Origins: Grand Cayman - #116

Every place in the world has a series of things that give that spot a special character... and make it different from every other place.  When you look at the ORIGINS of these things, you often end up with a better appreciation of the territory -- and that makes it a lot more interesting to visit.  And sometimes, these ORIGINS help us understand why we live the way we do.

The motto on the national emblem of the Cayman Islands reads: “He Hath Founded It Upon The Seas,” which is an excellent description of the place and its history.  Three islands -- Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman -- make up the country, which is a crown colony of Great Britain.  No point on any of the islands is more than a few minutes’ drive from the sea.  The first people to take any interest in the area were sailors who stopped in during the 1500s for fresh water and turtle meat.  Fishing and shipbuilding were the main businesses for hundreds of years, as well as sending young men off to join the navy and the Merchant Marine.  Then a tourist business based on people who loved water sports, particularly underwater sports.  And finally, the development of an off-shore banking industry.  The Cayman Islands are definitely “founded on the seas.”

One of the leading authorities on the history of the Cayman Islands is Dr. Philip Pedley, who is the director of the Cayman Islands National Archive.

DR. PHILIP PEDLEY:  And this is a small, charming map from a French source.  And it says here: “Iles de Cayman.”  This is what I call the first European picture or image of any of the Cayman Islands.  It’s almost certainly a picture of Cayman Brac, dated 1590.  And you can see the turtles that Columbus himself saw.  And you can see, eating up the turtle eggs, the “caymanos” (sic) after which Cayman is named.  He was a large crocodile that lived, as the accounts say, both in the sea and on the land.  So it was aquatic and terrestrial.

Now what we’ve got here is two of the images -- two of the pictures -- that go along with this picture of Cayman Brac.  And Columbus, when he passed the sister islands in 1503 called this Las Tortugas, but that name gave way in the next thirty years or so to this creature.  On this map you can also see, interesting enough -- and this is one of the things that confirms that it is Cayman Brac -- the bent trees...

BURT WOLF:  Oh, yes!

DR. PHILIP PEDLEY:  ...bent over by the wind.  Now, that’s sort of significant in the history of Cayman Brac because shipbuilding was a strong industry over there -- a strong tradition.  And the shipbuilders would simply go up onto the bluff, which is a hundred and forty feet above -- rises to a hundred and forty feet above the sea level -- and select the exact curvature of the wood they were looking for.

            And here we have a very interesting little booklet, which I call the first example of tourist literature in the Cayman Islands.  It’s a letter written by the commissioner, Commissioner Cardinal, to the rest of the world: “Dear Sir of Madam” wherever.  And it’s an invitation to come and enjoy an unspoiled paradise.  And it’s signed by “the whole of Cayman.”

These days, Grand Cayman is divided into five districts.  George Town is the smallest.  It’s also the seat of the government, the center of the nation’s banking and business interests, and the most populated.  It’s on the sheltered western side of the island with the best port.  The duty free shops are here, so you can do your duty and shop in an almost guilt-free environment, justifying your expenditures on the basis of how much you saved.

ANITA EBANKS:  Well, I want to introduce you to George Town and the harbor.  And at one time this was called the Hog Stys -- the whole area.

BURT WOLF:  Because they kept pigs here?

ANITA EBANKS:  Yes.  And supposedly all the people on the island had them penned in in a certain area.  And on a bad day if you were downwind from was very smelly.  So it was called the Hog Stys... And then sometime during the early 18th century, Governor Bodden decided it would be good to name it George Town in honor of George the Third.  And I guess if it hadn’t been changed, we would be sending post cards and letters from Hog Stys, Grand Cayman.

BURT WOLF:  Doesn’t sound like a great place to go for a vacation.  George Town is a great improvement.

ANITA EBANKS:  This is Fort George.  This was the first of several batteries around the island -- the first line of defense against Spanish marauders from Cuba.  You know, this was Hog Sty Bay, so they’d probably steal some of their hogs and maybe some of their turtles and poultry.

BURT WOLF:  You can actually see the outline of where the old fort was.

ANITA EBANKS:  Yes, it was about five feet high on the sea side.  The land side was only about two feet high.  And the walls were about three feet thick, and they had various embarcadiers for about maybe ten cannon.  Most of the cannon were about four- or six-pounders.  And the two that are there now are recreated there out of cement in fact, and they are replicas of six-pounders.

