasure Cay. Man-o-War. And the rest. I looked around online and reached this one. Even with some work on the image, you can only get a blurry glimpse – just a few tempting hints of Cyrillic. But it’s impossible to locate Марш Харьор, Трежер Ки, or Ман-оф-Уор Ки…

Soviet Russian Military Map of Abaco 1979

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So, back to the interweb thing. And eventually, something usable turned up. Here, with props to Clicpic, is Abaco in the late Soviet era. Check out where you live – in Russian. Got friends on Грейт Гуапна Кй? Sadly, the northern end of Abaco and the whole southern end from Crossing Rocks down to Hole-in-the-Wall and right round to Sandy Point is absent. That area is of course the perfect place for missile silos**. Except now it’s a National Park, so that wouldn’t be possible… would it?

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I’ve split the map into 3 sections to make it as big as possible. The maps overlap to keep the proportions equal on-screen. Double click to zoom in. Hope you enjoy travelling around it…

Soviet Russian Military Map of Abaco 1979 Detail 1 Soviet Russian Military Map of Abaco 1979 Detail 2 Soviet Russian Military Map of Abaco 1979 Detail 3

** Vladdy, mate, if you or your agents have picked up on this, (1) only joking, right? and (2) you’ve  anyway got better things to worry about these days…

WHEN NEW PROVIDENCE WAS OLD: MAPPING BAHAMAS HISTORY


Map of New Providence / Nassau Bahamas (early c18)

WHEN NEW PROVIDENCE WAS OLD: MAPPING BAHAMAS HISTORY

“Exact Draught of the Island of New Providence, One of the Bahama Islands in the West Indies”

Lateral thinking is one thing; topsy-turvy thinking is in another league. The map that graces the top of this page is of New Providence and Nassau in the the early c18. By today’s exacting mapping conventions, which historically were less rigorously observed, it is upside-down, with Nassau on what we would call the south-west corner. The map is undated of the face of it, and I have found attributed dates of both 1700 and 1750. It could be anywhere in-between. At the time this map was made, New Providence was sparsely populated except for Nassau itself; and little was known about the island’s interior. Contemporary accounts describe a haven for pirates operating around the coastline. Not for nothing was Nassau protected by a battery and a fort. I’ve divided to map into sections to make it easier to take a closer look at each area. You can click each to enlarge.

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  1. TOP LEFT CORNER (the south-east of NP in actuality), with the compass pointing downwards to the north. A smattering of houses dot the ‘west’ coast. There is one significant property above Little Sound, standing in what looks like a cleared or even cultivated area. I’ll look at that in more detail below. Note the words above The Great Salt Water Sound: “Very High Pines Grow Here Aboue (sic)”, evidence that forests of tall pines familiar even today on Abaco were found on NP 300 years ago. The island is otherwise mostly marked as if the landscape was fairly open.

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2. TOP RIGHT CORNER (south-west & west), with the confident title in a cartouche proclaiming exactness. This was not uncommon in historic map-making – the cartographical equivalent of today’s boastful product slogans – ‘simply the best’ and so on**. The caption next to the Great Sound, This Part of the Country is little Known, suggests an unexplored and perhaps hostile environment – possibly one of marshes and bogs. This sector of the island appears to have been uninhabited, or at least to having no population centres worth recording.

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3. BOTTOM RIGHT CORNER (north-west). At last there is more evidence habitation, with a string of dwellings along the coastline. The 2 cays shown have names, West End and ‘Pellican’. And it looks as though the two ships have set out from port. On the left side of the bay above them, a church can be seen. I’m not sure what the double row of crosses indicates (maybe someone can help here), but I wondered if they might indicate the area close to the shoreline that might be safe – or at least safer – from pirate attack. The leading ship – as the detailed crop shows clearly – is a warship. No harm in romantically speculating that it is escorting a trading vessel…

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4. BOTTOM MIDDLE SECTION As we move towards the main – indeed only – town on the island, it is clear that the northern coast was the most desirable place to live. The scattering of houses along the coast continues; and the captions for the ponds show a possible reason why: fresh water, on an island where other areas of water are actually marked as ‘salt’ or which might have been unpleasantly brackish. And now we can see more of the posh establishment I referred to above. Not only did it lie in open (or perhaps cultivated) country, but it was plainly of some importance. It is notably larger that other buildings depicted, for a start; and it has its own very long track that forks off the coastal track.

