DAY/TIME : 20.01.2013 , 16:30 UTC
MOOD : It's OK.
as you are quite aware by now, we have arrived in the Caribbean,
and I gave you a little bit of input about the life here already with my last blog from Saint Lucia, where the ARC Rally had ended.
But the Caribbean is quite a vast area, and of course full of history.
In order for you to understand the background of the past and present,
I would like to introduce you to this area again through my sailor's eyes.
And therefore the story I would like to tell is a story of sunshine, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Palm trees and Pirates , and of proxy wars between 3 great sailing nations :
Spain, Britain and France .
In between mingled the Dutch and the Danes, but very minor, no big issue really.
So let's talk about.....the Caribbean.
IS THIS PARADISE ?
You might remember my previous blog about Christopher Columbus ( in the following : CC ). Seeking a western route to the spices of the East India, he landed in 1492 on an island which today is part of the Bahamas, and as he was saved by the skin of his teeth, he called it San Salvador ( from Salvation, so close to death they were ). During the next years and subsequently 3 more voyages he visited almost all the islands of what he called the West Indies :
He was looking for something, and it was "loot" ,
ie he tortured the locals until he heard what he wanted to hear :
Where did the Gold and Silver and Precious Stones come from that he sometimes saw the local women wearing?
Forgotten about the spices of Asia, the pepper, curry, and here , locally , the nutmeg and cinnamon.
No, he I believe had "the bigger picture" on the agenda, and therefore travelled towards the direction the locals had told him :
Go West and South West !!!
And so he focussed more on the larger islands like Cuba and Hispaniola ( today Haiti and Dominican Republic ), and further on to South (-West ) America , consequently
making Spain (and Portugal) rich beyond belief .
In today's values
billions of Dollars of Gold and Silver were taken by Spain in the post CC era
via the conquest of the Atzteks ( 1521 ), the Mayas ( 1537 ) and the Incas ( 1546 ).
So in that respect whilst CC left his legacy in the Caribbean by the discovery and naming of the many islands, such as Dominica ( found it on a Sunday ) , Guadaloupe ( Monastery of Guadaloupe,Spain ) ,
Saint Kitts (for St Christopher, patron of sailors , or did he mean himself ?? ),
Nevis ( clouds over the island looked like snow ), etc etc. ,
he was nothing but "passing through" the arc of eastern islands
which is stretching for about 400 nautical miles North-West to South-East..
As a result, he left a huge logistical nightmare for the future Gold and Silver Galleons.
But let's take it step by step and get our bearings right by using another map :
ie the Greater Antilles in the North and the Lesser Antilles in the East , South East, and South,
comprising again of the Leeward and WIndward Islands in the East and South East,
and the Leeward Antilles in the South.
Complicated ? Well, most of the names as the ones mentioned before make sense, others don't.
But as CC noted in his diary from 12.10.1492,
these people were under threat from nearby islands by another tribe,
originating most likely from the River Orinoco.
Fearsome, aggressive bullies,
killing the men and taking their women as wives and for pleasure.
However their seemingly good taste for beauty was somehow deranged on the palate. They were called
Caribs ( or Kalinas ) ,
which meant ferocious people, and the word 'Kalinas' transpires via its Spanish equivalent into the word.........
They ate their Arawak enemies in their own pots, literally.
Some later settlers should learn that the hard way ( or should I rather say " the slow cooking way ") !
In any case, neither survived, the Arawaks nor the Caribs.
Whilst the first were decimated and became extinct due to european diseases and finally
by the harsh Spanish colonisation programs,
the Caribs held out longer by putting up a long fight ,
and some instead of finally facing slavery and deportation,
rather preferred to commit suicide
by jumping off cliffs ( Grenada , Caribs Leap in Sauteurs Bay in 1651 ).
So as the Caribs obviously made a larger impression on the invading Europeans, no wonder their name stuck :
THE CARIBBEANS !
The Antilles .
Now this is a funny one.
There is no reference that I could find that states who came up with this name for some of the area in the first place.
Was it CC ? May be. May be not.
May be some poor sailor who was later eaten by the Caribs, but who previously might have had
the fantasy of being in paradise.
the name Antilles is a product of fantasy,
originating from ancient cartographers who placed
"paradise" as the "Isle of Antilia" at the edges of the "ocean" .
And now we not only have the Greater Antilles, we also have the Lesser Antilles.
Which finally brings me exactly to the area that we will be sailing in , and consequently I will be covering in my forthcoming stories:
The Lesser Antilles, comprising of the Leeward and WIndward Islands.
And this distinction came from the British, who in later years had to reach the southern islands of the eastern arc from their major possessions towards the wind ( to windward ),
which in other words is 'beating against the wind',
and was with the old sailplans of square riggers , quite difficult.
So much better the the islands made a curve to the west, so that it was easier to go there,
to the Leeward Islands.
Makes all sense, doesn't it ?
Ok, that took me a while, but now it's over , the ( movie) scene is set for the many adventure tales, novels, children and Pirate books with treasures,beautiful women, Pirates and Privateers, courage and treason,
war and death.
But all in beautiful sunshine.
Because at the time of CC's arrival there weren't any !!!!
They only came later ,mainly from coconuts taken as nutricious food on board from Africa for the long journey and then thrown over board after arrival.
And now what ?
Well, I need a rest now in my hammock, and will continue with the adventure stories another day.
Aye Aye, Master Mike.