In the early days people would go down to the beach and go beachcombing to find whatever might be washed up so that they could use to just help with their way of life.  I mean, we were very isolated, so it might be a favorite piece of wood might be washed up.  And one morning back in about 1846, a Mary Webster from Frank Sound supposedly was doing some beachcombing early in the morning, and she saw this strange kernel on the beach.  And she planted it and it grew into an almond tree.  And supposedly that’s where all the almond trees that you find on the island today are descended from.  I think they’re really lovely -- various shades of orange and red.

The most unusual house in George Town was built by Carroll Henderson.  In 1935, he started buying conch shells.  When his collection passed the 4,000 shell point, he used them to construct his dream house -- conch shells anchored in a twelve-inch thick concrete wall.  He could only set thirty shells a day, so it took over two years to build the place.  But when it was finished, it was so well made that during the second World War the U.S. Navy used the house as a bomb storage depot.  Today, it is the home of Mike Henderson, who is the son of the original builder.  It’s a private residence, but Mike doesn’t mind if you come by to take a look.

Next to George Town is the northwest part of the island, which is known as West Bay.  The old Bothwell residence is in West Bay and it stands as a typical example of traditional Cayman architecture... gingerbread trim...  and a sand garden.

The central part of Grand Cayman is called Bodden Town.  Bodden Town is the home of the oldest building on the island.  It was built in 1780; rock walls three feet thick, nice view up top, underground dungeons below.  What else could you ask for?  It’s called Pedro Castle.

The Cayman Islands National Trust has an extensive program for preserving historical information about the islands, and making that information available to visitors.  The Trust publishes a series of booklets that outline historical walking tours of both West Bay and Bodden Town.

In one of those bursts of creativity that often overcome early settlers, the eastern end of Grand Cayman is known as East End.  It’s one of the least populated parts of the island and still has a very rural lifestyle.  Tourists drive over to the district to take a look at the blowholes.  Waves dive into the underground caves.  Holes in the top of the caves allow part of the wave to escape in a plume of spray.

If you’re in the neighborhood on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and you’re thirsty, you can walk across the road and get some fresh coconut water.

LINDO PARSONS:  The coconut water is what you drink direct from the coconut.  The milk is gathered by gratering the coconut into small pieces.

BURT WOLF:  Grating.”

LINDO PARSONS:  Or today in modernized equipment, we put the small pieces in the blender, chop it up in smaller pieces, take it and wash it in water, and strain it through a strainer.  What comes out of there is the milk.  What remains is what is called “trash” locally.  That is converted into candies and coconut tarts.

Just down the road from the blowholes is a stretch of beach from which you can see what’s left of a group of ten British ships that foundered on the reef in 1794.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  The event became known as the “Wreck of the Ten Sails.”  The lead ship that was doing the navigation sent back a signal to the rest of the fleet that read: “stay clear.”  The sailor who interpreted the signal read it as: “all clear.”  Talk about losing something in the translation.

The next district on the island is called North Side.  It was the last part of Grand Cayman to be settled and it has the smallest population.  North Side also has the most fertile land and the island’s best farms.  For many years, the lack of roads kept it isolated from the rest of the island.  These days, however, the roads have improved.

And there’s a public ferry from the busiest part of the island at Seven Mile Beach to the tip of North Side.  The ferry goes up and back throughout the day and will deposit you on Rum Point, which is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach on the island.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  Rum Point appears to have gotten its name as the result of a ship that wrecked on the reefs in front of it.  The ship was carrying a cargo of barrels filled with rum that floated ashore.  When they were discovered by the local residents, they also got wrecked.  These days there are a number of bars and restaurants on Rum Point that will help you recreate the experience.

About two hundred yards to the west of Rum Point is one of the most interesting underwater attractions in the world.  The area is called Stingray City, and it offers snorkelers and SCUBA divers an opportunity to hang out with a couple of hundred stingrays.  I went out to the city on a sixty-five-foot catamaran named The Spirit of Paloo.

DIVE INSTRUCTOR:  One of the nicest places for you to touch a stingray is on the underside of his wing.  You could also touch him on the top, but it’s not quite so smooth, it’s a little more leathery.  You do not have to worry about the tail stinging you when it’s touching you -- they physically have to do this.  Okay?  So you can touch the tail if you’d like.

