The New York Times, June 22, 1884, p. 4:|
A FIRST LOOK AT NASSAUTHE ONLY CITY IN THE BAHAMA ISLANDS.
EARLY IMPRESSIONS OF ITS CLIMATE, SOIL, AND PEOPLE--
AN ISLE OF ETERNAL SUMMER...
Nassau is a city of 10,000 to 12,000 inhabitants, on the tiny island of New-Providence, which lies exactly on the twenty-fifth parallel of north latitude. It is therefore just as far south as the lowest point of the Florida peninsula, and is about 250 miles east of the Florida coast. It is the capital of the Bahamas, and is the only city in that group.
The West India Islands are all comprised in three groups--the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Bahamas. In the Greater Antilles are included Cuba, Jamaica, San Domingo [Hispanola] and Porto Rico, all under separate Governments. In the Lesser Antilles, which are sometimes called the Caribbee Islands, are Martinique, Barbados, and a dozen other evergreen spots, from which we get such articles as rum and tobacco. The Bahamas, the most northerly of the three groups and the nearest to the American continent, are all subject to the British Government and all under the jurisdiction of the same Governor, who is appointed by the British Crown.
Taking up the principal Bahama Islands alphabetically, they are, besides New-Providence, Abaco, Acklin's Andros, Eleuthern, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Inagua, San Salvador, and Watlings. Counting all the little islands, many of which are inhabited, the number runs up into the hundreds. New-Providence is one of the smallest of them all, being only 21 miles long and about 7 miles broad.
Having thus completed the first chapter of my new geography of the West Indies, I proceed to put myself once more on the schooner Equator, from whose after-deck I had my first view of the city of Nassau. We were 10 or 15 miles to the north of the city, and it was perhaps an hour after daylight. A very light wind, blowing, of course, in the wrong direction, was bearing us to our destination with great deliberation. We had just finished our last banquet of dried fish and bread, when Tommy, the ever-ready and obliging cabin boy, pointed over the starboard bow and said, "There's Nassau!"
One of my fellow-passengers picked up the Captain's big spy-glass, which lay on the cabin roof, and took a long and earnest look. He saw what the rest of us saw without any glass--a tiny speck, looking like a needle sticking out of the water.
"Well, I declare!" said the fellow-passenger, "I knew Nassau was a small place, but I never imagined it was as little as that. Now, who'd think that tiny spot there was 20 miles long and 6 or 7 miles broad?"
"It hisn't," said Tommy, who sometimes had a little trouble with his h's. "That's not the hisland; that's only the light'ouse. You can't see the hisland yet."
Tacking and beating and many shrewd nautical manœuvres gradually brought us up th where we could see a low bit of land. It was so early in the morning the lamp in the lighthouse was still burning. By the time the sun came up we saw the island before us, rising up from the sea level to a very good elevation, dotted with snow-white houses, and shaded everywhere with palm trees.
We lay down on the cabin roof, two or three of us, and watched Nassau grow larger. Though by this time we could distinguish the buildings, we knew it would take us several hours to reach the harbor. But that did not worry us. Hardly anything worries a man in 25° north latitude. If we did not get in in the morning, we would in the afternoon; if not in the afternoon, then to-morrow. It made no difference. We were comfortable and contented, and felt already the influence of the soothing atmosphere.
This is one of the few things that the traveler, hearing about beforehand, can always feel sure about finding when he gets there. He may read about the wonderful springs somewhere, or the bracing mountain air, or the velvety sea beach, and find them all gas; but if he goes into the tropics he will come under the influence of the climate and feel good-natured and comfortable and careless.
There is a vision of peace in a cocoa-nut grove, to my mind, beyond all other earthly things. This tranquility took such possession of me that I have not fairly got over it yet, so that at this very minute I should rather go out in the hammock and light a cigar than keep on writing.
We rounded the point of the island which forms the harbor, whereon stands the light-house, and soon anchored off the public pier. Somebody had discovered that we were floating in water as transparent as air, and we all leaned over the schooner's rail and watched the bottom, 30 feet below us. It was generally white rock, here and there darkened by black seaweed. So clear was it that if a nickle had lain on the bottom under 30 feet of water we would have seen it.
The Captain, who was not acquainted with the customs of the port, took a small boat and went ashore first, before he would let any of us land, to see whether we were to be quarantined, and whether the duty on us was to be per capita or ad valoreum. Even this did not ruffle our serenity. Landing at a stange city, one is usually anxious to get ashore, but here we were content to wait.
Presently the Captain came back with the news that there was nothing to prevent our landing, but that we could not take our baggage till it had been examined. So we left our trunk keys on board and were rowed ashore.
The wharf is built of coral limestone, with steps for passengers to walk up; and we walked up the steps and stood in the Nassau public park, about an acre in extent, in which were trees and benches and some grass, and a great variety of gentlemen of color, varying in age from 5 to 50, and in shade from Baker's chocolate to indelible ink.
