In 1956, the Cay Sal islets, then part of Bahamian crown lands, covered about 200 useable acres. The group of islets sit on the Cay Sal Bank, about 100 miles south of Miami, and 30 miles north of Cuba.
In 1956, the area was secretly leased by a group of undisclosed individuals, which included then Member of the House of Assembly, and leader of the Bahamian government, Sir Roland Symonette.
The question is why?
Did Sir Roland, and others in government at the time know something or suspected something about Cay Sal that no one else knew?
What Sir Roland, his business group, and billionaire Howard Hughes thought, was that Cay Sal islets, in the Bahamas, had that previous black gold.
They thought Cay Sal had oil!
This was why they quickly snapped up the crown land lease in 1956.
Then one year later, in 1957, Symonette assigned Crown Lease 2000 to a company owned by billionaire Howard Hughes. The Howard Hughes Tool Company took lease possession of the Cay Sal Islets.
According to the provisions of the lease agreement, Hughes was supposed to make $183,000 worth of improvements to the land.
Fifteen long years would pass before anyone would know about the Cay Sal deal between Sir Roland and Howard Hughes.
1955 LITTLE KNOWN LANDING STRIP CONSTRUCTED ON CAY SAL
When an engineer from the Atomic Energy Commission crash landed on North Elbow Cay, it is discovered that Cay Sal had a little known 3,000 foot airstrip.
(Miami Daily News, Wednesday, October 26, 1955)
1956 GROUP THAT INCLUDED SIR ROLAND SYMONETTE LEASE CAY SAL
(The Tallahassee Democrat Tuesday 09 February 1971)
1956 OCTOBER – CUBANS TRY TO PLANT THEIR FLAG AND CLAIM CAY SAL
Thirteen Cuban nationalists invade Cay Sal. They rip down the British flag and hoist their own, claiming the land as theirs. The British were having none of it. Neither was Sir Roland.
The very next day, Bahamas Police Chief E. J. H. Colchester-Wemys, and armed police constables arrive on Cay Sal to run them off.
(Tampa Daily Times, Saturday, October 20, 1956)
1957 – SYMONETTE CONFIRMS NEGOTIATIONS WITH HOWARD HUGHES
Sir Roland Symonette confirmed in September 1957 that negotiations with Hughes were underway, but not complete.
Symonette did not disclose that he, and some unnamed others had snapped up the lease for the land the year before.
Did Sir Roland Symonette know something important about the Cay Sal land that no one else knew about?
(Fort Lauderdale Daily News, Wednesday September 18, 1957)
Billionaire Howard Hughes was in fact negotiating with Sir Roland who was acting as both owner, and government official. Symonette was the leader of the Bahamas government at the time as well as the lease holder on the Cay Sal islets.
OIL RUMOURS DENIED
(Miami Daily News, Thursday September 19, 1957)
1958 – CALIFORNIA OIL CO. & BAHAMAS GULF OIL CO. ANNOUNCE OIL EXPLORATION ON CAY SAL BANK
By 1958, Howard Hughes, had officially gained control of the lease of the area from Sir Roland Symonette and a group of others. Hughes supposedly feigned little interest in the prospect that oil lay beneath the crown land he had just leased from Sir Roland Symonette.
(Fort Myers News- Press, Sunday March 16, 1958)
1971 – HUGHES SEEKS TO BUILD ISLAND RESORT ON CROWN LAND CAY SAL HE HAD HELD FOR 15 YEARS FROM 1957.
By 1971, whatever hopes for oil from the area had disappeared. After 15 long years of a caretaker babysitting the islets, Howard Hughes and Roland Symonette must have given up hopes on further exploration, and finding oil on the Cay Sal Bank.
Hughes was now looking to renegotiate the lease terms from whatever the original provisions were to using the land for a private fishing retreat and resort.
Sir Roland in a 1971 insisted that the original terms of the lease with Howard Hughes Tools had been carried out. Hughes had supposedly made $183,000 of improvements to the crown land since 1957.
(Fort Lauderdale News, Tuesday 09 February 1971)
1971 – OSMAN MOODY, A MIAMI MAN, SAYS HE HAS BEEN CARING FOR CAL SAY ISLETS FOR HOWARD HUGHES FOR 15 YEARS