We remember islands by memories and photographs. After a lifetime of driving by car on the Abaco Islands in the Northern Bahamas, I have begun to erase old memories and photographs of beaches and water, for stories of dusty roads and lonely towns. Today, I remember the Abaco Islands by their interiors.
The Abaco Islands consist of two slender, long islands - Little Abaco and Great Abaco, which are connected by a small bridge, and dozens of smaller cays, islets and mangrove hammocks. Today, I am at the farthest point north in Little Abaco – a jut of sand, rock and coppice near the township of Crown Haven.
Crown Haven, home to around a hundred people is known for only one thing – it’s home to the ferry dock from the more cosmopolitan island of Grand Bahama. Crown Haven is as quiet as you can imagine a place. As a black town in Abaco, this is fitting. After Abaco's blacks were emancipated, they erased themselves from history. Black Northern Bahamas retreated into isolation, and for two hundred years they subsisted on fishing and agriculture. They left the old loyalist towns and sprung new villages on distant coasts and under unknowable pines.
Like their fellow British loyalist islanders, nothing substantial could have happened in this time; this is the Bahama backwoods after all. So it is perhaps no great loss to history that little of this time is known. But for me, small histories are beautiful, and so this is a missing puzzle-piece in the fabric of North American history. Sometimes, people say that what they like most about traveling is learning the history of a place. But in places with no recorded history, you have to extrapolate and imagine what life was like based on the little information you have. And that to me, is just as enjoyable as knowing something.