No cabmen besieged us, no hotel runners made us miserable. We knew where the hotel was, because it stands on a hill, and we saw it, and we set out to walk to it, with no further interference than the requests of two or three very polite colored boys who wanted the job of taking our baggage up. I gave one of them an order for mine, and in an hour he had it in the hotel, examined and passed, and hung around the office another hour waiting to give me the key, and charged me a quarter.
We crossed the main street, as smooth as a floor and as white as chalk, and took one of the side streets, up a pretty steep grade, toward the hotel. The main thoroughfare is called Bay-street, as we learned from the lamp-posts, and we found it lively with victorias and drags, and with colored women carrying trays of vegetables on their heads, and colored men and boys. Every colored person we met spoke politely to us. We went past the police office and were saluted by half a dozen coal-black officers in blue uniforms, who stood about the door. Through open doors and windows we saw the rooms inside, with iron cots for the men.
"Good morning, gentlemen," said one of the officers as we passed. "Did you come over from Key West?"
We told him that we did.
"What was the news there when you left, gentlemen?"
There was no news to tell him, and we continued the walk to the hotel. Everything about us was either dazzling white or rich cream-color--streets, houses, stone walls, even the soil in such gardens as we passed. Through a stone archway we entered the hotel grounds, and were soon in the cool office.
The Royal Victoria Hotel, the largest building in the Bahamas, is four stories high, built of native stone of the islands, with long and broad verandas surrounding every story, with one end rounded off like the stern of a steam-boat (so that when you sit there you unconciously keep waiting for the bell to ring and the boat to start,) and with a stone-arched court in front, where a breeze always blows, and where, from breakfast till bed-time, a fair is always in progress.
It looks like an Oriental bazaar. Colored men and women, boys and girls, some of them so nearly white you could hardly tell the difference, and many of them exceedingly pretty, filled the open archways when we reached the hotel, offering for sale all the sorts of curiosities that people usually buy in stange lands and throw away as soon as they get home--canes, baskets, straw hats, shell-work, cocoa-nuts, sponges, flowers, queer fish--nearly everything imaginable.
Twenty people had these things for sale, and a hundred more stood in the background waiting to see something sold. They like to wait, these Nassau darkies. There seems to be no end to their patience. I have seen a colored boy ask at the hotel office for a gentleman before breakfast and wait for him until nearly dinner-time, standing all the while where he could see his man come down stairs.
At last our baggage came up from the schooner, and at last we had the satisfaction of sitting down once more to a civilized meal, in the dining room of the Royal Victorian Hotel, a great room, perfumed with flowers, (it was Feb. 19.) shady and cool, and of eating from tables loaded with good things.
In the hotel office I was delighted to meet Mr. S. S. Morton, of New-York, under whose guidance the Royal Victoria flourishes, and a dozen other New-Yorkers with familiar names. It seemed almost like walking into a Saratoga hotel in Summer. Every door and window, of course, was open, and the thermometer was somewhere about 75°. The Nassau Band was playing on the lawn. Hotel guests were sitting out under the arches and under the trees, talking with the negroes, reading, sewing, smoking. There were some late New-York papers in the reading-room, and maps of the Bahamas on the walls, and comfortable sofas...
In the heat of the afternoon, when visitors and native alike were seeking shady spots for rest and sleep, I walked out to have a look at the city. It lies, I soon found, on the slope of a hill, facing the sea, and looking northward. Near the hill's summit is the Royal Victorian Hotel--so high that you can stand on the front porch and look over most of the city and far out to sea. Quite on the top of the hill is the Governor's house, a large but unpretentious mansion, with handsome grounds.
See also: Miami News - Puerto Rico News|
Dominican Republic News - Cuba News
All of the Bahamas is one time zone at GMT-5, with Daylight Savings Time.
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas occupies a chain of islands in the Caribbean Sea (part of the North Atlantic Ocean), southeast of Florida and northeast of Cuba.
Lucayan Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher COLUMBUS first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783.
Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.
CIA World Factbook: Bahamas
Area of the Bahamas:
13,940 sq km
slightly smaller than Connecticut
Population of the Bahamas:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of the Bahamas:
English official, Creole Haitians
Bahamas Reference Articles and Links
Wikipedia: Bahamas - History of Bahamas
BBC Country Profile: Bahamas
UK Foreign Office: Bahamas Profile
US State Department: Bahamas Profile
US Embassy Nassau, Bahamas
Governments on the WWW links
Bahamas Official Tourism Website
US State Dept Bahamas Travel
Bahamas News Websites
The Nassau Guardian
The Bahamas Weekly
The Bahama Journal
The Freeport News
ABYZ: Bahamas News Links
Bahamas Internet Directories
Yahoo!: Bahamas directory
Google Bahamas directory