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The Caribbean

Caribbean Ports: ° Anguilla ° Antigua and Barbuda ° Antilles ° Aruba ° Bahamas ° Barbados ° Cuba ° Dominica ° Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo) ° Grenadines ° Guadeloupe ° Haiti ° Jamaica ° Martinique ° Netherlands/Antilles ° Puerto Rico ° Saint Kitts ° St. Lucia ° St. Martin ° St. Thomas ° St. Vincent and the Grenadines ° Tortola ° Trinidad and Tobago ° Turks and Caicos


On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived to the islands of the present day Bahamas (to San Salvador, or Guanahani as called by locals) with his three ships (the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria) and 90 men. He believed he found the new maritime passage connecting Europe to China, India and Japan . . . and consequently to spices and above all, gold. He subsequently made his way to Cuba and Haiti, and was welcomed by the locals of these islands which he baptised “Hispaniola” (Spanish island).

La Guadeloupe. Map. 1800s.

These first contacts between the indigenous population of the Greater Antilles and the Spanish were non-violent; Europeans did not meet any resistance until their later ventures into the Lesser Antilles, where they encountered the Kalligano population, of a much wilder character than the peaceful Tainos. These Caribbeans were unwilling to accept the new arrivals, and their rioting resulted in the disastrous fate well known to us from the pages of history books. The names of the islands as known today all originate from the conquests of those days,, and this is when the island of Karukera (or Caloucaera, island of beautiful waters) received the name “Guadeloupe” in baptism, tribute to the royal monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, the place where Christopher Columbus was granted the official document commissioning him to an expedition to India.

The top position in Caribbean society was that of the planter, owner of an agricultural surface that he exploited by intermediary of a commander or a manager who had earned his trust, and a certain number of slaves or paid workers (taken on for 36 months). Their slaves were “African Negroes” and “Creole Negroes," the latter born on the island and generally serving as domestic slaves. Slaves on the run were referred to as “Cimaroons," and colonists who were in a position other than a planter were called petit-blanc (little whites), a pejorative expression to emphasise their inferior status. They were often paid workers, or disposed of a small piece of land and a few slaves.

As their only advantage was the colour of their skin, they were particularly careful not to mix with the local population, in order to increase their chances of becoming a planter one day. The abolishment of slavery in 1848 brought about a shortage in the available workforce, and a small number of whites began to engage as paid workers on plantations.

July 16, 1804, British Press, London, United Kingdom

Dispatches from Jamaica, dated the 20th of May, state that an alarming plot, formed by the French prisoners in that island, in conjunction with the French at Cuba, had been fortunately discovered, the object of which was to cause an insurrection, for the purpose of obtaining possession of that island. It is said, that they were to have been provided with money by some Jews, who, however, failed in their engagement, and the whole plot was happily discovered, before any explosion could take place.--The necessary measures had been adopted, to prevent any similar attempt for the future; and the island, at the date of the official advices, was in every respect perfectly safe, and totally free from alarm.

A Jamaica paper, of the 12th of May, says, "A French ship of the line and two frigates, with troops, are mentioned to have got safe into Gaudaloupe."

A Jamaica paper of the 5th says, "Captain Butler, of the ship James, of Bristol, arrived at Morant Bay from Cork, mentions, that in passing Martinique, he saw the British flag flying on the different small forts to windward of St. Pierre. The Blenhiem, of 74 guns, a 50-gun ship, a sloop of war, and a store-ship, were lying close, to the Diamond Rock, on the lop of which a camp, and the English colours, were perceptible.

The late embargo at Guadeloupe was considered as the forerunner of an expedition from thence against some of our West India possessions, and excited a considerable degree of alarm at Dominica.

July 25, 1899, The Daily Journal, Freeport, Illinois, U.S.A.

A Peculiar Plant

Soufrière de la Guadeloupe. 1835

There is a strange wild plant in Guadeloupe called the "life plant." If a leaf be broken off and pinned by the stem to a wall of a warm room, each of the angles between the curves of the leaf margin soon throws out a number of very white tentacles, or roots, and soon a tiny new plant begins to sprout, and in the course of a week or two attains a height of two or three inches. When the old leaf shrivels, the new plant is cut off and planted. When carefully cultivated the life plant produces curious red and yellow blossoms. While the plant is native only in a warm country, there is no doubt that it could be successfully grown in any greenhouse, and as a plant freak it certainly is as interesting as the everlasting plant of Mexico. ~ Cincinnati Enquirer.

Caribbean. Arrowsmith map maker.

Caribbean, 1806.

Andrew Arrowsmith, Arrowsmith Map Makers

Out on the Deep Blue: True Stories of Daring, Persistence, and Survival from the Nation's Most Dangerous ProfessionThe Nation's Most Dangerous Profession.
Leslie Leyland Fields, Editor.
The first collection of first-person accounts of commercial fishing written by the men and women who work in the nation's most dangerous occupation. Nineteen diverse fisher-writers, from the famous to the unknown, take the reader swordfish harpooning on the Georges Banks, winter crabbing in the Bering Sea, sea-urchin diving off Maine, herring fishing in Alaska, shark-harpooning off Scotland and points between. Fine writing on commercial fishing, blending the voices of such well-known writers as Peter Mathiessen, Gavin Maxwell, Linda Greenlaw, Spike Walker, and John Cole, together with experienced and emerging writers, many of whom have spent much of their lives on the water.