VANESSA BELLAMY:  Their mouth is on the bottom, their eyes are on the top and we feed them squid, that’s how we get them up on the surface.  You might have noticed as you’ve been watching me, they come close and their nose is at the front.  Everybody says, “Oh, they seem to like you.”  No.  They swim forward, that way we can hold on to them better so everybody else can get a good look at them.  The only thing that’s dangerous about a stingray is they do have a little bit of a barb on the end of their tail that they sting with.  But the only way they do that is when they settle in the sand to rest and somebody comes along and steps on them, then they come up and sting them.  Here, the rays here, they’re very, very nice.

Going out on the Spirit of Paloo is a very modern experience -- but if you would like to slip into a recreation of the past, you might ship out on the Jolly Roger.

PIRATE:  Okay, she was built back in 1986, it’s a replica of a seventeenth century Spanish galleon.  She’s sixty-seven feet in length, she weighs sixty-two and a half tons, has fifty-seven fully working pieces of rigging, including eight sails. 

You guys are here to enjoy yourselves!  Therefore, no long faces!  Like yours, you scurvy dog -- SMILE!

Okay, I’ve got two containers down on the sides as well; the small one’s got fruit punch, the big one’s got rum punch.  Please just go and help yourselves, guys.  Now, this rum punch is very delicately flavored; it’s got parrot droppings in it, battery acid, I think it’s got some gunpowder in there, as well.  We haven’t seen the ship’s cat in about a week, so if you find some fur in your glass, you’ve found the cat.

NO LINE DANCING ON THIS VESSEL!  This does include the Macarena, and the Electric Slide.  Any line dancers will be shot.  Oh yes!

Being the world’s fifth largest financial center, it’s fair to assume that Grand Cayman is home to a fair number of people who are hungry for wealth.  Ahh, but there’s also a large number of people who are just... hungry for good food!  And fortunately, there are dozens of places on the island that can meet their expectations.  One of the many spots that I liked is called The Cracked Conch.

The Cracked Conch has a number of things going for it.  The most obvious is a great location on the shore of Northwest Point.  Wonderful views and an almost constant breeze that makes it a pleasure to eat out on the porch.

The next thing you’ll notice is the owner -- Susie Soto, who is not only a distinguished restaurateur and the president of the Cayman Restaurant Association, but most significantly she was the first runner-up in the 1997 Glamorous Granny Contest!  She has sixteen grandchildren.

And finally, the good food.  As usual, the crew ordered the restaurant specialties.  Emily Aronson, our executive producer, had turtle steak... Rob Weller, our cameraman, had turtle burger... John Blackman, the soundman, had a bacon cheeseburger (for which the restaurant has a local reputation)... and I had the conch chowder.  For dessert: key lime pie... coconut cream pie... Sinful Chocolate Brownie Sundae... and the Mud Slide Pie.  I don’t know what the other guys had for dessert.

The Lighthouse at Breakers is a good place for lunch or dinner.  It’s on the south shore of the island, right on the water.  Big screened-in porch with excellent views.  One of the owners is from Italy, and you can see his influence in the menu.  Many of the dishes are a blend of Italian and Caribbean tastes: penne pasta with local lobster, and Swordfish Positano.  But the proximity to the U.S. is also apparent -- Jerk Chicken Caesar and Pizzaiola Burgers.  For dessert:  Tortuga Rum Cake... Phyllis’ Nutty Starfish... and Mont Blanc.  They also have cookies to go -- Rum Raisin, Tropical Granola, Chocolate Walnut Biscotti, and Coconut Shortbread.

This is Seymour’s Jerk Centre.  Seymour spent some years in Jamaica mastering his recipes for jerk pork and jerk chicken.  And he’s built quite a following.


CUSTOMER 2:   One order of jerk pork.  You really eat the hot sauce?

CUSTOMER 1:  Yeah, I do; I love the hot sauce.  Oh, lots.

But his real fame is based on a drink that is somewhat short on taste but long on side effects.  It’s called “Mannish Water.”  It’s made from goat heads, goat bellies, goat feet and, uh...other goat stuff.  But taste is not the source of its strength.  Mannish water’s power derives from its real or perceived value as an... “energy builder.”

MAN 1:  As the olden days, as the olden people would say, “it gives you stamina.”

MAN 2:  Your stamina!

MAN 3:  Yah, mon, give you good stamina.

SEYMOUR: Gives you that extra boost that you need.

It’s a potent beverage, and in spite of its lack of caffeine, it seems to keep people up at night.

