Culture
BHS | Aug 28, 2022

New Maritime Museum opens in The Bahamas

/ Our Today

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Focuses from sunken treasure and piracy to the lives of sailors at sea

Bahamas Maritime Museum. (Photo: Bahamas Maritime Museum)

The Bahamas has opened its new Bahamas Maritime Museum, which is a welcome attraction to attention-starved island of Freeport.

Considering that the Caribbean is a region defined by water, this new museum is one of only a few regionally devoted to the importance of the sea to Caribbean’s history, development and the lives of its people. The museum dives deep into everything from sunken treasure and piracy to the lives of sailors at sea.

It is funded by Carl Allen, a sports fishing enthusiast, who is currently redeveloping the fishing resort of Walker’s Cay, northeast of Grand Bahama Island. The Bahamas Maritime Museum opened this month in Freeport’s Port Lucaya Marketplace.

The location in the heart of Grand Bahama Island’s top hotel district, which makes the museum a natural stop for island visitors, who can explore nearly 4,000 square feet of exhibits.

Artifacts under exhibition

The museum, which is open Monday-Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, is a portal into maritime life and practice: stone ballast, iron hull fasteners, rings and pins, food jars, plates and dishes, and pieces of a navigational astrolabe. It is punctuated by artifacts recovered from the wreck of the Spanish galleon, Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas, sunk with its rich cargo of treasure in the Bahama Channel in 1656.

Allen himself led the high-tech expedition that recovered a treasure trove of artifacts from the Maravillas, despite the fact that the remains of the wreck had been picked over repeatedly through the centuries. The galleon was carrying a double load of gold and silver — its own, plus that salvaged from another ship that has sunk — when it departed from Colombia, and when it hit a treacherous reef, it sunk like a stone.

The Bahamas Maritime Museum is officially open. (Photo: Bahamas Maritime Museum)

Of the 650 people onboard, only 45 survived the shipwreck. Between the Spanish government and treasure hunters, most of the precious metal was later recovered, including more than 3.5 million Spanish Pieces of Eight.

Allen’s expeditions also raises some genuine sunken treasure, including silver and gold coins, emeralds and amethysts, a soldier’s silver sword hilt, a pearl ring, and pendants worn by knights of the Order of Santiago. The Maravillas is just part of the story told at the museum.

Also on display at the Bahamas Maritime Museum are exhibits detailing the explorations of the seagoing Lucayan people, and the suffering of captured African people forced to make the journey through the Middle Passage during the slave trade. Apart from the exhibit hall, the museum includes classroom space, a library, and a lab used for the ongoing exploration of the Maravillas wreck.

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