July 22, 2024
The Bahamas Islands

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas was an internally governed British colony until it gained independence in 1973. The Bahamas is comprised of 700 islands and 2000 rocks and cays, with only about 30 of those islands being inhabited. Andros is the largest island; New Providence is the most important and most populous and is also where the capital, Nassau, is located. Of lesser importance are the islands of Abaco, Grand Bahama, Cat Island, Long Island, Eleuthera and Exuma.

Watling Island, or San Salvador, is regarded as the first land of the New World to be reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The total landmass of the Bahamas is 13,940 sq kilometres (5,382 sq miles).

The Bahamas rest on a shelf of coralline limestone and are themselves exposed portions of the shelf. Mostly flat, they reach an elevation of 60 metres (200 ft) on Cat Island. They have a beautiful coastline, which falls of steeply on the eastern side. The porous nature of the limestone detracts from any stream activity and the water supply relies on bores, wells and tanks capturing rainwater.

The islands are bisected by the Tropic of Cancer and have subtropical conditions. Together with the influence of the Gulf Stream, the temperature in winter averages 21 degrees C (70 deg F) and summer temperatures average 27 – 32 deg C (80 – 90 deg F). Rainfall averages out at 1000 – 1300 mm (40 – 50 inches), although can be heavier in some places. Rainfall months are May, June, September and October.

The population is approximately 330,000 and is about 85% Negro, with a white minority of British, American and Canadian ancestry. Until 1964, the whites controlled the political power of the country. The islands have been subjected mainly to British influences since the 1660s, when the first British settlers arrived.

Long the hangout for pirates and slave traders, later Nassau prospered as a base for blockade-runners during the American Civil War and as a meeting place for bootleggers during the Prohibition years.

English is the main language of the islands. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 15. Religious groups include Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists and Roman Catholics. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy and is backed by US funding. The warm sunshine, attractive beaches and laid-back lifestyle attract large numbers of tourists to Nassau and Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Taxation concessions have made Freeport an attractive option for investment and retirement.

Real Estate and Finance are important sectors of the economy. There is very little industry apart from an oil refinery at Freeport and a rum distillery on New Providence. Fishing is one of the major mainstays of the Negro population. Vegetables and fruit are grown however the arable land is limited and a small amount of livestock is also farmed. Trading commodities include cucumbers, tomatoes, shellfish, pulpwood and cement and the main trading partners are the USA, the UK and Canada.

At least 6 international airlines and major shipping lines serve the Bahamas. There is a good inter-island boat service and major roads on the main islands are paved.