As you snorkel along Seven Mile Beach, you might do yourself a favor and come up at the new Marriott resort.  Great beachfront property, and an excellent beachfront restaurant called The Peninsula.  It’s completely open to the beach on three sides, and the dishes are inspiring: Turtle Fingers... Cayman Black Bean Soup... Blackened Mahi-Mahi... Tortuga Rum Shrimp... and for dessert, Passionfruit Tiramisu... and Key Lime Mousse.

And now for a plate that is completely different.

According to our latest geological information, the earth is made up of a series of huge plates that float on top of a hot liquid core.  As these plates bang into each other they change the shape of the earth’s surface.  Now there’s a piece of information to make you feel secure.  The geologists also tell us that a few million years ago the plates that were floating around under what is now the Caribbean Sea pushed up a mountain range that formed Cuba and the Cayman Islands.

125,000 years ago the sea level around these islands was twenty feet higher than it is now.  Then an Ice Age came along and sucked up a lot of the water on the planet.  The sea bottom, which was made of coral and sand, was suddenly exposed and turned into rock.  Over the centuries it eroded to the sharp pinnacles which are now known as ironshore.

There’s a particular form of ironshore that was formed on Grand Cayman over two million years ago.  When one of the early British commissioners was shown this area, he said that “This must be what Hell looks like.”  The name stuck and the district is officially known as Hell.

One of its main attractions is a post office that will stamp your cards with a postmark from Hell.  There’s also The Devil’s Hangout, a gift shop run by Ivan Farrington -- who will do everything he can to make your visit a living Hell.

IVAN FARRINGTON:  Well, I’m great, young man.  How the hell you doing?

BURT WOLF:   Oh, I’m doing fine -- I had a devil of a time getting here.


BURT WOLF:   I understand at one point you tried to change the name to Paradise?

IVAN FARRINGTON:  Yes, and business went straight to hell.

BURT WOLF:   What do people buy when they come in?

IVAN FARRINGTON:  Most of ‘em buy t-shirts, and all of ‘em buys postcards to send back to their friends.

BURT WOLF:   So you can really say, “I’ve been to Hell and I sent you this card.”


BURT WOLF:   Well, I actually came here because I was wondering, do you have a good recipe for Devil’s Food Cake?


But I do!

If Ivan Farrington clearly draws his inspiration from Hell, then Miss Gladwyn Lassie Bush clearly draws her inspiration from Heaven.

Miss Lassie is an untrained artist who has been free to develop without influence or interference from the professional art world.  The first evidence that Miss Lassie was at work came to the notice of her neighbors, who passed her home and realized that someone was painting visionary scenes on the building.

Miss Lassie is what’s known as an intuitive artist.  She draws her visual understanding of the external world from deeply religious inspirations.  She paints her internal visions.

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  Well, all of my paintings is naturally what comes to my mind’s eye.  I can’t paint physically.  I have tried it, but I have failed.  But if it enters my mind’s eye, I can really imitate what I see in my mind’s eye.

BURT WOLF:   You started by painting your house.

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  Yes, I did.  I did.  I started my painting because it was all I had was the wood to paint on.

BURT WOLF:   People thought that was a little strange.

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  Oh!  They said I was crazy.  Two of my friends said that I was crazy -- disfiguring the windows with the foolish paintings.

BURT WOLF:   Is there one or two paintings that you like the best?  Favorites?

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  I love my “Betrayal” which is on glass.  The “Betrayal” which is there.

BURT WOLF:  Why do you think that you have these visions and most people don’t?

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  I don’t know.  I wouldn’t say that some people don’t or other people don’t, but just as I tell you what I see, is as plain in my mind’s eye as looking at you physically right now.

BURT WOLF:   It looks like you’re getting famous.  How does that feel?

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  I can’t make that go around my aged head.  To be like how I would be if I was the age of some of these young folks, maybe I would be a fool, jumping up and down and rejoicing.  But, to me, it’s just a natural way.  Now, I’ll be frank with you;  I am glad that my painting has found a place in the world -- very glad of it.  But I can’t make it really settle in this old, worn, gray head.  I might go real crazy if I done it.

BURT WOLF:   If you start believing what people say about you, you’d go crazy.

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  Yes, yes, yes, yes.

BURT WOLF:   Yes, I think that’s true.

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  So, I should keep myself in control.

BURT WOLF:   Do you think that there’s one really important message that all of your paintings send?

