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Eleuthera

Eleuthera Island is one of several within the archipelago surrounded by shallow seas, visible here as light blue. Mosaic patterns of sand waves built by sea bottom currents in the shallows stand out in stark contrast to the deep blue of the ocean depths of a thousand feet in the Exuma Sound. (NASA STS-1 photo)

Eleuthera, sometimes spelled Eleuthra, is an island in The Bahamas, lying 50 miles (80 km) east of Nassau. It is long and thin—110 miles (180 km) long and in places little more than 1 mile (1,600 m) wide. According to the 2000 Census, the population of Eleuthera is approximately 8,000. The name “Eleuthera” is derived from the feminine form of the Greek word ???????? (eleutheros), “free

The topography of the island varies from wide rolling pink sand beaches to large outcrops of ancient coral reefs.The eastern side of the island faces the Atlantic Ocean while the western side faces the Great Bahama Bank, one of the two Bahama Banks.

HISTORY

The original population of Taino, or Arawaks, was mostly deported by the Spanish to work in the mines of Hispaniola, where they died out by 1550. The island is believed to have been unoccupied until the first European settlers—puritan pilgrims—arrived in 1648 from Bermuda. These settlers, known as the “Eleutherian Adventurers”, gave the island its current name—????????? eleutheria means “freedom” in Greek, while ???????? eleuthera means “free”. Some people think that Christopher Columbus may have come to Eleuthera before visiting islands in the West Indies.

The settlements include (north to south)The Bluff, Upper and Lower Bogue, Current, Gregory Town, Alice Town, James Cistern, Governor’s Harbour, North and South Palmetto Point, Savannah Sound, Winding Bay,Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound, Greencastle, Deep Creek, Delancy Town, Waterford, Wemyss Bight, John Millars, Millar’s and Banner man Town. Airports with regularly scheduled flights are available at North Eleuthera, Governor’s Harbour and Rock Sound.

The island was quite prosperous in the period from 1950 to 1980, attracting several prominent American industrialists such as Arthur Vining Davis, Henry J. Kaiser, and JuanTrippe. Frequent visitors included movie stars like Robert De Niro as well as the Prince of Wale and a pregnant Princess of Wales.

Due to changes in foreign-ownership policy, with the Bahamas becoming independent in 1973, all of the large resorts and agricultural businesses were abandoned or compelled to be sold to government-favored Bahamian interests. Because of the strain of a newly forming country, and unfavorable changes in US tax law, some businesses failed during the period from 1980 to 1985.

While offshore Harbour Island and Spanish Wells offer unique experiences, the main island is a destination for those interested in history and nature. Natural attractions include the Glass Window Bridge, Hatchet Baycaves and Surfer’s Beach in the north, and Ocean Hole and Lighthouse Beach at the south end. Preacher’s Cave on the north end was home to the Eleutherian Adventurers in the mid-17th century, and recent excavations have uncovered Arawak remains at the site.

The principal settlements are Governor’s Harbour (the administrative capital), Rock Sound, TarpumBay, Harbour Island with its unusual pink sandy beaches, and Spanish Wells.The island is particularly noted for the excellence of its pineapples and holds an annual Pineapple Festival in Gregory Town.

In 2010, the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a lush, 25-acre sanctuary, opened as Eleuthera’s first National Park. Created jointly by the Leon Levy Foundation and the Bahamas National Trust, the Preserve is home to more than 171 species of indigenous plants and has become a popular destination for local teachers and schoolchildren, as well as tourists.