Arguably, some have proffered that the islands of the Bahamas, have not been favoured with an abundance of natural resources. Unlike some other island nations, which were formed out of volcanic activity, forming nutrient rich igneous rock, the Bahamas was formed from hard limestone. It didn’t have gold, or oil (that we know of) or vast amounts minerals.
But it did have a few things.
Over its evolution, some natural resources did form. What the islands produced, history tells us, were on the whole, exported for use abroad. Once those natural resource rights were sold, it would be the foreign investors who would gain fame from their harvesting, manipulation and use. The contribution of the Bahama Islands, would be forgotten in history.
When the lumber barons from the United States were given harvesting rights to cut pine, mahogany and other wood trees from the islands, fame as industrialists would be given to them. The Bahamas’ contribution would be lost.
Similarly when cotton was exported to England, the fame of the industrial revolution would be given to Europe, but the providers of the raw materials, would be lost to history.
And few people know that Europe first discovered ‘Sea Island Cotton’ in the Bahamas in 1492. The Lucayan Indians of the Bahamas cultivated it. Bahama Indians gave little sticks, with balls of cotton on them, as presents to Columbus and his crew. Columbus took the cotton samples back with him to Spain.
And even fewer know that Georgia and the Carolinas owe their cotton success to Sea Island Cotton seeds from the Bahamas from about 1798.
(The Natchez Weekly Courier, Mississippi, Saturday 06 September 1828)
BAHAMA GUANO AND WHEN WE GAVE IT AWAY FOR ALMOST NOTHING 1874
To ask any Bahamian in the present day what Guano is, they probably wouldn’t have a clue. But, in the mid to late 1800s, Bahama Guano or Guanahani Guano was exported across the United States, and even as far as Ireland.
Guano was found in the many caves of the Bahamas.
Guano was the most valuable manure on the market.
Guano, was literally fermented seabird and bat excrement which had accumulated and hardened, over time. As a very valuable manure, guano was a highly effective fertilizer. It’s effectiveness was due to its high content of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, all of which are the essential nutrients essential for plant growth.
In 1874, the Governor of the Bahamas, probably Sir William Robinson (which Robinson Road is named after) was allowing the harvesting and export of the valuable natural resource for next to nothing. Before he realised the true value of it, he had signed a seven year export agreement to an American company.
By 1876, the Governor realised how stupid he was, when he saw the popularity of the Bahamas Guano, how much was being exported annually, and how little the Bahamas was making from it in export tax revenues.
The Governor of the Bahamas states in his report on 1874, recently issued, that the trade in cave earth, or guano, which is found throughout these islands, has materially increased, large vessels arriving in ballast for this valuable fertiliser, which is sold in American market at prices varying from $35 to $60 per ton.
Unfortunately, while it’s value was not known, a monopoly for seven years was granted to an American firm on payment of the ridiculously small sum of £100 per year and two shillings per ton royalty.
It is roughly calculated that there are at least 200,000 tons of this valuable deposit in the Bahamas, but the Governor states that there may be double the quantity, and; as about 30,000 tonnes were being taken away annually, he has suggested that it would be wise to impose an export duty; 2s a ton, he says, would yield a revenue of £3000 a year, and would be scarcely, if at all, felt.
(The Sheffield Daily Telegraph Tuesday March 21, 1876)
GUANAHANI GUANO SHIPPED AS FAR AS IRELAND 1879