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Bimini

Bimini is the westernmost district of the Bahamas composed of a chain of islands located about 53 miles (81 km) due east of Miami, Florida. Bimini is the closest point in the Bahamas to the mainland United States and approximately 137 miles (209 km) west-northwest of Nassau he combined population for the islands is estimated to be about 1600.

The largest islands are North Bimini and South Bimini. The District of Bimini also includes Cay Sal Bank, more than 62 miles (100 km) further south, which is geographically not a part of the Bimini Islands but a separate unit. North Bimini is about seven miles (11 km) long and 700 feet (210 m) wide. Its main settlement is Alice Town, a collection of shops, restaurants, and bars surrounding a single road known as “The King’s Highway”.

South Bimini houses an airstrip, South Bimini Airport, and offers a quiet alternative to the slow bustle of North Bimini. There is a small community of homes on South Bimini known as Port Royale. For many years, South Bimini tourists were limited to boaters because there were few accommodations other than private homes.

The ocean surrounding the islands is considered to be one of the world’s top big-gam fishing spots.Because Bimini is close to Miami, Florida, many American anglers go to the island by boat to fish or to enjoy the local nightlife. Scuba diving and snorkeling are also popular activities, as there are many shipwrecks in the area, such as the wreck of the SS Sapona, which ran aground in 1926 during a hurricane. The top of the ship is exposed to the air while the bottom half is submerged. Parts of the wreck were stripped over the years and some of the wood was used in the construction of the Compleat Angler Hotel and bar on North Bimini

Bimini is home to several landmarks said to contain mystical properties of obscure origins. Much of the historical data about these places is speculative in nature, and experts in various fields have opined across the full spectrum of explanation. The most contentious of these sites is The Bimini Road.

Chalks Turbo Mallard amphibian airplane at Bimini seaplane base in November 1989
During the period of Prohibition in the United States, Bimini was a favorite haven and supply point for the rum-running trade. Some claim that the term “the real McCoy” was applied to the rum provided by William S. McCoy, who used Bimini to transport whiskey to America during the Prohibition, although the phrase pre-dates the Prohibition Era – it is first recorded in the US in 1908 and the phrase is the subject of numerous fanciful folk etymologies.

Chalk’s International Airlines operated seaplane flights between Miami Harbor and the Bahamas from 1917, so the company was an island institution for generations. As goods on the island were expensive because of shipping costs, many locals used Chalk’s flights to buy cheaper goods in Florida and take the goods to Bimini. A Grumman Turbo Mallard of Flight 101 was en route to Bimini when it crashed on December 19, 2005, killing all 18 passengers and 2 crew; at least eleven of the passengers were Bimini residents. Locals on Bimini mourned the dead.

On January 13, 2006, one of the most famous establishments in Bimini, the Compleat Angler Hotel, was destroyed by fire. The bar is remembered for the photographs and memorabilia of Ernest Hemingway that lined its walls and were lost in the fire, which also took the life of owner Julian Brown.

Juan Ponce de León and his search for the Fountain of Youth included references to Bimini. Arawak and/or Taíno spoke of a land called “Beimini” where the fountain could be found. Although the location was erroneously associated with the Bahamas, the natives referred to a location in the Gulf of Honduras.Though de León’s expedition brought him to Florida, the fountain was rumored to exist within the shallow pools of South Bimini. Today there is a small freshwater well with a plaque commemorating the Fountain of Youth, on the road leading to the South Bimit

Found within the salt water mangrove swamp that covers four miles (6 km) of North Bimini is The Healing Hole, a pool that lies at the end of a network of winding underground tunnels. During outgoing tides, these channels pump cool, mineral-laden fresh water into the pool. Natural lithium and sulfur are two of the minerals said to be contained in these waters.