By 1970, some twenty-five years had passed since the Second Great War. Memories were beginning to fade. The great reconstruction of Europe, Japan, and other places, soon erased war time infrastructural devastation, as jobs aided economic recovery.
For some however, in 1970, old, but still lethally dangerous relics of the Second Great War would somehow come back to haunt them.
For The Bahamas, it would come in a very unexpected way, and equally unexpected, bring with it an opportunity for a new beginning.
On 16th August 1970, an old World War II freighter set sail for an area of ocean east of Florida, some 150 miles from Abaco. Carried with the utmost care, in the hold of the ship, were unused, but still unimaginably lethal, biological weapons of mass destruction. 12,500 rockets of GB nerve gas sealed in containers shifted gently, to and fro, in unison, to soft ocean waves. They made their final journey, with ease, before being dumped near Abaco Island.
Nerve gas is a poison used as a biological weapon of warfare.
Nerve gas is a class of organic chemicals that disrupt the mechanisms by which nerves transfer messages to organs. The disruption is caused by the blocking a much needed enzyme in the human body. Nerve agents or nerve gas are used as poison.
Bahamians Protest Nerve Gas Dumping While PLP Used Event To Begin Lobby For Independence
By late afternoon on Tuesday 18th August 1970, the delicate operation to sink an obsolete war ship, the SS Lebaron Russel Briggs (named after American educator and first Dean of Men at Harvard), in the Blake Bahama Basin, had been completed.
SS Lebaron Russel Briggs was sunk in 16,000 feet of sea water, approximately 282 from South Florida and 150 miles from Abaco.
Acting Bahamas Prime Minister Arthur D. Hanna registered the strongest international protest possible, against the United States for dumping their lethal cargo.
An equally strong protest was made against Great Britain as well, for providing the U.S. government permission to do it.
Despite assurances by the United States, which relied on research reports noting that nerve agents and nerve gases, are destroyed or diluted, within ten days of coming into contact with sea water, Bahamas government officials registered their utmost concern and protest over the dumping.
Intimating… whispering… Bahamian Independence
Within the furore over the dumping, an unexpected opportunity arose for the governing Progressive Liberal Party.
August 1970, as startling as it was, nevertheless offered the PLP an opportunity to begin to make a case for independence.
Arthur D. Hanna, Acting Prime Minister during those few days, said “we will endure until the Bahamian people achieve full responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs.”
Hanna could only hint at the possibility. To say the word ‘independence’ out loud, would have rattled an already precarious economic and social equilibrium. Nonetheless, a seed had been planted out of strange consequences. The PLP would have been crazy not to use it.