Turks and Caicos Background
The Turks and Caicos Islands are an archipelago of about 40 islands at the southeastern end of the Bahamas chain. Only the six largest islands and two cays are currently inhabited. The country is owned by England, but they still take the US dollar which is pretty cool, although they do drive on the left side of the road, which is a lot to get used to. The island of Grand Turk is the capital of Turks and Caicos, and is the furthest East. This is the island that the large cruise ships land on, and is known for its beautiful beaches and renowned scuba diving.
South Caicos is my home for the next four months. It is located on the Western side of Turks Island Passage and 25 miles from Grand Turk. The island is comprised of 8 square miles of coral rock, and is inhabited by around 1,200 people. It is known as the fishing capital of Turks and Caicos and the leading destination for bonefishing. It also used to have a thriving economy based on salt production. There are still several Salinas and even an old salt shed, which is a historic building located on the grounds of campus. Salt ponds are a major occupant of South Caicos, and is the home to migrating flamingos and ospreys. After the salt industry closed down in the late 1960s, fishing emerged as the mainstay of the South Caicos economy. There are still several processing plants operating on the island. We will be taking a field trip to one of these plants to see what fishermen do with their lobster and conch.
The town on South Caicos is quite an experience. It consists of a variety of carribean- style buildings, many of which appear to be abandoned. Despite the worn-down appearance, the town is bustling. A quick walk on the road and you are sure to encounter a local, known on the island as a “belonger”, who is sure to strike a conversation. The second day I went to a tiny building where a group of locals were playing a pretty rowdy game of dominos. As our big group of SFS students passed by, we stuck out like a sore thumb, but the locals still love us. One women saw us and invited us in her shop for ice cream. We all packed into this tiny store and she patiently served us her delicious ice cream (only a dollar for a code…yum!) Everyone in Turks so far has been super social and love to get to know us. They love to hear my life story and are so curious about my life in America. I also love to ask questions about their culture and enjoy hearing their fishing stories. South Caicos is known for its fishing, as lobster and conch can be found right off the shore.
The area called “the Town” s at the southern end of South Caicos and was once the island’s commercial center. There are several bars, restaurants, grocery store, and some barbers. There is also a hotel with a pool that we can use, and a few developing hotels that are expected to open shortly.
So I am still unsure exactly how the schedule of my classes work here, but here’s what I know…I am enrolled in three courses plus Directed Research (DR). My classes consist of Tropical Marine Ecology, Resource Management, and Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values. Every day we have a different schedule. For example, today I have three ecology courses. These classes all switch off between lecture styled classes, and field work. Clearly I am most excited about the field studies (I am at the School for Field Studies afterall). Some of the field work consists on tours of the ton to see the historic sites, identifying organisms while we snorkel, and tons of other amazing activities.