The Bahamas was originally known as “Baja Mar,” a name bestowed by the Spanish settlers who arrived in 1492 in San Salvador by the aid of Christopher Columbus, believing they had found the East Indies. The name “Baja Mar” means “shallow sea.” In actuality, the islands are mountain plateaus that grew out of the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of thousands years ago. The corals that surround the islands form their limestone base. In 1647, British colonists settled a colony on the island of Eleuthera in search of religious freedom. Many infamous pirates plundered the Bahamian islands, even after the British claimed the Bahamas in 1670. Finally, Governor Woodes Rogers purged the islands of piracy in 1718 and Britain accepted the Bahamas as a colony.
American colonists loyal to the British flag left with their slaves and traveled to the Bahamas to make settlement. Green Turtle Cay was settled in the 1770’s by Loyalists and was named after the many green sea turtles that once nested there. In 1780, the Spanish tried to retake possession of the islands. With the help of the South Carolina militia, the Loyalists in the Bahamas made the Spanish retreat without a single shot fired. Settlers used their agricultural experience to farm on the island, but the soil was too thin so boatbuilding and fishing became the main source of economy. Brief periods of exporting citrus, pineapples, sponge, sisal, sharkskin, and oil were lucrative. Today, tourism fuels the economy of Green Turtle Cay, and craw fishing, conch, and scale fishing are popular.
Downtown Green Turtle Cay, New Plymouth has a New England feel. The colorful clapboard buildings are homes to many of the residents of the island. The stores offer beautiful jewelry and artwork portraying breathtaking island scenes. Local restaurants prepare savory homemade food with island flair.