Flamingoes and Bahamian dreams of wealth, were the two things, which became the first casualties in the hunt for oil, in the Bahamas.
If you think the Bahamas is oil crazy today, you don’t know the story of what went on in the 1940s and 1950s, when oil fever had everyone seeing black gold bubbling up in their backyards.
“We’re gonna be rich” 1940
Really, it was War War II that started it all. People needed hope. Finding hidden wealth somehow fostered hope. A global depression had taken hold over the growing number of war casualties, the prolonged hostilities from Europe to Africa to the South Seas, and the mounting costs of fighting Germany. It sent those who had dreams of striking it rich, in search of the one thing the world needed most —- oil!
The world needed oil more than ever as the war countries required an endless supply of fuel for their ships, planes, tanks and armament factories.
When small pockets of oil were discovered near Florida and Cuba, their sights turned to nearby Bahamas. Think of it like this, they found small veins. They knew there must be a feeder artery near by. The Bahamas was thought to be that feeder artery of oil.
Britain gave the nod to the Governor, the Duke of Windsor, to give serious consideration to the findings regarding oil, sooner rather than later.
Thursday 22nd March 1945
By March 1945, buoyed on by early investigative reports, the deficit of the government coffers and growing unemployment, the House of Assembly meet to pass a bill authorising the British government to make explorations for oil on 19 of the 20 inhabited islands.
(The Miami Times, Friday March 23, 1945)
Monday 24, September 1945
The Bahamas government wasted no time after the oil exploration bill was passed. By Tuesday September 24, 1945, the Oil Board were allotting concessions. They were short term drilling rights to various companies. The names of the companies and their owners were not disclosed.
(The Los Angeles Times, Tuesday September 25, 1945)
Monday March 10, 1947
Machinery, drilling equipment, men and station outposts appeared almost overnight on the islands. After island hopping and leaving one environmental disaster after the other, teams settled on Andros and Bimini as the two most likely places to find the beating heart of oil, somewhere near 10,000 leagues under the sea.
(The Miami News, Monday March 10, 1947)
Flamingo Souse, Fried Flamingo, Flamingo Fritters and Flamingo with Grits
Sunday December 16, 1951
Oh the poor Bahama flamingoes! Those we didn’t scare to death or made homeless, we ate.
When ornithologists came to the islands to find out why, there were but two scraggly, malnourished, homeless flamingoes hiding out in the bushes for dear life, they discovered something shocking. We were eating them, eggs and all.
Drilling for oil had taken its toll on the habitats of these delicate creatures and many others on the islands. Frightened off by drilling and encroachment on their environment, the flamingoes left.
(The Times, Sunday December 16, 1951)
Saturday December 5, 1959
The Nassau Herald
An unnamed Andros Fisherman walked into the offices of the Nassau Herald to claim he had seen oil, with his own two eyes, bubbling up out of the ground on the island, some nineteen years prior. He claimed to know exactly where oil was. He knew what the geologists and oil drillers then still drilling like mad men didn’t know.
The fisherman was prepared to tell only if he was going to be adequately rewarded.
“In the privacy of The Herald offices, a 19 year old secret was revealed this week — a secret that might lead to the discovery of untold riches in the waters off Andros.
It is entirely possible that Oil—the black gold of Arabia—May lie hidden in immense quantities just a short distance from the Andros shore.
That is the opening of a 45 year old Andros Islander who came to The Herald on Thursday and assured us that he had indeed found oil.
“I have kept this information to myself for 19 years, he said, because I had no assurance that I would be given a fair deal by the oil companies.”
“but it has been troubling my mind, and I have decided to let it be known.”
Our informant is a fisherman who has a life long knowledge of every inlet and cove around Andros and who is now prepared to carry interested parties to the exact spot where he says that oil is located.
Nineteen years ago, he discovered oil bubbling and seeping from the bottom of the sea near a remote section of the island.
Few boats ever appeared in the vicinity and the area had been totally neglected by the large oil companies that have engaged in extensive excavations in various parts of the Bahamas.
Our informant stated that he visited the area many times during the past 19 years and each time with the same observation —the presence of oil.”