The Mammoth Book of Life Before the Mast:
Sailors' Eyewitness Stories from the Age of Fighting Ships

Jon E. Lewis, Editor
Firsthand accounts of the real-life naval adventures behind the popular historical sagas of Patrick O'Brian and C. F. Forester. Twenty true-life adventures capture the glory and gore of the great age of naval warfare from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century -- the age of the French Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 -- when combat at sea was won by sheer human wit, courage, and endurance. Culled from memoirs, diaries, and letters of celebrated officers as well as sailors, the collection includes accounts of such decisive naval engagements as Admiral Horatio Nelson's on the Battle of the Nile in 1798 or Midshipman Roberts' on the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and also offers glimpses into daily hardships aboard a man-of-war: scurvy, whippings, storms, piracy, press gangs, drudgery, boredom, and cannibalism.

Sweatshops at Sea.
Sweatshops at Sea: Merchant Seamen in the World's First Globalized Industry, from 1812 to the PresentSweatshops at Sea. Merchant Seamen.
Leon Fink
As the main artery of international commerce, merchant shipping was the world's first globalized industry, often serving as a vanguard for issues touching on labor recruiting, the employment relationship, and regulatory enforcement that crossed national borders. Historian Leon Fink examines the evolution of laws and labor relations governing ordinary seamen over the past two centuries. The merchant marine offers an ideal setting for examining the changing regulatory regimes applied to workers by the United States, Great Britain, and, ultimately, an organized world community. Fink explores both how political and economic ends are reflected in maritime labor regulations and how agents of reform--including governments, trade unions, and global standard-setting authorities--grappled with the problems of applying land-based, national principles and regulations of labor discipline and management to the sea-going labor force. With the rise of powerful nation-states in a global marketplace in the nineteenth century, recruitment and regulation of a mercantile labor force emerged as a high priority and as a vexing problem for Western powers. The history of exploitation, reform, and the evolving international governance of sea labor offers a compelling precedent in an age of more universal globalization of production and services.

Life of a Sailor (Seafarers' Voices) Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.Life Before the Mast.
Frederick Chamier
Chamier went to sea in 1809 as an officer in the Royal Navy. Like his contemporary, Captain Frederick Marryat, he enjoyed a successful literary career and is remembered for his naval novels. This book, his first, is usually catalogued as fiction, although it is an exact account of his naval experiences, with every individual, ship, and event he described corroborated by his service records. Told with humor and insight, it is considered an authentic account of a young officer's service. From anti-slavery patrols off Africa to punitive raids on the American coast during the War of 1812, Chamier provides details of many lesser-known campaigns. His descriptions of British naval operations in America, which reflected his objection to bringing the war to the civilian population, were highly criticized by his seniors.

The Nagle Journal: A Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor..
John C. Dann

Great Stories of the Sea & Ships Sea Stories and the history of America.
N. C. Wyeth
Sea Stories and the history of America.More than 50,000 copies of this collection of high-seas adventures are in print. It showcases the fiction of such classic writers as Daniel Defoe, Jules Verne, and Jack London, and the entries also feature historic first-person narratives including Christopher Columbus’s own account of his voyage in 1492. Vivid tales of heroic naval battles and dangerous journeys of exploration to the stories of castaways and smugglers. The variety of works includes “The Raft of Odysseus,” by Homer; Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Mermaid”; “The Specksioneer,” by Elizabeth Gaskell; Washington Irving’s “The Phantom Island”; and “Rounding Cape Horn,” by Herman Melville. Eighteen extraordinary black and white illustrations by Peter Hurd add to the volume's beauty.

The Rebel Raiders
The Astonishing History of the Confederacy's Secret NavyRebel Raiders. James T. deKay.

James T. deKay
During its construction in Liverpool, the ship was known as “Number 290.” It was unleashed as the CSS Alabama, the Confederate gunship that triggered the last great military campaign of the Civil War; yet another infamous example of British political treachery, and the largest retribution settlement ever negotiated by an international tribunal: $15,500,000 in gold paid by Britain to the United States.

This true story of the Anglo-Confederate alliance that led to the creation of a Southern navy illuminates the dramatic and crucial global impact of the American Civil War. Like most things in the War between the States, it started over cotton: Lincoln’s naval blockade prevented the South from exporting their prize commodity to England. In response, the Confederacy came up with a plan to divert the North’s vessels and open the waterways–a plan that would mean covertly building a navy in Britain, a strategy that involved a cast of clandestine characters.

Spanish Pirate Coins.

Spanish Pirate Coins

Selections from Ferdinand and Isabella, Colonial Caribbean, King Philip III of Spain, Elizabeth II, Ferdinand IV, King of Castile, and Leon Pepion...

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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