Grand Bahama in 1917
Defries, Amelia Dorothy. In A Forgotten Colony. Nassau: The Guardian Office, 1917. (sections from three chapters)
(Chapter 2) The Sponge Fishers.
When I told the Attorney General that I wanted to go to
the sponging grounds with the spongers, he said,
And whenever I spoke to others about my desire I was told:
However, I said no more to anyone about it. Many months later, I was sitting one evening on the gallery of an English official's house in Nassau with his wife and two Anglican clergymen. from the outer islands, and the talk fell upon a certain Commissioner who had been sent to act in one island while his English wife (with two babies and no maid) was going in the mail schooner 122 miles to pack up her goods and/ chattels, which were on another island. Everyone was distressed about it, knowing she would be the only white person on the trip and also on the island; and they knew the conditions, too.
"I will go with her," said I, seizing the opportunity.
By eleven the next morning I had packed up my possessions,
and with my garments and pencil and paper in a round wooden hat box and
my mattress and pillow tied up with cord, was ready to catch the mail.
I had some trouble finding it, for no one in Nassau cares two straws about Grand Bahama, and even at the Post Office no one knew when the boat would sail but "Not until after three," they told me, "as the mail has been extended." This is a favorite trick! The mails are always being extended!
I had locked my house and given up the keys to an old man who lives no one seems to know where. With my box, my mattress, rug and pillow I drove down to the dock and looked for the mail-schooner. By the wharf lay a small two-masted vessel, a 28-ton open boat; just 50 feet long and only 18 feet wide; built at Bimini in 1901, and with a hold 6 feet deep./
She was (ironically?) called the "Hazel Dell", and on her deck was strewn everything you can imagine! What looked like a week's washing was hanging from the boom and from the yards; heaps of onions, bananas and cocoanuts were piled up, and a basin full of limes. Many kegs of flour and barrels of hominy weighed the boat down, and dried fish was scattered about, smelling horribly, while a pile of conchs made matters even worse. A negro woman in filthy rags was stirring something in a black pot, from which a smoke extended as from a witch's cauldron. A back kitten sat on a heap of clothes, and coloured men lay huddled up asleep in between the cargo.
After a good deal of trouble my driver managed to get an
answer from one, who staggered to his feet and reeled towards me.
So I gave my belongings into the charge of the man who had
told me he had no idea when the vessel would sail.
"After you get the mail on board how long will it be
before you start?" I asked.
At four o'cock I went back.
He told me he would sail "Sometime to-day or to-morrow,"
and went back to sleep.
We would not be able to get any letters for a month and when I could send any was uncertain. To get help or doctor in case of need might take a month or/ .