Exploring Great Exuma Island and Little Exuma Island

Great Exuma Island (the largest island in the Exuma chain) runs for about 37 miles from northwest to southeast. It was founded around 1783 by American loyalists fleeing the Revolutionary War. Initially, a cotton plantation economy replete with slaves was established. Lord John Rolle, one of the most important loyalist settlers, upon his death in 1842 bestowed all of his significant land holdings on the island to his slaves. Because slaves took on the surname of their master, well over half of the current islands residents bear the last name, Rolle. More than one town is also named after the influential lord, e.g., Rolleville and Rolletown.

On Wednesday, Cindy and I rented a car to explore the island. We drove from Barraterre in the far north of Great Exuma Island to the southernmost point in Williams Town, Little Exuma Island. Along the way we found some very interesting discoveries.

We kept getting in the wrong side of the car all day!  The cars suffer from situs inversus! (medical term:  look it up) :)

We kept getting in the wrong side of the car all day! The cars suffer from situs inversus! (medical term: look it up) 🙂

Cars especially designed for dumb Americans.  Keep Left displayed prominently on the windshield!

Cars especially designed for dumb Americans. Keep Left displayed prominently on the windshield!

Scary thought: Cindy driving from the wrong side of the car!  Although she states it felt natural because she's left handed.  I guess she was meant to be British.

Scary thought: Cindy driving from the wrong side of the car! Although she states it felt natural because she’s left handed. I guess she was meant to be British.

Beautiful turquoise waters.

Beautiful turquoise waters.

There are three tombs there in the middle of a secluded clearing, which date back to Loyalist times. The only inscription is found on the largest one, resembling an elaborate double bed made of stone with headboard and footboard. It reads, "Within this tomb interred the body of Ann McKay, wife of Alexander McKay who departed this life on the 8th November 1792. Age twenty-six years and their infant child." Mr. McKay reportedly came to Great Exuma from Scotland in 1789 to set up a plantation after receiving a land grant.

There are three tombs there in the middle of a secluded clearing, which date back to Loyalist times. The only inscription is found on the largest one, resembling an elaborate double bed made of stone with headboard and footboard. It reads, “Within this tomb interred the body of Ann McKay, wife of Alexander McKay who departed this life on the 8th November 1792. Age twenty-six years and their infant child.” Mr. McKay reportedly came to Great Exuma from Scotland in 1789 to set up a plantation after receiving a land grant.

View from Rolle Town

View from Rolle Town

Rolle Town vistas

Rolle Town vistas

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One lane bridge connecting Great Exuma Island to Little Exuma Island

One lane bridge connecting Great Exuma Island to Little Exuma Island

Ruins of an old loyalist plantation on Little Exuma near Williams Town

Ruins of an old loyalist plantation on Little Exuma near Williams Town

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Sheep by the old ruined loyalist home

Sheep by the old ruined loyalist home

Walking up to the cliff's edge at the Salt Beacon

Walking up to the cliff’s edge at the Salt Beacon

Standing on the cliffs above the white sand beaches and beautiful blue waters.

Standing on the cliffs above the white sand beaches and beautiful blue waters.

A 30-foot tall tuscan column (the Salt Beacon).  From the inscription: "Overlooking Exuma Sound and the “Great Salina” of Williams Town the thirty-foot-tall marker situated on this low waterfront cliff guided ships to pick up salt harvested from Little Exuma’s three salt ponds."  The Bahamas were (and still are) a major source of salt production.  Little Exuma Island, at one time, was reported to produce 10,000 tons of salt/year.

A 30-foot tall tuscan column (the Salt Beacon). From the inscription: “Overlooking Exuma Sound and the “Great Salina” of Williams Town the thirty-foot-tall marker situated on this low waterfront cliff guided ships to pick up salt harvested from Little Exuma’s three salt ponds.” The Bahamas were (and still are) a major source of salt production. Little Exuma Island, at one time, was reported to produce 10,000 tons of salt/year.

Cannon by the Salt Pillar

Cannon by the Salt Pillar

The Tropic of Cancer (26° 30' N) marks the northernmost journey of the sun at mid-summer.  It runs through the Exumas south of Georgetown.  Although we've been in tropical climes before, we are now officially in the tropics!

The Tropic of Cancer (26° 30′ N) marks the northernmost journey of the sun at mid-summer. It runs through the Exumas south of Georgetown. Although we’ve been in tropical climes before, we are now officially in the tropics!

Children at play at a Georgetown primary school

Children at play at a Georgetown primary school

Cindy, seated in downtown Georgetown.

Cindy, seated in downtown Georgetown.

Outside Club Peace and Plenty.

Outside Club Peace and Plenty.

The bar at Club Peace and Plenty, named after Lord Rolle's ship. Around the year I was born (1958), one of Henry Flagler's heirs opened this place.  The main building was once a sponge warehouse.  The bar was once the slave cookhouse.  Johnny Depp accepted his Golden Globe on national TV from this little bar.

The bar at Club Peace and Plenty, named after Lord Rolle’s ship. Around the year I was born (1958), one of Henry Flagler’s heirs opened this place. The main building was once a sponge warehouse. The bar was once the slave cookhouse. Johnny Depp accepted his Golden Globe on national TV from this little bar.

Walking up to the ruins of the Steventon Jail.  Also, site of the Pompey Rebellion.

Walking up to the ruins of the Steventon Jail. Also, site of the Pompey Rebellion.

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View from the jail.

View from the jail.

Me and my best bud, Pompey.   The year was 1829.  Pompey is said to have advanced the anti-slavery movement by leading a group of 77 slaves to run away instead of succumbing to an illegal forced relocation to Cat Island. Pompey’s group  stole one of Lord Rolle’s boats and set sail for Nassau  Unfortunately they were caught before reaching Nassau. Eventually, Governor Smith had Pompey and his followers returned to Great Exuma, where Rolle’s remaining slaves hailed them as heroes and promptly refused to work. The military was dispatched to quell the situation, with cooler heads prevailing only after Pompey accepted a punishment of 39 lashes, sparing any harm to the other slaves.

Me and my best bud, Pompey. The year was 1829. Pompey is said to have advanced the anti-slavery movement by leading a group of 77 slaves to run away instead of succumbing to an illegal forced relocation to Cat Island. Pompey’s group stole one of Lord Rolle’s boats and set sail for Nassau Unfortunately they were caught before reaching Nassau. Eventually, Governor Smith had Pompey and his followers returned to Great Exuma, where Rolle’s remaining slaves hailed them as heroes and promptly refused to work. The military was dispatched to quell the situation, with cooler heads prevailing only after Pompey accepted a punishment of 39 lashes, sparing any harm to the other slaves.

Sunset at the marina after a passing rainstorm.

Sunset at the marina after a passing rainstorm.

4 thoughts on “Exploring Great Exuma Island and Little Exuma Island

  1. You are tracing a trip I once took to the US Virgins. Only we were on a small 6 passenger airplane (With the last two seats removed to make room for our luggage and the blow-up boat we had.to carry with us). Not sure how we would ever have blown it up !!! We were young and fearless then !!! I’ve never eregretted it and you won’t either !!!! Love reading of your adventures !!

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