|Native name: |
Western and central Grand Bahama seen from space, looking southwest
|Area||1,373 km2 (530 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||40 ft (12 m)|
|Pop. density||37.70 /km2 (97.64 /sq mi)|
|o Summer (DST)|
Grand Bahama is the northernmost of the islands of the Bahamas, lying 103 kilometres (64 mi) off Palm Beach, Florida. It is the fourth largest island in the Bahamas island chain of approximately 700 islands and 2,400 cays. The island is roughly 530 square miles (1,400 km2) in area and approximately 153 kilometres (95 mi) long west to east and 24 kilometres (15 mi) at its widest point north to south. Administratively, the island consists of the Freeport Bonded Area and the districts of East Grand Bahama and West Grand Bahama. Nearly half of the homes on the island were destroyed in early September 2019 due to Hurricane Dorian.
Grand Bahama Island has a tropical monsoon climate, with a hot and wet season from May through October, and warm and dry season from November through April.
In Freeport the summer high temperatures average 31 °C (88 °F), with average lows of 26 °C (79 °F). During the winter, the average high temperature is 28 °C (82 °F), and the average low is 19 °C (66 °F). The rainy season in the Bahamas is from May to October. The hurricane season runs from June through November, with the greatest risk in the months of August, September, and October.
The Spanish gave the island the name Gran Bajamar, meaning "Great Shallows", and what the eventual name of the Bahamas islands as a whole is derived from. However, the Lucayan (pre-Columbian) name for the island was Bahama. Grand Bahama's existence for almost two centuries was largely governed by the nature of these "great shallows" - the coral reefs surrounding the island were treacherous, and repelled its Spanish claimants (who largely left it alone apart from infrequent en route stops by ships for provisions) while attracting pirates, who would lure ships onto the reefs where they would run aground and be plundered. The Spaniards took little interest in the island after enslaving the native Lucayan inhabitants.
The major settlement that developed on the island was Freeport-Lucaya, but other hamlets and settlements emerged, including Russell Town, Williams Town, Smith's Point, Mather Town, Pinder's Point, Lewis Yard, Hunter's, and Mack Town.
By the mid-20th century, Grand Bahama's population numbered around 500 and the island was one of the least developed of the Bahamas' islands. However it finally gained a stable source of income when in 1955 a Virginian financier named Wallace Groves began redevelopment with the Bahamian government to build the city of Freeport under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and create the Grand Bahama Port Authority. Soon after, the ambitious Edward St. George, with the financial help of Sir Jack Hayward, took the company to new frontiers. Seeing the success of Cuba as a tourist destination for wealthy Americans, St. George was eager to develop Grand Bahama in a similar vein. The city grew rapidly, with St. George adding a harbour, an airport soon after the city was founded, and the tourist center of Port Lucaya in 1962. Grand Bahama became the second most populous island in the Bahamas (over 50,000 in 2004).
One aspect that contributes to the economy of the Bahamas is what they directly export and import. The Bahamas ranks as the 137th largest exporter and 117th largest importer in the world. Some of the major trading partners include the United States, France, and Finland. Top exports include; passenger cargo ships, special purpose ships, and refined petroleum.Freeport, a city in Grand Bahama has some industries that also contribute to the economy. These major industries are pharmaceutical plants, Fragrance of The Bahamas perfume factory, an oil transshipment company, and an immunology research center. Despite the Bahamas being big exporters and importers, their agriculture and fisheries also help with the economy. They produce agriculture ranging from crops, poultry, livestock, to dairy. On commercial farms in Grand Bahama, vegetable and citrus production are produced and exported to other countries. For their fisheries, Crayfish and conch are their top exports. Even though the economy is based heavily on what the Bahamas produces and sells, tourism is the mainstay of the island's economy. The resort area at Port Lucaya and visits by cruise ships provide the bulk of this activity. Grand Bahama's tourism sector is complemented by the BORCO oil bunkering facility owned by Buckeye, the South Riding Point oil storage and transhipment terminal owned by Statoil, and a transshipment/container port partly owned by Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa and the Grand Bahama Port Authority. There are also quarrying operations on the island and a large shipyard.
There are two airports on the island: Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport, and West End Airport in West End. Grand Bahama International Airport is the larger of the two, and West End Airport is open sporadically for private aircraft only.
Grand Bahama is divided into three districts and seven town areas for administrative purposes. Each district is run by a chief councilor, and each town area or township is run by a chairperson. As of 1996 Grand Bahama has three districts.
Elections are held every 5 years in the Bahamas. The two principal parties are the Progressive Liberal Party and the Free National Movement.. Grand Bahama also is a part of the islands outside of New Providence and operate under Local Government; this allows for a greater allowance for people to have a more direct rule. The intention of Local government is to not have direct connections to any political party.
Grand Bahama Island is populated with a variety of plants, birds, mammals and fish.
The Bahamas is home to many different species of bats, including the buffy flower bat, whose hair is white and brown. As the name suggests, it has a flowery nose that helps pollinate flowers and is usually found in dark caves or abandoned homes.
The Bahama swallow is a medium-sized bird native to the Bahamas. This endangered bird breeds in the islands' pine woodland, but is threatened due to human development. This swallow has a green head and back, blue wings with a black tail, and a white belly and chin.
The casuarina is an invasive species to the Bahamas. It is a flowering shrub or tree with fine leaves that can grow to a height of 65 feet. The casuarina is common along the islands' shorelines, due to its salt-tolerance and ability to thrive in sandy soils.