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Forth Charles, Port Royal. Photo: Kent Mac Elwee / Creative commons

Port Royal, Jamaica

about 1 month ago
Written by Ronald Toppe
Ports > Port Royal, Jamaica

Port Royal, Jamaica

about 1 month agoPorts
Written by Ronald Toppe
Forth Charles, Port Royal. Photo: Kent Mac Elwee / Creative commons

Statsraad Lehmkuhl visits Port Royal November 13-17 2021.

Port Royal in Jamaica is located at the far end of a narrow headland called the Palisadoes. It protects Kingston bay from the sea, making the bay one of the world's largest and best natural harbors.

The indigenous people called Taino living on the islands of the Caribbean, fished in the bay they called Caguaya, but it is uncertain whether they had settlements here.

Columbus

Columbus came to Jamaica and Kingston bay in 1494, on his second voyage across the Atlantic. The Spaniards settled on the headland, but it was the British who turned the simple settlement into a city, and named it Port Royal.

They took Jamaica from the Spaniards in 1655, and in 1659 a fort was built to protected the entrance to Kingston bay, homes and warehouses.

Pirates

In the latter half of the 17th and 18th centuries, Port Royal became the most important home port for pirates ravaging the Caribbean. They served as mercenaries for the British, plundering Spanish merchant ships, and made the city to grow further, until a catastrophe occurred in 1692.

Port Royal ca 1690. Painting: Peter Dunn / jamaicaportroyal.com
Port Royal ca 1690. Painting: Peter Dunn / jamaicaportroyal.com

Earthquake

At that time, 6,500 people lived in Port Royal, which had expanded to the sandbanks in the north and west. On June 7, 1692, an earthquake struck Jamaica. The sandbanks disintegrated, and 2/3 of the city simply sank into what was now a mixture of sand and water. The earthquake and the tsunami that followed killed between 1,000 and 3,000 people. In the months after, 2,000 more died of disease.

Sunken buildings can still be seen on the seafloor.

Map of the old Port Royal. White, lost in the 1692 earthquake. Slightly shaded middle section, the part of the city that was flooded by the tsunami. Darkly shaded bottom section is the part of the city that survived. Map: Wikimedia
Map of the old Port Royal. White, lost in the 1692 earthquake. Slightly shaded middle section, the part of the city that was flooded by the tsunami. Darkly shaded bottom section is the part of the city that survived. Map: Wikimedia

Attempts were made to rebuild parts of the city, but hurricanes and fires made people move to the other side of the bay. Kingston was founded, and is now the largest and most important city in Jamaica.

A shadow

In 1907 a new earthquake destroyed much of what was left of Port Royal, and today Port Royal is just a shadow of what the city once was.

A quay for cruise ships was built in 2000, with cafes, shops and a combined museum and underwater aquarium.

Port Royal. Photo: Stéphane Damour / Creative Commons
Port Royal. Photo: Stéphane Damour / Creative Commons

Jamaica has been an independent state since 1962, but is still part of the British Commonwealth. The vast majority of the inhabitants are descendants of African slaves, who were brought to the island by Spaniards and Britons to work on sugar plantations. There is also a large proportion of Chinese workers who came to Jamaica when slavery was abolished in 1838.

Today, tourism is the most important industry in Jamaica, in addition to agriculture and mining.

Normal maximum temperature in November: 27,7 ℃
Normal precipitation in November: 87 mm

Website by TRY / Netlife