For The Bahamas, these incomparable, crystal blue waters have long been an intrinsic part of its economic and social history. Ever since the Lucayans gazed upon the golden horizon, to this very day in which we breathe, and for eons to come; every economic bounty and environmental beauty, afforded by nature’s great legacy to the archipelago, have come from the sea.
In forming such an integral part of its economic and environmental history, it is nonetheless surprising that so little of it is taught, at an exam level requirement, in local schools.
Outside of interpersonal history, and the men and women who have come to shape the Bahamas, it is the history of maritime commerce and the way of life it afforded for generations, which underscore all aspects Bahamian economic history. So why don’t we know more about it?
Eric Wiberg grew up in The Bahamas. The Wibergs, originally from Sweden, have been part of the fabric of The Bahamas since 1955. Eric has traveled some 10,000 nautical miles, across the length and breadth of The Bahamas, to feed his passion for the sea. Out of this, Wiberg has produced an extraordinary knowledge profile on Bahamian maritime history.
Mailboats of the Bahamas: 200 Years of Maritime History
“By the 1980s many people were flying inter-island. Not my family: here in 1984 my sister and her three brothers and our parents (Wiberg family) piled aboard the Deborah K. II, operated by the Archer family, for a voyage to the Abaco Cays overnight. Built as the Windhund in Germany in 1965, this vessel was captained by Garnett Archer and Donald Moss was mate. Both men or their families were interviewed for this book. The matrix tells you the Deborah K. was 348 feet long and replaced Deborah K.1984, or Stede Bonnet, 1985. She appears on schedules in 1988, 1989, and 1992, but is inactive by mid-late 1990s.”
MAILBOATS OF THE BAHAMAS: A TWO HUNDRED YEAR MARITIME HISTORY Book Details: ISBN 9780998375915, Island Books, Boston MA, due June 20, 2020, c.350 pages, colour, hardcover, e-book, Kindle, charts, bibliography, full case histories of 340 vessels to 1804, chapters by island and owners and hull type.
Bahamas In World War II: A Military Chronology 1939-1945 by Eric Wiberg
How I came to write about this particular subject matter: My interest in WWII sprung from stories over dinner; we had books, no television. Hearing about how Swedes in Bahamas helped Germans in the war irked me, so I tried to verify it and am unable to since it’s not true. My brothers and I found the RAF Marauder aircraft in 8 feet of water off Balmoral Island, we found a TEST BOMB from the RAF in Westward Villas, and the RAF Hospital on Prospect Ridge, with empty vials everywhere. My brother flew with Lester Brown, our neighbor, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross over Europe.
Over time I found that a merchant sailor was buried in Acklins; that his shipmates were saved by Marion Carstairs on a yacht built at Whale Cay, Berry Islands; I interviewed a storekeeper in Deadman’s Cay Long Island who witnessed a U-boat, and a Norwegian film crew and I discovered the grave of a Norwegian sailor at Cross Harbour, Abaco, killed by U-boat attack. I met an Italian Prince who ran around a Bahamian beach in World War II from a submarine, and a German U-boat commander who wrote Iron Coffins, who said no German ever set foot on Bahamian soil in WWII.
Who knew that the British and Americans had three major air bases on New Providence and Exuma, that they spent well over $60 milion in todays’ currency just to build them, that RAF men and women were about 30% of the population of the capital for years, that they flew over 2,000 US and Canadian-built aircraft from Oakes Field and Windsor Field across the Atlantic to Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and trained a further 5,000 aviators, who literally took off into combat when their training was complete?
One irony that explains the general lack of understanding about these major events is that the participants were mostly Europeans who went away soon after they arrived, that the Bahamian servicemen by contrast, largely served in Europe, that censorship meant that the story was intentionally buried in archives in the US, UK, Australia, and Germany until at least the late 1970s.
This book’s fulcrum are over 350 pages of pure daily diaries of all German, Italian, RAF, US, Cuban, Bermudian, and other military activities in the million-square-mile region from 1939 to 1946. Readers can learn how the Axis worked hard to sever oil and ore supplies from the Windward Passage and Straits of Florida, and how the US Navy was caught flat-footed in the first half of 1942, until their shipbuilding prowess and technological innovations eventually gave them an upper hand, particularly with hunter-killer groups outside the Bahamas.
