Grand Turk and Salt Cay - The Salt Industry
We left having failed with Immigration to return to where we had began the day - to find Customs - as we have to do them first. We were walking along the main road feeling a little dejected when we saw a sign that said refreshments. As it was eleven forty five, we assumed by the time we found Customs it would be closed for lunch, so off down the track to said sign, what a wonderful side visit, we found ourselves at the Salt Museum.
The Turks Islands were once known as "the salt islands". Grand Turk and Salt Cay were the largest salt producers in the Americas in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the salt was said to be of very high state of purity and quality. The Turks Islands were originally settled by Bermudans, who came to rake salt in the 1660's. The shallow waters around the islands made salt mining a much easier process than on their native Bermuda. By 1681 the value of the industry and the desire to protect their resources caused the salt collectors to build the first permanent settlement on Grand Turk.
As time went on, more Bermudans and their slaves permanently settled here and on Salt Cay to develop the salting industry. Huge numbers of trees were felled to discourage rainfall that would adversely affect the salt mining operation, and more homes were built - much of the great wealth of Bermuda was created from the "white gold". The salt was sold through Bermudan merchant houses on the American seaboard, including to Newfoundland, where it was used to preserve cod. Salting continued from the 18th and 19th Centuries to heyday in the early 20th Century, when the Turks Islands produced an average of sixty seven thousand tons annually. Grand Turk's production was twice that of Salt Cay.
Salt from the Turks Islands was used to feed George Washington's army during the Revolutionary War. Salt by then was supplied to thirteen colonies before the War of Independence, but, of course, the trade was outlawed by England during the War. The situation was so dire that one of Washington's commanders wrote to him: " We have not an ounce of salt provisions of any kind here, and it is impossible to preserve the fresh meat, especially as we have no salt, by any other means than barbequing it in the Indian fashion, in doing which it loses nearly a half, so that a party who receives ten days provision will be obliged to live on better than five days allowance of meat kind."
Throughout the 20th Century, the industry continued, although with decreasing profitability. By the middle of the Century, the "salt islands" could no longer compete with other world supplies, largely due to the cost of transport, small economies of scale, and the lack of a deep water harbour. Most salt today is produced by other means such as pumping brine from underground salt deposits. Notably, the nearby Bahamas' Islands of Great Inagua still produces salt. The island owned by Morton's produces one point three million tons of industrial-grade salt annually.
By 1964 the last of the salting operations on Grand Turk was closed, and, in 1975, the operations on Salt Cay were finally abandoned after three hundred years of production.
The Museum had a shop with interesting signs for sale
The very kind lady who ran the museum said the tour buses (from the cruise ship) were due in ten minutes, if they had a place we could tag along for the second half of the tour and end up at the ever elusive Customs. Whilst we waited we decided on some lunch. I put in my order and slipped out the back as I saw a chap fishing.
I really enjoyed snapper with half salad half fries, Bear had Conch bites with a couple of local beers - Turks's Head. Full buses so our kind lady saviour gave us a lift to Government Dock.
ALL IN ALL A GREAT VISIT LEARNING ABOUT SALT