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5. BOTTOM LEFT CORNER: NASSAU We have reached the big city, the centre of the population, and the port – with the harbour entrance handily marked. It bore the same name then as now; though the other names marked (as far as I can make out) have mostly if not all changed over 3 centuries. The Baha Mar development and its attendant travails seem light years away from this map. The double line of crosses ends here (bottom right at the first cay). If they marked a safe zone for vessels passing back and forth into Nassau harbour, they did not need to extend further because of the town fortifications (see detailed crop). There is a fort right on the shore; and at the far end of the harbour sound is a battery at Drewitt’s Point. The town is watched over by a substantial building – presumably a Governor’s residence – that is surrounded by a stockade . In the early c18 Nassau put on a show of strength to deter invaders and pirates.

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DO WE KNOW THE EXACT DRAUGHT’S EXACT DATE?

The map itself is undated. The Library of Congress, whose map I have chopped up for this post, simply dates it as 17– and notes: 

Manuscript, pen-and-ink and watercolor; Has watermark; Oriented with north to the bottom; Relief shown pictorially and by shading; Depths shown by soundings.

The excellent David Rumsey Historical Map Collection chooses the year 1750, the maker unknown. Another source puts the date at 1700.

Whichever, a clue to establish the map in the first half of the c18 is that the publisher is believed to be ‘William Innys [et al.]’, London. Innys and his brother John (the ‘et al’ presumably) were active at that time. In 1726, for example, they published an edition of Newton’s  Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (first published in 1687), indicating that they must already have been well-established.

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WHAT ABOUT THE PIRATES?

The “Deposition of  Capt. Matthew Musson” made on  5 Jul 1717 in London, contains some excellent contemporary  pirate-based material. The middle passage in particular gives an indication how well organised and extremely well-armed the pirates were. And it is clear that piracy was actually driving inhabitants away from New Providence.

  • “On March last he was cast away on the Bahamas. At Harbour Island he found about 30 families, with severall pirates, which frequently are comeing and goeing to purchase provissons for the piratts vessells at Providence. There were there two ships of 90 tons which sold provissons to the said pirates, the sailors of which said they belong’d to Boston”.
  • “At Habakoe one of the Bahamas he found Capt. Thomas Walker and others who had left Providence by reason of the rudeness of the pirates and settled there. They advis’d him that five pirates made ye harbour of Providence their place of rendevous vizt. [Benjamin] Horngold, a sloop with 10 guns and about 80 men; [Henry] Jennings, a sloop with 10 guns and 100 men; [Josiah(s)] Burgiss, a sloop with 8 guns and about 80 men; [Henry?] White, in a small vessell with 30 men and small armes; [Edward] Thatch, a sloop 6 gunns and about 70 men. All took and destroyd ships of all nations except Jennings who took no English; they had taken a Spanish ship of 32 gunns, which they kept in the harbour for a guardship”.
  • “Ye greatest part of the inhabitants of Providence are. already gone into other adjacent islands to secure themselves from ye pirates, who frequently plunder them. Most of the ships and vessells taken by them they burn and destroy when brought into the harbour and oblidge the menn to take on with them. The inhabitants of those Isles are in a miserable condition at present, but were in great hopes that H.M. would be graciously pleas’d to take such measures, which would speedily enable them to return to Providence their former settlement, there are severall more pirates than he can now give an accot. of that are both to windward and to leward of Providence that may ere this be expected to rendevous there he being apprehensive that unless the Governmt. fortify this place the pirates will to protect themselves”. Signed, Mathew Musson. Endorsed, Read 5th July, 1717. 1½ pp. [C.O. 5, 1265. No. 73.]

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CAN I BUY THIS MAP FOR MY WALL?

You certainly can. Well, not an original obviously. But you can find prints of it on eBay and elsewhere – just google the map title. You can get a modern copy for around $20 + shipping

** I have an enjoyable example of this tendency on a William Guthrie map of Europe dated c1800. A map from “the beft authorities” could surely have no serious rival!img_4771

Credits: Library of Congress Online Catalog (Geography and Map Division); David Rumsey Historical Map Collection; Baylus C Brooks, Professional Research & Maritime Historian, Author, & Conservator / “America and West Indies: July 1717, 1-15,” in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 29, 1716-1717, ed. Cecil Headlam (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1930), 336-344; Bonhams (Auctioneers)

STARK’S “HISTORY OF & GUIDE TO THE BAHAMAS”


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STARK’S “HISTORY OF & GUIDE TO THE BAHAMAS”

James H. Stark appears to have been, for his time, a veritable Rough Guide for the Caribbean. In 1891 he produced an entrancing tome, the commendably grammatically correctly-titled “Stark’s History of and Guide to the Bahama Islands Containing a Description of Everything on or About the Bahama Islands of Which the Visitor or Resident May Desire Information, Including Their History, Inhabitants, Climate, Agriculture, Geology, Government and Resources”. More of his other magna opera below.

Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas     Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas

 The jaunty and classic late c19 cover depicts the landing of Columbus, lest the unwary reader should be so ill-informed as the be unaware of the location of the great explorer’s landfall. And gives the date of the event, for the sake of completeness. The title page is most informative of the contents, and manages to namecheck the author three times (or thrice, as he might have put it). The illustrations and in particular the maps are wonderful, and call for a small gallery for your enjoyment. The “Coast Chart” is compiled from “the latest… surveys.” The map of Nassau is most interesting to compare with a map of 125 years later. And the engraved map is set at an unusual angle to say the least. [I’ve tried to clip the Abaco part to check the place names, but I can’t yet get a clear enough image to read].

Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas - Bahamas Map

Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas - Nassau map

Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas - Bahama Islands Map

An historic map from 100 years earlier: note the place names, eg ‘Alabaster’ (Eleuthera)129

The ‘History of & Guide to’ has detailed sections on all the islands. I have lifted the relevant pages – only a few – concerning Abaco. See what a difference 125 years makes…

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I enjoyed reading the ‘opinions of the press’. How unlike our own dear Amazon reviews…Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas    Stark's History of & Guide to the Bahamas

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RAISING A CONTROVERSY…

This is a topic I have touched on before. It concerns the authentic location of the ‘Glass Window’ of Winslow Homer’s famous painting. Is it Eleuthera (as claimed) or Abaco (as contended). The argument is lodged with the Brooklyn Museum, custodian of the Homer painting. In Stark’s book of 1891 is a fine photograph of a – or the? – ‘glass window’, assigned to Eleuthera. Below is an earlier engraving entitled ‘On Abaco Island’. It is the work of Homer, named by him, and seemingly a preliminary study for the painting. The same view? Or different? The jury is still listening to the arguments… 

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Winslow Homer G W Original Brooklyn

Other books by James H. Stark that you may enjoy:

Stark’s History and Guide to Barbados and the Caribee Islands, Containing a Description of Everything on or About These Islands of Which the Visitor or Resident May Desire Information – Including Their History, Inhabitants, Climate, Agriculture, Geology (1893)

A ditto for Trinidad.

A ditto for ‘Boston and its Suburbs’

A ditto to the County of Ohio

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HOLE-IN-THE-WALL for more about Hole-in-the-Wall, Abaco and Winslow Homer

Credits: my primary source is the University of Florida Digital Collection, to which thanks. However there are plenty of mainstream online sites that offer this book to view; and you can download it or even get your own POD (‘print on demand’). 

ABACO HISTORY: GREEN TURTLE CAY & THOSE WHO STAYED


Black Sound, GTC, Abaco (Amanda Diedrick)

‘THOSE WHO STAYED’

I am very pleased to feature Amanda Diedrick’s wonderful new book about the the history of Abaco generally and Green Turtle Cay specifically. Publication is imminent. Without more ado I will leave you with Amanda’s own description of her book, which is illustrated with paintings by illustrious Abaco & GTC artist Alton Lowe. It also contains unique historic photographs that record Abaco’s rich heritage. The book details are shown below, and there’s even a handy Paypal link if – as I hope – you cannot be restrained from the temptation to buy a copy. Or maybe two. And you can follow Amanda’s fascinating and rewarding blog at LITTLE HOUSE BY THE FERRY

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“Visitors often describe New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay as a charming fishing village, its narrow streets, clapboard homes and colourful flowers reminiscent of a New England town.

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But beneath this sweet façade is a past of piracy, poverty and privilege.

Hints of New Plymouth’s history are all around. A rusted anchor at Settlement Point. Two cannon standing guard on the public dock. Broken tombstones on the beach.  An old jail with stairs that lead nowhere.

For more than a thousand years, settlers have come here, drawn by the safety of the land and the bounty of the sea. And as the waves contour the shore, so have these migrants shaped this tiny cay.

By fate and occasionally by force, most were carried away.  A resilient few remained.

This is their story.”