This book tells of the rescue of over 300 Allied sailors, the loss of hundreds on the USS Warrington to a hurricane. For those with loved ones who served on merchant or navy ships, they can trace every single convoy by port, date, escort, ships in said convoy, and even those lost. The RAF Cemetery and its fallen aviators are carefully credited and documented, the I.O.D.E. having preserved the lovely, sacred space for decades.
Finally, most Bahamians know about The Riot, The Contract, The Windsors, and The Project; find out what brought these major milestones in Bahamian history about; it was World War II and the Royal Air Force, which saved the struggling colony from being bankrupted and overlooked in the post-war tourism boom, which thrived off the new airports.
“The Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, became the only royal to lead the Bahamas as a civilian Governor. Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill insisted the couple leave Lisbon Portugal and it’s intrigues, so they sailed via Bermuda and waited out their sentence on the rocck, as they saw it. Here his wife the American Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, and he meet officers and men of the Norwegian tanker ship Kollskegg, which was sunk by a German U-Boat west of Bermuda. They were subsequently rescue by the US-flagged steamer SS Bushranger and brought to Nassau where the Windsors greeted them.”
“The Duke was fond of having a drink with the sailors at their hotel, and not only buying the round, but donating items including his pajamas to them. The Duchess, head of the Red Cross, was kept very busy with administering to up to two ships a week which arrived, with nearly 300 survivors to tend and repatriate. She complained to her US-based Aunt Bessie about this. For escape and recreation they could and did utilize large yachts owned by friends, like Rene and Southern Cross, as well as their smaller power boat the Gemini, to go Miami or Palm Beach. Some trips were escorted by the US Coast Guard and US Navy and RAF from Nassau.”
Bahamas In World War II: A Military Chronology 1939-1945 by Eric Wiberg ISBN 9780984399833, Island Books, Boston MA, due June 20, 2020, c.750 pages, black and white, hardcover, e-book, Kindle, 25 charts, 50 photographs, extensive appendices, bibliography. Lists of names of all 2,000 KIA, German and Allied, 300 plane accidents, 75 wrecks in Bahamas, 135 ships sunk by Italian submarines and German U-boats, 112 Axis patrols, 20,000 convoys, 4,000 ship names, 3,000 names of RAF and VIP’s who transited 22 military bases and organizations, 1,000 sightings of aircraft or Allied ships by German U-boats, loss of 3 German U-boats off Cuba, Florida, and Bermuda, 150 or so Allied bases, ports, airstrips, facilities in the million-square-mile area. Much, much more.
More books on Bahamian maritime history by nautical author and historian Mr. Eric Wiberg
Visit Eric Wiberg Books
About the author… Eric Wiberg
How I came to write about the subject matter: I grew up riding the mailboats from pre-teens to 20’s. It fit my student budget, desire to see the whole archipelago, and was a chance to know my dates better, by spending 3-4 days together. Once I became a professional mariner and moved away, mailboat trips became annual family rite for my brothers and our children. Over 35 years we have voyaged roughly 10,000 nautical miles on dozens of mailboats to all the major island groups except one. The Nassau Tribune kindly published 16 aticles of mine about mailboats some years ago.
My family began moving to the Bahamas from Sweden in 1955. Today, three households, representing three generations live in the Cable Beach area. I wrote for the Nassau Tribune in 1989, and since then have written for the Bahamas Handbook and Bahamas Historical Society Journal several times, plus others in Abaco and the Turks & Caicos. Studies took me to universities in NY, Boston, Oxford, Rhode Island, and Lisbons, leaving me with a masters in marine affairs, law degree, and certificate in script writing. After a memoir of commanding a boat from Nassau to New Zealand at age 23, I penned a trilogy of World War II attacks by U-boats in The Bahamas, Bermuda, and New England. Overall I’ve witten some 30 books, with half a dozen largely completed. Two commissioned books on the Bahamas added to Swan Sinks and these two, a script and a manuscript mean that seven of my books focus on the Bahamas, as well as several dozen articles. I live in Boston now and my son’s middle name is Dunmore.
Any of these books can be orders from Amazon, Kindle, e-book, barnesandnoble, or any other mainstream book seller and distributor, including all the bookstores in Nassau and beyond.
If you wish to contact Mr. Wiberg personally for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org