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Discovery of Grand Cayman – Cayman Islands

Christopher Columbus is given credit for discovering the Cayman Islands. On his fourth world voyage, two of his ships, the Santiago de Palos, and the Capitana, sailed past Cayman Brac and Little Cayman around May 10, 1503.

map of Columbus voyage through CaribbeanHis young son, Ferdinand, wrote in his journal, “we were in sight of two small, low islands filled with tortoises – as was sea all about.” The ships didn’t stop. They couldn’t stop. Both ships were worm-eaten and leaking badly, and Columbus knew he had to make it to Jamaica after a short stop near Cuba. He put it at St. Ann’s Bay and that was the end of those two vessels.

Some historians dispute that Columbus was actually the first person to see the Cayman Islands. Back in 1499, a few years earlier, Queen Isabella of Spain authorized other voyages to the New World. Who knows? Someone else may have spotted the Caymans.

Cantino map 1502Some say, on the Cantino Map, published in 1502, a full year ahead of Columbus’ sail-by, the three islands appear.

Look for yourself, here. (9) is Cuba and (8) is Hispaniola. If the Caymans are there, they are awful small. What you see below (9) is Jamaica, a known island at the time.

Although archeological digs don’t support it, at least the million Caribbean and Arawak Indians living in the areas around the Caymans at the time of Columbus’ visit may have ventured near the Islands.

Grand Cayman Beach

Caymanians don’t care. They celebrate their founding on May 10, 1503, the date that Columbus was coming back after having discovered the Pacific Ocean across Panama – and was on his eventual way to Spain.

So why was this island so hard to find? We have that answer – Next! >>

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