Bahamas | Day 5: Once Upon a Fort

I’m all about history, the stories of the past and people, those fragile threads of a once upon a time that shape the ever after. So, not surprisingly, I love those vacations that involve a lot of history. Up until 2013 (when I checked it off the list), my dream vacation in the United States was to see Boston. I wanted to see those places that helped shape the future of the New World. As a bonus, I enjoyed the fall foliage of New England (another dream).

The Bahamas isn’t so much about the history as the now. It’s about lounging in the sun. Digging your toes in the sand. Swimming in the warm Caribbean Sea. Now. But like every place, the Bahamas has a history, and that’s what I saw today.

Boat Tour

First up was a boat tour of Paradise Island. Fun fact, before Paradise Island was “Paradise Island”—or rather, while it was still a paradise instead of a major resort—it was called Hog Island. You no longer see wild hogs swimming in the shallow waters…here—Big Major Cay, Bahamas is the place to go if this is your dream (and why shouldn’t it be?). I could tell you about the infamous Club Med that used to live here or point out the vacation houses of big-name celebrities like Oprah and Starbuck’s founder guy, but I didn’t take pictures of those houses and I really don’t care. However, I did take this picture of a lighthouse on the tip of the island:

Hog Island Lighthouse, Bahamas
Hog Island Lighthouse

 

Hog Island Lighthouse has a history—surprise surprise—that dates back to 1817. I tried to run down to the lighthouse one morning, but the beach breaks right before you get to it. Unfortunately. And, seeing as the tide was getting higher and rougher, I didn’t fancy breaking myself on the huge rocks. But this is what I find valuable: history. Celebrities come and go, but this lighthouse has been sending hope out into the sultry Caribbean night for centuries. Happy 200th birthday, lighthouse.

More interesting (but with nothing historical to visit) is the history of pirates on the island. We’re talking Blackbeard-style pirates here. Literally. Blackbeard lived on Paradise Island.

Bus Tour

So maybe it’s no surprise that New Providence Island (wherein lies Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas) across the channel also once boasted quite the pirate population. The island became the Republic of Pirates. And before you think of Jack Sparrow and rum and general lawlessness, pirates were often privateers (as they were in this case) who were sanctioned by the British (or other) government during this war or that to harry enemy merchant ships. Bonus: they got to keep their plunder. However, once the war ended, so did their livelihood. Those who didn’t give up privateering were called pirates and became an enemy to the country they were just serving. Not that you can blame the government for stepping in to stop the pillaging of merchant ships post-war. And not that you really want to blame the “pirates” for doing what their government turned them into. We’re blaming no one here.

The Republic of Pirates only lasted a handful of years in the 1700s, then the British re-asserted control. Much of the history I saw on the bus tour of the island had to do with the British. The island has a couple of forts, like this one:

Fort Fincastle, Bahamas
Fort Fincastle

Fort Fincastle, named for the viscount and royal governor who built it, is one of three forts on New Providence, but it happens to be on the highest piece of land: Bennett Hill. In its heyday in 1793, it boasted six cannons and a Howitzer. Now it’s a reminder of what was. Interestingly, this fort is shaped when viewed from the top like a steamship. Why a steamship? you ask. I asked that same question.

We also saw the downtown area, waterfront district, and Parliamentary Square (as we were in a bus, my other pictures aren’t fantastic, so you’re stuck with only this one):

parliamentary square, bahamas
Parliamentary Square

 

Moral of the story: Every place has a history. Sometimes you just have to find it. And that’s part of the adventure.

 

 

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