A Travellerspoint blog

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2008 November 12

First Visit

View Five Visits to Barbados on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

In 2008, we were on one of the first cruise ships in to Grand Turk after Hurricane Ike. In the days before the cruise, I had doubts about whether we would be able to visit at all. But they had rebuilt the cruise ship pier. Even though the children were going to school in a tent. and many buildings were still in ruins, the islanders had coped. Instead of a building at the lighthouse offering drinks, there was a lady with a cooler selling cold drinks. The roads had been cleared and the residents were getting on with their lives. I was impressed with their industry and energy.

Trashed satellite receivers near the lighthouse - Grand Turk

Trashed satellite receivers near the lighthouse - Grand Turk

This is the narrative of that first visit

I was able to send and receive email OK in the computer lounge yesterday (even without the help of the computer person who I have not seen since the first day) and was on the internet about 20 minutes. I remembered where there was a plug from the Maasdam - it was in the baseboard next to one of the little tables in the library. When I got down on my hands and knees to plug the computer in, all kinds of people rushed to see if I was ok. I think this interesting because on THIS HAL cruise they haven't hidden the old people. We are everywhere. But I don't see people offering to help any of them with anything. While I was doing the internet Bob went to the show.

November 12, 2008

We got up early today, and went up to the Lido for breakfast because the dining room wasn't open yet. I got some raisin bread (the bread is very good), a hard boiled egg (which they served in the shell - hot - in a little cup), a piece of pineapple and some oatmeal. And of course cranberry juice. A guy came and took my tray and ushered me to a seat by the window. There were orchids on the table. Bob had to fend for himself. He had raisin bran and scrambled eggs. Right afterwards I went down to the excursion desk to ask about the hop-on-hop-off bus which they had taken off the excursion list and they said that I'd have to ask the Port person who would be at the gangway. Who as I found out did not know anything, and also the write-up of Grand Turk is completely out of date for after the hurricane.


We went up for Team Trivia before 10 and I logged on and sent emails while I was waiting. This time we did not do as well as before, although I was able to think of the name of the general who was infamous for supplying his troops with prostitutes (Gen. Hooker), and I also knew the number of lanes in an Olympic pool. We didn't take Bob's suggestion for the island that the Japanese attacked after Pearl Harbor (Philippines) and got that wrong, and I wanted to say that it was Dudley DoRight's horse that was named Horse, but they said Gumby instead. OTOH, they took Geo. Halas as the first coach of the Bears to win a Super Bowl and it wasn't him, it was Ditka. We ended up with 12 right out of 20, and I think the winner had 16.

We were supposed to get to Grand Turk at noon, but we were coming in during Trivia, so right afterwards I went out and took pictures. I did get some photos of the lighthouse. I was so anxious to get ashore to find out how I could get to the lighthouse itself that I took two rolls and two slices of bread from the buffet. But Bob refused to eat them, so I ate them.


One of the things I love to do is watch the ship come into port and take photos of the shore from the ship. It is like an appetizer to whet your appetite for the main meal. In 2008, I took a lot of photos of the shore while the ship was docked. Of course I wanted to get photos of the lighthouse from the sea, and I was also worried about the possible hurricane damage at the port

Docking The Statendam

Docking The Statendam

The Port person said to go to the information desk and ask about a taxi. There was no information desk.

The Statendam

The Statendam

We bought hats for ourselves - I lost my good hat in Curacao and left the one with a chin strap to keep it from blowing off that I bought there on our boat. Bob bought a straw one and I bought a fabric one.


We saw the little (smaller than a reasonable sized science fair project) information booth, but there was no one there. We walked out to the taxi stand and they said to go back to the booth and look for someone in a green shirt.

The man (in a cream shirt) eventually came to the booth and he explained that his tour was an hour and included the lighthouse and would be $19 each. A taxi out to the lighthouse and back would be $18 each ($9 each way) So we opted for the tour which would leave in 20 minutes. The tour would have cost $39 each from the ship. I wanted to get Bob something to eat, so we walked over to Margaretaville.


I ordered conch soup which I thought would be fast, but Bob ordered a fish sandwich. And it didn't come quickly enough for us so we took it with us.
Bob started to eat his sandwich, but it wasn't to his taste and he was afraid it would have spoiled without refrigeration while we were on our tour, so he threw it out


We walked back to the stand and they gave us wrist bands. I drank my soup (I had to put some ice cubes in it to get it cool enough to drink and I spilled some of it on my dress) and we walked to the bus. I got on and sat by the window in what must have been the smallest seat on the bus. The distance between the back of the seat and the back of the next seat was exactly the distance from my hips to my knees.