ABOUT THOSE WHO STAYED

  • Print length: 185 pages
  • Book size: 8.5” x 11”
  • Full colour
  • Hard cover
  • Publication date: November 20, 2016
  • Images: 200+, including many never-before published historic photographs, and original oil paintings by world-renowned artist and Green Turtle Cay native, Alton Lowe
  • Price: $79.00

Buy Now Button

Books will ship at the end of November. All orders received by November 25 will be delivered before Christmas.

ABOUT THE AUTHORamanda-profile-pic-for-web

A writer for more than 25 years, Amanda Diedrick is a ninth-generation Bahamian who counts Loyalist settlers Wyannie Malone and Nathan Key and pirate Matthew Lowe among her ancestors.

In 2012, she and her husband Tom Walters purchased the tiny cottage on Green Turtle Cay that her great-grandparents, Herman and May Curry, built after the 1932 hurricane destroyed their grand home.

Amanda documents the ongoing restoration of her ancestral home and writes about Green Turtle Cay and its history on her blog, Little House by the Ferry [link above. RH]

Tom, Amanda and their dog, Wrigley, divide their time between Green Turtle Cay and Los Angeles.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

As with so many Bahamians, it wasn’t until Alton Lowe left home at 16 to become an artist that he truly realized the uniqueness and beauty of his home country.

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In the decades since, he has devoted himself to capturing the people, scenes and history of the Bahamas in original oil paintings.

Lowe’s colourful works hang in public and private collections worldwide, including those of HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, as well as Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. He has staged 38 one-man shows to date, and more than 100 of his works have been commissioned by the Bahamian government for use as postage stamps.

Reflecting his commitment to preserving Bahamian history, Lowe founded Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum and was instrumental in the creation of the island’s Loyalist Memorial Sculpture Garden and Island Roots Heritage Festival.

Through his body of work, he hopes to convey the magnificence of the Bahamas and to inspire his fellow Bahamians to appreciate, enhance and protect their remarkable history for future generations.

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Text and images Amanda Diedrick except welcome sign (GTC Rentals) and the photo below (socmed / open source)

Abaco map by Thompson (1812): note the strange geography, place names and spellings

For more historic Abaco maps click HEREabaco-historic-map-thompson-1815-crop-copy

The opening of the Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay, AbacoAlbert Lowe Museum GTC Opening Nov 1976

LITTLE HARBOUR LIGHTHOUSE: A DERELICT MARITIME LANDMARK


Little Harbour lighthouse Abaco - Darlene Chisholm

LITTLE HARBOUR LIGHTHOUSE: A DERELICT MARITIME LANDMARK

The words ‘Abaco Lighthouse’ are near-synonymous with the splendid striped edifice on Elbow Cay. This beloved building is truly iconic, in the modern sense of the word.** But it would not do to forget the other principal lighthouse of Abaco at Hole-in-the-Wall, also with its original Fresnel lenses. The small light at Little Harbour is by contrast relatively unknown, unvisited and unloved. And derelict. Maybe that explains it. You can read in detail about this neglected relic of Abaco’s maritime history HERE

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Last Spring,  friends and fellow Delphi Club members Bob & Annie Rusby and their children stayed for a while in Little Harbour. Among their adventures was a walk to the lighthouse, which is situated quite remotely on a promontory, and a decent stagger from Pete’s Pub. They took some up-to-date photos (the ones shown are in fact video stills) which supersede the ones I have previously posted. 

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This small lighthouse station – “The Old Lighthouse” – was established in 1889 at the entrance to Little Harbour. Originally, it was manned, with the lighthouse keeper and his wife being (according to Sandy Estabrook) the only inhabitants of that part of Little Harbour. The light presumably served more to locate the channel to the secluded and safe harbour than to warn of reef dangers.

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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 it was blown over by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The header image shows the tumbled structure, which has never been replaced. Even the steel tower seems now (4 years later) to have gone. 

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Little Harbour Lighthouse 1 jpg copyLittle Harbour Lighthouse 4 jpg

The views from the elevated position of the ruin are spectacular, both from inside the ruin (lucky keeper!) and from outside. In good weather, anyway… It remains to be seen whether 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. I’d be interested to hear any views.

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STOP PRESS Chuck Rickey has left a wonderful comment in response to this post, full of personal and historical interest. Any other reminiscences would be most welcome.

“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”.