MISS GLADWYN LASSIE BUSH:  My chief paintings is concerning the great son of God.  Of all the paintings I love them best.  I am a great sinner, but I believe in Him.  He’s not going to condemn me for my beliefs.  I might be rejected for some of the sin, but not for the unbeliefs.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):  Well, that’s a brief look at the Cayman Islands.  The story of these islands is definitely the story of the sea.  And I hope you will see your way clear to join us next time as we travel around the world.  I’m Burt Wolf.

Origins: The Cayman Islands - #102

Every place in the world has a series of things that give that spot a special character... and make it different from every other place.  When you look at the ORIGINS of these things, you often end up with a better appreciation of the territory -- and that makes it a lot more interesting to visit.  And sometimes, these ORIGINS help us understand why we live the way we do.

As Christopher Columbus was sailing back to Spain at the end of his fourth and final voyage to the New World, a storm came up between Panama and Haiti and pushed him off course. It pushed him to the west, directly into the islands that are now known as Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. His ship’s log for May 10th, 1503 reports the following:  “We came upon two very small islands full of tortoises, as was the sea around them -- so many tortoises that they looked like little rocks.” Columbus marked the islands on his map with the name Las Tortugas -- the turtles.  Las Tortugas has become The Cayman Islands, and now there are three of them:  Grand Cayman... Cayman Brac... and Little Cayman.  They lie about 180 miles west of Jamaica and 480 miles south of Miami.

The total population of the three islands is about 30,000 and the people come from a mixture of African and European backgrounds. The residents of the Cayman Islands have one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. The average household income is almost 70,000 US dollars per year. The government is stable and the country’s banks, insurance companies and mutual fund operations have made it the fifth largest financial center in the world.

The nation’s banks are significant, but the nation’s beaches are even more important. The Cayman Islands are actually the limestone tops of three mountains that come up from the bottom of the sea. The limestone is so porous that none of the islands have any rivers or streams, and therefore no runoff from the land to the sea. The absence of runoff gives the water around the Cayman Islands a clarity and visibility that is over one hundred and twenty feet. The islands are also surrounded by coral reefs that protect the shores. The areas between the reefs and the beaches are perfect for snorkeling. And just on the far side of the reefs are dropoffs that go down for thousands of feet and create ideal conditions for diving.

DIVE INSTRUCTOR:  First thing you want to do is make sure a mask fits to start.  And the way you do that is you expose the seal...

The modern snorkel is a J-shaped tube with a mouthpiece that is attached to a face mask.  It was introduced in the 1930’s and it allowed swimmers to cruise the surface of the sea, face down, while they looked at what was going on below.  But the idea of using some kind of breathing tube while working underwater goes back for thousands of years.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):   Alexander the Great had a team of underwater divers who used reeds as breathing tubes.  They would swim into an area underwater and clear it of any barriers that had been put in place to damage Alexander’s incoming ships.  The ancient Greeks also had a team of snorkelers that became famous for sinking an enemy fleet.  One night, they swam underwater to the fleet, cut the ropes that held the ships to their anchors.  The ships floated away and crashed on the nearby reefs.

An ancient Roman writer described soldiers who held one end of a leather tube in their mouth while the other end floated on the surface. He compared the apparatus to an elephant lying on its back underwater with its trunk extended to the surface. Our modern word “snorkel” comes from an old German word that means “tube” or “scroll.”  It’s a perfect description of the equipment being used.

The 1930’s also saw the introduction of fins or flippers that increased a swimmer's speed, and weight belts that allowed divers to dive deeper. But the breathing equipment really didn’t permit the divers to stay down for very long and there wasn’t any clothing that would protect them against the cold. And those two problems limited the sport.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):   Which brings us to the story of SCUBA, five letters that stand for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.  Now, most of the technical problems of staying underwater for a long time and doing some useful work down there had already been solved by 1819 when the diving suit was introduced.

