I’ve just finished a relaxing four days in the Bahamas. It is my first real visit to the Bahamas since 1998 when I visited with my then girlfriend. This time I got to visit one of the outer islands, go SCUBA diving and explore Long Island by car.
Given my relaxed mood, I thought it was time for another edition of “8 Things You Might Not Have Known…”
1) The name Bahamas comes from the Spanish term “baja mar” which means shallow sea. As can be seen in any satellite image, the water around the Bahamas is indeed shallow as the entire region has turquoise color to it. The turquoise comes from the white calcium carbonate sand and the color of light which is reflected off the bottom and unabsorbed by the water. The water around the Bahamas is so saturated with calcium carbonate (the stuff that makes up sea shells) that is often will precipitate directly out of the water.
2) The Bahamas was the landing site of Christoper Columbus. It is widely believed that Columbus’ first landfall in the new world was on the island of San Salvador. In 1986 National Geographic postulated that he landed on Samana Cay. Either way, the European land rush in the new world began in the Bahamas.
3) The Bahamas has the 3rd highest per capita GDP in the western hemisphere. After the United States and Canada, the Bahamas is third richest country in the new world. The largest industry in the country is tourism which accounts for 60% of the country’s income and half of all employment. The Bahamian dollar is pegged 1-to-1 with the US dollar. The Bahamian $1 bill has an image of the Royal Police Band, which is pretty awesome.
4) The Bahamas is the second closest non-bordering country to the United States. The island of Bimini is only 50 miles from Miami. Only Russia is closer, with the distance between Big and Little Diomede Islands being only 2.5 miles.
5) It has snowed in the Bahamas. On January 17, 1977 a cold wave came down into southern Florida and brought cold weather all the way to the Bahamas. On that day, for the only time in recorded history, snow fell on the city of Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama. The snow didn’t accumulate, but snowflakes did fall.
6) The world’s deepest blue hole is found in the Bahamas. The Great Blue Hole in Belize is probably better known, but Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island is actually the deepest in the world. Unlike the blue hole in Belize, the blue hole in the Bahamas is right next to the shore. You can go from knee deep water on the shore to a sudden drop off of 202m (663 ft). It is where many free divers go to attempt world records.
7) The Bahamas is one of two countries in the Western Hemisphere that lies on the Tropic of Cancer. The Tropic of Cancer happens to miss both Cuba and Florida. It does however bisect Long Island and Exuma in the Bahamas. The only other country in the western hemisphere that it crosses is Mexico.
8) The highest point in the Bahamas is only 63m (207 feet) above sea level. Almost all land in the Bahamas is made of raised coral reefs or sand bars. As a result, there is very little elevation in the country. The highest point is ‘Mount’ Alvernia on Cat Island which is a raised, tilted reef. There are only four countries in the world with a lower, highest point than the Bahamas: The Gambia, The Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and the Maldives.