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RELATED POSTS

ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE: A BEACON ICON

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL LIGHTHOUSE

LITTLE HARBOUR LIGHTHOUSE

Lighthouse ruins, Little Harbour Abaco - Patrick Shyu

Optional linguistic digression

** ‘Iconic’ has undergone a modern modification of its original meaning that is almost universally accepted except by extreme pedants of the type you’d want to slap. Contrast, however Alanis Morissette’s bold attempt at broadening the meaning of  ‘ironic’, which (though often followed) remains badly wrong… For example, “rain on your wedding day” is most unfortunate but not in any sense ironic. But it might be so if you had arranged at great expense to hold your nuptials in a notoriously dry place (a desert town?) during the height of the dry season…  http://www.isitironic.com/alanis-morissette-lyrics.htm

Credits: Darlene Chisholm (header image); Bob Rusby (all main images); Patrick Shyu (last photo); Sandy Estabrook (special thanks for info re earlier post)

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

MAPPING ABACO: A JOURNEY BACK TO THE c18


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MAPPING ABACO: A JOURNEY BACK TO THE c18

From time to time I come across historic maps of the Bahamas in general and Abaco in particular. Many were included in a post I wrote some time ago about the maritime and geographic importance of Hole-in-the-Wall, HERE. Almost all pre-c20 maps of the Bahamas contain insights into the maritime and geo-political history of the islands that are worth investigating. One that recently caught my eye is a map dated 1778 from Italy, published in Venice, with the excellent title “Il Paese de’ Selvaggi Outauacesi, e Kilistinesi Intorno al Lago Superiore”, attributed to Antonio Zatta, John Mitchell and G T Raynal.  “The title translated, might read, “The Country of the Savage Ottowas and Christineaux on the shores of Lake Superior.” Except for Ile Royale, the large islands in the lake are fictitious. The somewhat distorted outline of southern Florida in the inset is in keeping with general lack of British knowledge about this area” Portinaro & Knirsch 

Zatta was a Venetian cartographer who produced some important maps in the 1770s and 1780s, including a 4-volume atlas of the world. Mitchell was a geographer and botanist, best known for the first comprehensive map of eastern North America (1755); Guillaume Thomas Raynal was a French writer and journalist most famous for his treatise on the ‘philosophical and political history of the establishment of commerce by Europeans in the the two Indies’, a work that was considered controversial (it was banned in France, and copies burned). 

THE COMPLETE MAP

Lake Superior, with the ‘Supplemento alla Florida Orientale’ inset – a strange juxtaposition…abaco-map-zatta-1778-sm

FOCUS ON FLORIDA

The ‘eastern Florida’ inset conveniently happens to include the northern Bahamas. Staying with Fl. for a moment, of note is the inclusion of C. Canaveral, spelled then as now. Key Biscayne is also shown. I wondered about the place marked Tartarughe Secche – ‘Dry Turtles’. It is now Dry Tortugas National Park. “Mostly water, this remote park features abundant marine & bird life plus a 19th-century fort. It comprises 7 islands, plus protected coral reefs. Garden Key is home to beaches and the 19th-century Fort Jefferson. Loggerhead Key has a lighthouse and sea turtles. On nearby Loggerhead Reef, the Windjammer Wreck, the remains of an 1875 ship, is a popular dive site. Bush Key is a nesting site for seabirds like sooty terns.”** I suspect that these coral reef islets were marked on maps in days before lighthouses because of the hazards they posed to navigation at sea; and because, like Hole-in-the-Wall on Abaco, they were useful navigation aids.

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ABACO & NORTHERN BAHAMAS

Unacknowledged in both the map and the inset titles, are the northern Bahamas islands. We can pass by Bimini, Andros and (Grand) Bahama which, apart from distinct oddities of scale, shape, and location are more or less as one might expect for the period. Let’s look at some details of the depiction of Abaco. 

