Saturday, 26 November 2011

Spanish Anchor and the Curse of the West Caicos

Before diving at each new location, one of the Dive Masters would give a short briefing about the area – the layout, what we could expect to see, and a bit of history or a story to go with the site. Lynn provided great entertainment about the “G Spot” which was apparently so named because it’s hard to find. Of course many other sexual innuendos accompanied the telling!

At “Spanish Anchor” Brandt provided a story filled with both fact and fiction.  I’ve supplemented it below with some names, dates, etc. found in a history book and Internet.

The story goes like this . . .

Many, many years ago in the day of pirates . . . a Spanish Pirate moored his boat just off the coast of West Caicos Island. The British tried to chase him away but he couldn’t move because his anchor got stuck. He fought off the British for a time and finally got away by cutting his mooring line, leaving the anchor at the depths of the sea. The British eventually caught up with him and sank the ship but the pirate’s Haitian girlfriend put a curse on the island so that no one could live there. (Fiction – although there is an old anchor there, which we never did see, no one really knows for sure how it got there. This part of the story may be based somewhat on the notorious pirate Duliaen who would hide his vessel in a rocky inlet on the northern coast of West Caicos, tying branches and trees to the masts to screen the ship from observation while he lay in wait for merchant ships passing by.)

In the 1850’s a Grand Turk company began building Salinas for salt production but a quarrel between the partners ended this venture. Shortly after, the Belle Isle Manufacturing Company of West Caicos spend a considerable amount of money (for that time period) constructing a salt-water canal and installing a tramway and other facilities. This venture also didn’t last long due to financial conditions as a result of the American Civil War and the company was foreclosed on. (Fact)

The 1890’s saw a boom in the sisal industry and the West Caicos Fibre Company was formed. (Fact) The demand for sisal diminished when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and cotton became the fibre of choice. (Artistic license by Brandt since Whitney invented the cotton gin about 100 years before this!)

West Caicos was declared a Port of Entry and Royal Mail steamers picked up their first load of 100 bales in March 1903. The manager of the West Caicos Fibre Company returned to England later that year and once again financial difficulties led to the end of this enterprise. The ruins of “Yankee Town", railway tracks and equipment from these industries can still be seen on the island. (Fact)

spotted filefish

Raphael Trujillo, the dictator of Santo Domingo, tried to purchase West Caicos in the 1950’s, probably for use as a hideaway, but due to problems in procuring a clear title, the negotiations fell through. (Fact) He was on his way to sign the sale documents when he was assassinated. (Fiction by Brandt). Trujillo was assassinated some years later, in 1961. (Fact)

In the 1970’s, Esso International acquired an option to build an oil refinery on West Caicos and in anticipation of this, another wealthy group from Nassau received a land option and built a small airstrip on the island.  Once again, fate stepped in and the scheme died due to the sudden death of the main business promoter. (Fact)

Facts from “Turks Islands Landfall, Volume 4” by H. E. Sadler and this website

(It’s interesting to note the above website states that “development is underway to construct a small, exclusive community with yacht harbor and airport on a small port of the West Caicos” but the link to the Isle of West Caicos doesn’t work. Another business venture cursed?

Andrew -- the best dive buddy ever!

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