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San Salvador, the discovery of the New World

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Tradition holds that San Salvador was the first landmass that Christopher Columbus reached during his voyage to the New World in 1492. Christopher Columbus made this tiny, 63-square-mile area, originally called "Guanahani," the most historically important island of The Bahamas. He made first landfall here in 1492. San Salvador Island still remains largely cloaked in its past amongst scattered Loyalists' plantation ruins and Indian relics.

San Salvador Bahamas: Christopher Columbus First Landfall

"The beauty of these islands surpasses that of any other and as much as the day surpasses the night in splendour." -- Christopher Columbus San Salvador is located in the far eastern Bahamas. It is small in size (63-square-mile) but not in scenery and is surrounded by superb beaches and reefs. It is an ideal place for snorkeling, diving and fishing. Known to the Arawak Indians that lived there as Guanahani, the island of San Salvador ("Holy Savior" in Spanish) boasts the reputation of being the first place that Christopher Columbus landed upon when he discovered the new world, in October 12th, 1492.

Presently the island is home to over 1000 people. The average temperature is 80 degrees. The local resident population on San Salvador today consists of approximately 1000 persons who live in several small communities around the perimeter of the island. Unfortunately, Christopher Columbus and the Arawaks is no longer with us, thankfully San Salvador is.

History of San Salvador Bahamas

San Salvador is recognized -- though there is some debate amongst researchers -- as the location where Christopher Columbus first discovered the New World on October 12, 1492. Four separate monuments claim to mark the spot where Columbus first came ashore, though most regard Long Bay as the correct spot. The island was originally known as Guanahani by its first known inhabitants, the Lucayan Indians. The island was later the headquarters of the buccaneer George Watling which carried his name (Watling Island) until 1925. In 1951, the US Government built a missile-tracking base, a Coast Guard station, and a submarine tracking facility in San Salvador. When the U.S. military left the island in the late 1960s, they left an infrastructure of well-constructed buildings, an electrical power station, and a paved air strip. These facilities are now used by the Bahamas Government. The island's popular spot, Club Med resort Columbus Isle, opened in 1992--it features over 200 air-conditioned rooms.

Popular Attractions in San Salvador Bahamas

Historic sites and monuments in San Salvador include Columbus's cross, the Olympic Flame monument, the ruins of Watling Castle, and one of the last Kerosene lighthouses still in operation -- the Dixon Hill Lighthouse.

Columbus Monument, Landfall Park, Long Bay

After 33 days at sea, on 12 October 1492, Columbus landed at beautiful Fernandez Bay (Long Bay). Erected on Christmas Day in 1956 by Ruth Durlacher Wolper, this white cross commemorates the landfall of Christopher Columbus on San Salvador in 1492.

Watlings Castle, Sandy Point Estates

Located eight-five feet above sea level, these major plantation ruins, include buildings used for industrial or storage purposes, a main house, a cookhouse, and slave quarters.

Dixon Hill Lighthouse

Built on a former plantation owned by John Dixon, this 160 foot structure (163 feet above sea level) was constructed by the Imperial Lighthouse Service in 1887 and has a visibility of 19 miles. It presently maintains four-hour watches nightly, giving a double flash every ten seconds. This hand-operated, kerosene lit lighthouse (400,000 candles) is the last of its kind in the Bahamas.

Farquharson Plantation

These ruins feature a once majestic house, a prison and a kitchen. The plantation also features a cattle trough cut from solid rock.

New World Museum, Palmetto Grove

This museum -- founded in 1958 by Ruth Durlacher Wolper -- houses paintings of Columbus' landfall, artifacts from an original Arawak settlement, and Lucayan pottery.

Mexican Olympic Monument

The Olympic Monument housed the Olympic flame in 1968 on its journey from Greece to Mexico for the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City.

Chicago Herald Monument

The 1892 World's Fair celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the "discovery" of the "New World." In 1891, the Chicago Herald, erected this sphere hewn from native limestone to commemorate Columbus' landfall.

Nao Santa Maria Monument

A Japanese effort to recreate Columbus' Flagship, symbolizing Columbus' intention to reach Asia. Great Lake Preserve In the centre of the island is the Great Lake.

Useful Information about San Salvador Bahamas

Geography of San Salvador

Set on the Atlantic side of the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas, about 200 miles southeast of Nassau, about a 1-hour flight from Florida. Located on the west coast of San Salvador, is the island's capital, Cockburn Town (pronounced Ko-burn), where one can find local government offices, police, a post office, a government clinic, and an electrical utilities company. San Salvador mostly consists of dune ridges, with troughs forming brackish ("high salt") lakes that make up nearly a third of the total area. Reefs surround the island, with a large break near Cockburn Town. This 'opening' in the reef provides access to the island for boats to the main marina. 

San Salvador, the discovery of the New World 1
Where to stay
San Salvador, the discovery of the New World 1

Named Colombus Isle by the Club Med, this all-inclusive resort lies along Bonefish Bay.

Club Med Columbus
Cockburn Town. Phone: (1) 242 331 20 00

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