The story of the Cayman Islands is one born of the sea. It is a tale of shipwrecks and siren songs, tragedy and triumph. It is the hardscrabble history of castaways and seamen, the stomping ground of empires, the promise of paradise in the New World.
Across our 102-square-mile territory, the storied history of the islands can be found obscured just beyond plain sight. It is written in our seabed, in the jagged edges of our ironshore, and in the pages of our archives.
As we look ahead to a new year and a new decade, we encourage Cayman Islanders to pause and take a look back. We hope that by remembering where we came from, we can illuminate our path forward. This month, we will dive into Cayman Islands history as told by our relationship with the sea.
Enshrined in our Coat of Arms, the line from Psalm 24:2, “He hath founded it upon the seas”, reminds us of our heritage and our identity. While our relationship with the Caribbean Sea may evolve, it is a constant protagonist in our story as islanders.
To begin this series, we take you below the surface to explore the islands’ shipwrecks, turning to archaeologists, historians and divers to reveal the ocean’s hidden secrets. We then follow the Caymanian turtling tradition, from the death-defying tales of sailing the Miskito Cays to the work of modern conservationists to restore threatened marine populations.
In recalling our maritime history, the most vital asset, of course, is our people. With many of the men and women of the Southwell Years – those golden decades that saw our young men join National Bulk Carriers and sail the world – already departed, we cannot let the sun set on our living history.
We have invited the islands’ seafarers to sit down with us and share their stories. We have heard tales of bravery, of love, and of more than one galley fire.
We hope you’ll join us in this celebration of Cayman and Caymanian history.
And if you are one of the lucky individuals whose grandparents or great-grandparents are still alive, we encourage you to sit down with them and just listen.
You may be surprised by what you learn about your own life story.
This series is also an invitation to the community to participate and tell their own stories. If you have a seafaring story you would like to share with the Cayman Compass, contact us at [email protected]