It consisted of the familiar round metal helmet with a glass window in the front, a metal shoulder plate and a waterproof leather jacket. A tube connected the helmet to an air pump on the surface. The pump supplied the diver with an unlimited amount of fresh air. Towards the end of the 1800s a vulcanized rubber suit lined with twill was substituted for the leather jacket. It kept the diver drier and warmer. Eventually modern conveniences like telephones and electronic air compressors made the system safer and more practical. These suits worked well for industrial divers and they set the standard for underwater-wear until the Second World War.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The naval technology needed during the Second World War led to the development of some new underwater gear.  Basically, there were two systems.  One was known as a rebreather.  It consisted of a cylinder of fresh air and a canister of lime.  The diver would take the fresh air in from the cylinder and exhale it into the canister.  The lime in the canister would remove the carbon dioxide gas from his exhaled breath and then the clean air was recirculated.  The system was wonderful because it was completely self-contained; no bubbles would rise to the surface and that made it very difficult to detect a diver working underneath.  The rebreather systems were issued to crews on German U-boats in case they needed to escape.  There was, however, one major disadvantage.  The system didn’t work very well at depths below 30 feet.  So if your submarine sank in a swimming pool you were all set; otherwise you were in deep trouble.

The second underwater breathing system had an open circuit that allowed the exhaled air to escape. There were tubes for inhaling and exhaling and valves that connected the tanks. This system was good down to a hundred and thirty feet and sometimes even deeper.  In 1942, a young French naval commander named Jacques Cousteau took out a patent for a piece of equipment he called an “Aqua Lung.”  It was based on the open system and featured a series of tanks that contained compressed air. They were strapped to the back of the diver. This was the first modern SCUBA setup.

Soon depth gauges, underwater watches, and wet suits were added. Divers were warm, comfortable and free to move about. When the war ended, SCUBA diving became a popular sport.

BOB SOTO:  Well, I was the first SCUBA diver on this island.  I came here to start a SCUBA diving business because we had about a hundred and thirty rooms on the island and the people just laid around the beach or went fishing, and I thought this would be a wonderful pastime for them to spend the day SCUBA diving.  Of course, everybody thought I was crazy and that these people was going to drown and I was going to drown myself.  And I started with six tanks, it took an hour and twelve minutes to fill a tank, and I had six tanks, so I was up half the night filling tanks to go diving the next day.  Once I introduced somebody to the water, it just blew their mind because they hadn’t seen anything like this in their life.  You got people from all over the U.S. coming here, and they had such a great time because they had beautiful reefs, and caves, and shipwrecks, and turtles, and stingrays -- all sorts of marine life and it was very accessible from the beach because it’s only a couple hundred yards offshore and you’ve got any kind of reef and marine life you would ever dream of seeing.

Water filters the color out of sunlight and by the time you get down to a depth of fifty-two feet everything is green and blue.  Cousteau pioneered a system of artificial underwater lights that allowed a diver to record the extraordinary colors that are found below the sea. Underwater photography began to develop, which made the sport even more popular. And one of the most popular places in the world to practice this sport is in the waters that surround the Cayman Islands.

The most recent innovation in underwater breathing equipment for the sports diver is a combination of SCUBA and snorkel --  called SNUBA.

SNUBA INSTRUCTOR:  What we’ve done on this is very similar to SCUBA diving, the only main difference being that we’ve put the SCUBA tank in the raft, okay?  The raft follows you on the surface, floats on the surface, follows you wherever you go.  You can be connected to it with twenty foot long hoses.  All you’ll be wearing is your fins, mask, small weight belt, and this regulator right here.

The turtles that Columbus saw as he sailed by Cayman turned out to be the basis of the island’s first commercial enterprise. One of the traditional routes for European traders heading home from the Caribbean took them past these islands. The turtles represented an ideal source of fresh meat for the sailors. As long as turtles are supplied with sea water they can stay alive for weeks. The ships would stop in, stock up with turtles, and move on.

These photographs were taken aboard the turtle schooner Adams, which worked in Cayman and the Mosquito Keys during the middle of this century.  Turtling was a major business in this area until 1975, when the United States passed a law against the importation of all turtle products.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):   This is the Cayman Turtle Farm.  It was originally set up as a commercial enterprise for the sale of turtle shells and turtle meat.   When the U.S. government decided to ban those products it shifted most of its efforts towards conservation.  It uses a breeding and release program.  Each year it raises thousands of hatchlings and sends them back to the sea where they end up with a survival rate that is actually better than the rate they would have had had they been born in the wild.

Until a few years ago we knew very little about the green sea turtle. Mating takes place at sea. The males rarely leave the water and the females only come ashore to lay their eggs. As soon as the hatchlings are born they head to the sea. Our information was limited to what we could learn from watching the females as they nested on the beaches, and from tagging them as they returned to the sea.  In 1975 the Cayman Turtle Farm began a twenty-four hour watch of green turtle breeding habits, and since then we’ve learned a great deal about these extraordinary creatures.

