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the cayman islands
history of cayman islands
The two islands were Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. A 1523 map showing all three Islands gave them the name Lagartos, meaning alligators or large lizards, but by 1530 the name Caymanas was being used. It is derived from the Carib Indian word for the marine crocodile, which is now known to have lived in the Islands. This name, or a variant, has been retained ever since.
An early English visitor was Sir Francis Drake, who on his 1585-86 voyage to these waters reported seeing "great serpents called Caymanas, like large lizards, which are edible." It was the Islands' ample supply of turtle, however, that made them a popular calling place for ships sailing the Caribbean and in need of meat for their crews. This began a trend that eventually denuded local waters of the turtle, compelling the local turtle fishermen to go further afield to Cuba and the Miskito Cays in search of their catch.
The first recorded settlements were located on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, during the 1661-71 tenure of Sir Thomas Modyford as Governor of Jamaica. Because of the depredations of Spanish privateers, Modyford's successor called the settlers back to Jamaica, though by this time Spain had recognised British possession of the Islands in the 1670 Treaty of Madrid. Often in breach of the treaty, British privateers roamed the area taking their prizes, probably using the Cayman Islands for replenishing stocks of food and water and careening their vessels. During the 18th century, the Islands were certainly well known to such pirates as Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Neal Walker, George Lowther and Thomas Antis, even after the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, was supposed to have ended privateering.
The first royal grant of land in Grand Cayman was made by the Governor of Jamaica in 1734. It covered 3,000 acres in the area between Prospect and North Sound. Others followed, up to 1742, developing an existing settlement, which included the use of slaves.
On 8th February, 1794, an event occurred which grew into one of Cayman's favourite legends, The Wreck of the Ten Sail. The convoy of more than 58 merchantmen sailing from Jamaica to England found itself dangerously close to the reef at Gun Bay, on the east end of Grand Cayman. Ten of the ships, including HMS Convert, the navy vessel providing protection, foundered on the reef. With the aid of Caymanians, the crews and passengers mostly survived, although some eight lives were lost...