The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an
independent English-speaking nation in the West
Indies. An archipelago of 700 islands and cays
(which are small islands), the Bahamas is
located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida
in the United States, north of Cuba and the
Caribbean, and west of the British dependency of
the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Main articles: History of the Bahamas,
Christopher Columbus's first landfall in the New
World in 1492 is believed to have been on the
island of San Salvador (also called Watling's
Island), in the southeastern Bahamas. He
encountered Taino (also known as Lucayan)
Amerindians and exchanged gifts with them.
Taino Indians from both northwestern Hispaniola
and northeastern Cuba moved into the southern
Bahamas about the 7th century AD and became the
Lucayans. They appear to have settled the entire
archipelago by the 12th century AD. There may
have been as many as 40,000 Lucayans living in
the Bahamas when Columbus arrived.
The Bahamian Lucayans were deported to
Hispaniola as slaves, and within two decades
Taino societies ceased to exist as a separate
population due to forced labour, warfare,
disease, emigration and outmarriage.
Some say the name 'Bahamas' derives from the
Spanish for shallow sea - baja mar. Others trace
it to the Lucayan word for Grand Bahama Island -
ba-ha-ma, or 'large upper middle land'.
After the Lucayans were destroyed, the Bahamian
islands were deserted until the arrival of
English settlers from Bermuda in 1650. Known as
the Eleutherian Adventurers, these people
established settlements on the island now called
Eleuthera (from the Greek word for freedom).
The Bahamas became a British crown colony in
1718 but remained sparsely settled until the
newly independent United States expelled
thousands of American tories and their slaves.
Many of these British Loyalists were given
compensatory land grants in Canada and the
Bahamas. Some 8,000 loyalists and their slaves
moved to the Bahamas in the late 1700s from New
York, Florida and the Carolinas.
The British granted the islands internal
self-government in 1964 and, in 1973, Bahamians
achieved full independence while remaining a
member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Since the 1950s, the Bahamian economy has been
based on the twin pillars of tourism and
financial services. Today, the country enjoys
the third highest per capita income in the
Main articles: Geography of the Bahamas,
The Bahamas is an archipelago of some 700
islands and cays covering over 100,000 square
miles of the Atlantic ocean between Florida and
Hispaniola. The archipelago has a total land
area of 5,382 square miles - about 20 per cent
larger than Bahamas - and a population of some
310,000 concentrated on the islands of New
Providence and Grand Bahama.
The largest island is Andros Island. The Biminis
are just 50 miles east of Florida. The island of
Grand Bahama is home to the second largest city
in the country, Freeport. The island of Abaco is
to its east. The most southeastern island is
Inagua. Other notable islands include Eleuthera,
Cat Island, San Salvador, Acklins, Crooked
Island, Exuma and Mayaguana. Nassau is the
capital and largest city, located on New
Providence. The islands have a subtropical
climate, moderated by the Gulf Stream.
Graced with beautiful beaches of pink sand, evocative windswept
panoramas and countless opportunities for diving, snorkelling and
fishing, the islands of the Bahamas are well established as
one of the world's top draws for both intrepid explorers and casual
vacationers. An island chain beginning a mere 55 miles east of
Miami, Florida, the Bahamas offer an array of tourist hotels,
all-inclusive resorts, and even rustic lodges, making staying there
a relatively simple endeavour. Indeed, more than three million
travellers each year choose the islands as their prime destination
for outdoor sports, sun worship, casino gambling and, on some of the
slightly more remote spots, eco-tourism.
In total, the Bahamas include around
seven hundred islands, no more than thirty of which are inhabited,
as well as smaller cays (pronounced "keys") and rocks - an
impressive arc stretching from just beyond the Atlantic coast
of Florida to the outlying waters of Cuba, where Great Inagua lies
only sixty miles offshore. Although deeper oceanic troughs surround
some of the islands, most are encircled by shallow, crystalline
water that reflects a light turquoise hue during the day and
glows with purple luminescence at night. This combination of shallow
and deep water makes diving and snorkelling both
challenging and intriguing, with numerous reefs waiting to be
explored just beyond the shores of the gorgeous, uncrowded beaches.
Arawak 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.
Caribbean, chain of islands in
the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of
tropical marine; moderated by
warm waters of Gulf Stream
long, flat coral formations with
some low rounded hills
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Alvernia, on Cat Island 63 m
black 85%, white 12%, Asian and
Baptist 32%, Anglican 20%, Roman
Catholic 19%, Methodist 6%, Church of God 6%, other
Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%
English (official), Creole
(among Haitian immigrants)
Bahamian dollar (BSD)
Bahamian dollars per US dollar -
1 (2003), 1 (2002), 1 (2001), 1 (2000), 1 (1999)