These days the turtle farm is a major tourist attraction. There is a self-guided tour that takes you through the nursery area where tanks hold thousands of turtles in various stages of growth. There’s even a tank with turtles who appear to have been selected because of their willingness to be photographed with visitors.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Everything’s pretty informal around here right now, but I’ve been told that things may be changing.  They said that two of the more attractive turtles in the photography tank have already been in touch with Cindy Crawford’s agent, and the big guy over here is already friendly with the manager for the Ninja Turtles.  Now, I wouldn’t have believed any of these stories, except when I came over here to photograph the giant turtle, that piece of paper floated to the surface.

“Show me the money” appears to be a valid request for many people, but my own lead question would be “show me the good food” -- which would soon lead us to a place called Hemingways. The restaurant is named for Ernest Hemingway, who once lived in the Caribbean. It sits directly on the beach, it’s open on three sides, and it has some of the nicest views and best food on the island.

Hemingways is part of the Hyatt resort, which has been built as a low-rise structure in British Colonial style.  Pastel colors.  Open walkways. Lots of gardens. Imperial lions.  A nine hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.  Four freshwater swimming pools, including one with a swim-up bar.  Interesting.  Every country I have ever been to has laws that regulate drinking and driving but none of them seem to care about drinking and swimming.  Personally I’d never go to a swim-up bar without wearing a flotation device.

The Hyatt also has a private waterway that  leads out to Grand Cayman’s North Bay. A public ferry runs up and back across the bay and will deposit you on a fantastic strip of beach called Rum Point.  It’s open to the public and makes a great day trip. The restaurant next to the beach is called the Rum Point Club. It’s operated by the Hyatt and it’s the perfect place for me to get David Brown, the resort’s executive chef, to demonstrate a few recipes.

His first recipe is for a chicken breast stuffed with banana. Very tropical and very easy to prepare in advance of dinner.  Half of a boneless skinless chicken breast is cut almost in half and opened up into a butterfly shape. Then a piece of plastic wrap is placed over the chicken. David uses a pounder to thin out the breast and even out the thickness. A little salt and pepper goes on. A banana is peeled and placed onto the center of the chicken. The ends are folded over and the sides are rolled up. Then it’s into a piece of plastic wrap and off to the refrigerator for an hour.

When it comes out of the refrigerator it’s dipped into flour, then into a mixture of egg and milk, and finally into bread crumbs. Make sure that the chicken is well coated with the crumbs.

Next the sauce is made. Two ounces of butter are melted in a saucepan. A teaspoon of chopped garlic and a teaspoon of chopped shallots are added. Then an apple that has been peeled, cored and cut into small cubes. A little cooking and a little stirring and three tablespoons of curry powder go in. Followed by three tablespoons of flour. Two minutes of cooking and mixing and a cup of chicken broth is added. More cooking. More stirring and another cup and a half of stock which goes in, in half-cup additions. That’s the basis of the sauce, and it simmers for fifteen minutes.

While the sauce is simmering a tablespoon of vegetable oil is heated in a sauté pan. The chicken comes out of the refrigerator and goes into the pan. The bread crumbs are browned on all sides. Then the chicken goes into a 450-degree Fahrenheit oven for ten minutes.

While the chicken is cooking the sauce is finished by pouring it into blender and blending it into a puree. At which point it is run through a sieve and back into the pan to warm up. David adds two ounces of light cream to give the sauce a richer finish, but this is an optional step. A little salt and white pepper are added and the sauce is ready.

The chicken comes out of the oven and gets sliced into rounds. A mound of rice is set into the middle of the serving plate. The sauce goes around the rice. The chicken goes onto the sauce and a there is a garnish of cilantro to complete the dish.

David’s second recipe is for a tenderloin of pork that’s been prepared with a nutty crust.

The tenderloin of pork, which has been trimmed of extra fat, is rolled in flour, then dipped into a mixture of egg and milk and finally coated with a crust of mixed nuts. David is using one third macadamia nuts, one third pecans and one third hazelnuts.  A little vegetable oil is heated in a sauté pan and the loin is sautéed on all sides until the nuts are browned. Then the loin goes into a 450-degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes.

While the pork is roasting, a sauce is made. A cup of pureed mango goes into a saucepan followed by a cup of chicken stock. Now, David is actually using veal stock and if you have veal stock in your kitchen you should be teaching this recipe, not watching it!  I will be using canned chicken broth which will be lighter in color and a lot easier to come by. The sauce simmers for a few minutes to thicken up.