Anyway the tour included a narrative by the driver (also the person who sold us the tickets), and he explained about the original salt ponds

and how things were after Hurricane Ike (category 4). Apparently the British Navy came in for the recovery and ordered 300 body bags - they didn't have to use any of them. You can see that there is extensive damage to the island, but the roads are cleared now, people are getting their homes back together, and the shops at the dock are about half back in business

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We went out to the lighthouse, and Bob took one of the cameras and walked out to the end of the property and took pictures, while I took pictures from between the lighthouse and the bus. Originally there was an admission charge, but there was no one to take the money.

This rare early cast iron lighthouse was partly restored and reactivated in 1998. The focal plane is 33 m (108 ft) with a white flash every 7.5 seconds. Located at the northern tip of Grand Turk Island, the lighthouse is accessible by road.

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The rust showing on the lighthouse is because this is a cast iron tower (designed by Alexander Gordon) which was prefabricated in London by Chance Brothers. The lighthouse dates back to 1852. It was constructed mainly at the insistence of Americans who had salt trading ships visiting the island.
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When it was built, the lighthouse cost £4 100. It featured 8 Argand type whale oil lamps with reflectors which magnified the light to 450 times its original intensity. Gordon called it “a grand sea light” but in the first four decades of its use wrecks continued along with complaints that the light was either not lit or too dim. In 1943 Chance Brothers installed a Fresnel lens and kerosene light which had a visibility at sea in excess of 15 miles.

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In 2006, Carnival Cruise line repainted and refurbished the lighthouse, keeper's cottage, and other light station buildings as a part of a plan to develop Grand Turk as a regular stop for cruise ships. Cruise ships offered hop on-hop off bus tours that included the light station and the town. However, since the hurricane the bus just gives a tour of the island (there's no town to stop at yet). The tour does stop at the lighthouse. You can't climb the lighthouse but you can buy water and snacks there and there is a trail with informational signs.

Before the 2008 hurricane (Ike), there was a lighthouse keeper's house and kitchen plus a kerosene storage house here and the 4º Fresnel lens which was removed from the lighthouse in 1971 when it became electrified was on display at the Turks and Caicos National Museum. But most buildings on the island (including the museum and the buildings at the lighthouse) were destroyed or severely damaged by the hurricane. At that time, instead of a building with a shaded patio to have a snack or cool drink, there is a lady who sells water and drinks from a cooler under a tree. In November 2008, there was no fee to visit the lighthouse.


The north end of the island where the Grand Turk Lighthouse is situated is a good place to spot whales in February and March. The Lighthouse area also provides some shade, a picnic area. We didn't get a chance to whale watch because we have only been to Grand Turk in November

The lighthouse hill overlooks North Creek, an inland body of water or lake that a growing number of historians argue is the closest fit to the description that Columbus gave for the island that he first encountered on his 1492 voyage to the New World. Bob took photos out there too


John (the guide) said that the Turks and Caicos got their names from the Turk's head cactus which was endemic to the islands,


and the word Caicos meant something like 'island chain'. He said they had one of the smallest international airports in the world. Most people fly into Provo and get another plane from there. We got back and went to sit on the beach and then we went back aboard. They offered me a ride on a golf cart down the pier, which I took. We were back on the boat by about 1400.

When we went to dinner, we were seated with a youngish Canadian couple and an older couple (Ellie and John) from Cleveland. John said he had researched on the internet about Grand Turk and decided to go snorkeling on his own - he said much of the beach accessible reef had been destroyed. He also said that in the San Blas Islands, we could go snorkeling if we could negotiate a dugout canoe.

For dinner, I had mushroom chorizo strudel, chilled pear, cucumber and melon gazpacho (which was citrusy but not spicy - more sweet than real gazpacho), salmon piccata Milanese with Linguini (with cheese on top and broccoli on the side), and chocolate tart with berries compote (a kind of chocolate pie). Bob had the Panama fruit medley, sweet potato soup, and sirloin steak which he said was good


Bob went to show tonight too - it was a John Denver show, which he said was good. Of course the theatre floor is flat which means you can't see from there very well.
Our towel animal tonight was a swan.

Posted by greatgrandmaR 19:11 Archived in Turks/Caicos Islands Tagged lighthouse turks_and_caicos ike grand_turk Comments (0)

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