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  • ABACO(A) The first geographical jolt comes not from the well-known fact that historically, present-day Abaco was originally called Lucaya (or variations), but that (New) Providence was called Abacoa. Adding to the confusion, some early maps also show certain cays as ‘Abaco’, ‘Abacoa’, or in the case of Tilloo Cay in 1815, ‘Aboca’, possibly through errors or misunderstandings. This map is one of the few I have seen that shows both the mapped transition of Lucaya (or its variants) to Abaco; and of Abaco(a) to Providence. If anyone has any idea why this came about, I’d be pleased to know!
  • HITW? The next surprise is that Hole-in-the-Wall, an established and mapped nautical landmark for some decades, is not marked. Shown on maps since at least 1738, this is the first map I have found – other than the most basic – that does not feature HITW (in whatever language) or ‘Lighthouse Point’. An odd omission.
  • PORTO PICCOLO’s inclusion is interesting because it continues a tendency – eg 1738, Couvens & Mortier – to show Little Harbour as the only named settlement, though by 1778 there must have been others. LH was clearly a place of some significance, and this presumably had a nautical explantation: the harbour is perfectly placed to offer protection and a safe refuge in stormy weather.
  • CANAL DELA BALENA refers to what, by the early c20, was called ‘Whale Cay Channels’ (below), by which time it was more accurately mapped. Other c18 maps also show ‘Chenal Whale’ and ‘Whale Channel’, but considerably north of the actual location. But in those days, even the outline of Abaco and the location of the cays was usually endearingly wonky.whale-cay-abaco-map-crop
  • BARRA DI DUCHTWRECK I haven’t been able to find out much about this location, or the wreck that gave it its name. A map by Thompson (1815) calls it ‘Dutch Wreck Bar’, and I can only assume that at some time in the early c18 – or even the c17 – a Dutch vessel came to grief on the reef. I need to look into this more. Someday. Oddly, the modern Italian for a reef is barriera not barra. Maybe the word has changed over time, or the usage barra then was colloquial; or perhaps in mapping terms it was a generally accepted abbreviation.
  • I MIMBRES This reef or shoal area of is usually mapped as Matanilla Reef, Maternillo Bank or Reef, or variants. In 1656 this area – presumably dangerous for shipping – was the scene of a dramatic tragedy involving a treasure ship, the flagship of a fleet. I dug up reports of the events in Portugese which baffled ‘Google Translator. I was bailed out by an article about treasure hunter Robert Marx and his findings:

shipwreck-ac-marxshipwreck-ac-marx-copy-2bahamabank-1

If you have got this far at all, or even with the assistance of 2 or 3 Kaliks, thanks for bearing with me. The old Abaco maps are fascinating, and of course once one begins to dig, so more stuff emerges… and so on.

Credits: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, http://www.davidrumsey.com / Cartography Associates – in particular for licensing non-commercial use of material via a Creative Commons License; magpie pickings from multiple open-source sites.

**Dry Tortugas National Park review comments are eclectic and include “Crystal clear water, lots of wildlife, nice people and such a cool fort”; “The Dry Tortugas area first gained significance after the War of 1812” and “Constant nice breeze and comfortable night time temperatures for sleeping.”

ECHINODERMS, DOLLAR DOVES & PETRIFIED BISCUITS


Sand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 6

Sand Dollar from Abaco containing 5 miniature white doves…

ECHINODERMS, DOLLAR DOVES & PETRIFIED BISCUITS

Echinoderms (Gr. ‘Hedgehog Skin’) comprise a large variety of sea creatures characterised (mostly) by radial symmetry, often five-way. For Abaconians, the most frequently encountered are starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars and sea biscuits. I am going to look at two particular aspects of dollars and biscuits, conscious that my illustrative photos of white objects were stupidly taken against a white background.

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”.

Recently, Senior Granddaughter (10 this week) was looking at some Abaco sand dollars in her unfeasibly huge 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 (Keith Salvesen) 4

Five white doves (in fact, the separated parts of the creature’s feeding apparatus)Sand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 1

Two broken pieces showing where the doves are centrally locatedSand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 5

A single dove (best viewed the other way up for full-on doveliness)Sand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 3

The photo below, from Pinterest, shows the ‘mouth’ with its 5 dove-parts intact, an arrangement called ‘Aristotle’s Lantern’.

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. Undaunted by her Doves discovery, SG (a most inquisitive girl) also discovered a box containing random stones and fossils. She found these two items:

Fossilised sea biscuitsPetrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 1

A closer look at the pair of rocksPetrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 5 Petrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 4

The undersides of the fossils above – looking like stones but with some tell-tale small holesPetrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 2 Petrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 3

A close-up of the pale biscuitPetrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 6

Sea biscuits as everyone knows them, on the beach at Delphi – skeletons but not yet fossilsSea Biscuits, Delphi, Abaco (Clare Latimer) copy

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

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 around 40 States have State Fossils. Whatever next? State Bacteria?

SO HOW OLD MIGHT A PETRIFIED BISCUIT BE?

The fossil biscuits I have looked at, from Florida to Madagascar, 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. So maybe the next plan should be to take the 2 petrified sea biscuits plus SG to a museum to see if we can get an idea of their age…geotimescale

All photos ‘in-house’ except the Delphi biscuits, Clare Latimer & the single biscuit Rhonda Pearce; Geochart to be credited asap, mislaid the source…