about andros island, Bahamas

Buying Baskets in Red Bay, the children are Happy to Help!
Basket Market in Red Bay.

Ancient History

Andros Island is actually one of the high points of the now-submerged island known as Paleo-New Providence, which is a horseshoe-shaped block of calcium carbonate that supports all of the northern Bahama Islands. This block, presently about 19,000 feet thick, is composed of calcium that has been precipitated by biological and physical means, and has continued to grow during the past several million years as the Atlantic Ocean formed between the Americas and the Old World. At the moment, this block is largely sub merged, but as recently as 16,000 years ago, it stood several hundred feet above sea level.

First Residents; Conquerors Come and Go

'Arawak Warriors', Painting by Penny Slinger
Arawak Warriors

The original people of Andros were Amerindians of the Lucayan group--an offshoot of the Arawaks, who were the descendants of Indians that left Venezuela around 600 AD, and moved up the archipelago of islands framing the Caribbean. These original inhabitants were driven to extinction shortly after the arrival of Europeans. Many citizens of Andros today are very proud of their own Indian ancestry, although it's not Lucayan, but from the Seminole Indians of Florida.

Europeans who colonized Andros were mainly British, and several of the settlements (like Stafford Creek and Staniard Creek) are named for the whalers or captains (or pirates in the case of Morgan's Bluff) who built homes there.

Almost all of the current residents are descendants of African captives who were brought to Andros by slave-owners following the defeat of the British in the US Revolutionary War. Many of these people came to Andros from Georgia and the Carolinas via Florida, where they had been taken by slave-owners to settle under Spanish protection for a few years. Many more came from the Mosquito coast in Nicaragua, especially San Andros Island, following the forced evacuation of the English colonists there under the treaty which ended the wars between England and Spain in the 1780s.

In the most north western part of Andros is a remote settlement called Red Bay, primarily developed by the Seminole Indians who left Florida in the 1820's to escape the Seminole Wars. This is still some what a remote settlement, and is highly renown for their artistry at a unique style of basket weaving.

The Bahamas today

Behring Point Church, circa 1780
Anglican Church
circa 1780

Today's Andros citizens are Bahamians--citizens of The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, part of The British Commonwealth, having a legal standing equivalent to that of Canada, Australia or any other Commonwealth country. They have a parliamentary government and recently elected a new Prime Minister. The Queen of England is still the titular head of government, and the Anglican church is the official church, although it is not well represented on Andros, which tends towards Pentecostalism.

Andros Island Today

Lying just above the Tropic of Cancer, Andros, called "Big Yard", is the largest and yet least discovered and developed island in the Bahamian Archipelago. Forty miles wide by 100 miles long, Andros hosts only 9,000 residents. Inland, beyond white beaches and mangrove flats renowned for bonefish, most of the island remains forested.

Tropical pines, hardwoods, dry broadleaf evergreens and freshwater marshes offer a glimpse of what peninsular Florida, 120 miles to the west, once looked like. It is bounded to the east by the third largest barrier reef in the world, and borders the 6000' deep undersea canyon known as "The Tongue of the Ocean". Marine environments range from open water beyond the precipitous "Wall" of the Tongue, through the pristine barrier reef and numerous patch reefs, intertidal areas, seagrass beds, mangroves, mudflats, tidal creeks and rocky, silty and sandy coastlines. The west coast of the Island gradually fades into the sea as the Great Bahamas Bank, which stretches all the way to the Straits of Florida, 60 miles to the west.

Wild Beach, Andros Island, Bahamas
Wild Beach

Andros Island includes over 150,000 acres of undeveloped, often untouched land. Almost all of this land is Crown Land, or government property. Aside from a few current, and a few failed, agricultural efforts, most of the Island remains wild, indeed wild enough that the government recently promoted the Island as "having one of the largest tracts of still unexplored land in the Western Hemisphere" (Bahama Out Island Getaway, 1995).

Today, the Island is elevated only a few meters above sea level. Ponds, creeks, marshes and lakes are essentially at sea level. Ground water, in the form of a freshwater "lens" floating on underlying salt water, lies just below the rocky surface. This groundwater is the source of drinking water for most of the people of the Bahamas. Millions of gallons are shipped twice daily by tanker to Nassau.

Deserted Sommerset Beach, Andros, Bahamas

Andros - fast facts