A few snow peas and a sliced red bell pepper get heated. Then the pork loin comes out of the oven and is sliced into rounds. The snow peas and peppers go onto a serving plate. The sauce goes around the snow peas. Then the pork slices. David tops off the dish with a mound of sliced leek and sweet potato that has been deep-fried. It’s a nice touch and easy for anyone with a fully staffed professional kitchen. Not that I’m envious or anything...

Each year hundreds of thousands of people show up on the Cayman Islands to enjoy the sea and the sun, but the idea of sunbathing is very new.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In societies where the majority of the population was light-skinned, it was fashionable to do everything you could to avoid getting a suntan.  Only common laborers who were forced to work outside, like farm workers or television reporters, ended up with a suntan.  And if a woman had a suntan, it was a clear indication that she was from a lower station in life.  When women of society went out, they did everything they could to avoid getting a suntan.

During the 1920s, however, things began to change.  Lots of people were getting rich and looking for new and fashionable places to spend their money.  The yachting crowd arrived.  And what was the point of owning a great yacht if you couldn’t walk along the deck in plain view of your friends -- or even more important, in plain view of your enemies?  And then there were the promenades at the new seaside resorts along the east and west coasts of the United States and in France.  Designers started to show collections of beachwear.  During the 1930s, railroads introduced special trains that would take people to the beach, and real estate developers began building beachfront resorts.  Bathing suits became more revealing, and for the first time in history it was suddenly fashionable to have a tan.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA):   But when a suntan turns into a sunburn, you’ve got a problem.  And this became an increasingly significant issue during the Second World War for our troops fighting in North Africa and the Pacific.  The United States government felt they had to come up with something that would protect the skin of our troops.  The agent that seemed to work the best was a red pigment that was left as a residue after gasoline was extracted from crude oil.  One of the people working on this experiment was a man named Dr. Benjamin Green.

Dr. Green believed that their was a huge market for a product that would protect people from the sun and at the same time help give them a tan. After the war, he took the technology that he had helped develop and produced a creamy white suntan lotion scented with jasmine. The product gave the user a copper-colored skin tone, which led Dr. Green to call his new invention Coppertone.

Sunbathing as a leisure time activity is very modern, but some of the people here are passing their leisure time with an activity that is 8,000 years old. It is a board game called Waurie, and it is played with slight variations around the world.

WOMAN #1:  The object of the game is to get all of these seeds, like, in this pouch.

WOMAN #2:  It’s the other person’s turn unless your last seed ends up in your own pouch.

WOMAN #1:  But you have to go all the way around the board

WOMAN #2:  And you skip the other person’s pouch.

WOMAN #1:  And when you pick them up, you’re dropping one in each one as you go around. 

WOMAN #2:  And since I -- I’m just telling you -- since I landed on this one, then I get to pick up all of hers across from it since it was my only one in there.

WOMAN #1:  Okay.

WOMAN #2:  I win!

These particular waurie boards were made just down the road by a woodcarver known as Caribbean Charlie. But Charlie Ebanks’ claim to fame really comes from his birdhouses. Charlie makes them and his wife Elaine explains them.

ELAINE EBANKS:  We make several different kinds of birdhouses... like this one is called “Fences.”  And it’s called “Fences” because it has the gardens and the hand-painted fences that go all the way around.  Each one is signed and dated on the bottom.  We primarily work with the colors of the Caribbean: pink is for the conch shell, green for the sea, blue for the sky, and yellow for the sun.  This is a traditional Cayman roof.  You know, we have no city water at all out here, we totally rely on the rainwater for our water supply.  And this roof line makes it easier for collection.  Each old-time house had a little gingerbread on the roof, a palm tree, and a hammock.  So this is Charlie’s version of a Cayman house.  He does try to do a different one every year for the people that collect his houses from year to year.  Couple years ago, he started his version of the old Rum Point Bar.  We put on it everything that we felt the old bar was famous for.  Charlie numbers his larger houses, everyone signs for their number, and we know where each and every house went.  This year’s house is the dive shop.  And we’ve made it to mount on the wall, and the owner’s name is put on top of the dive sign to personalize.  Of course, that’s numbered and accounted for also.  All the houses are made of wood, they’re all nailed, countersunk and filled, nothing is glued on them, they’re all painted with exterior house paint, they are weather worthy. 

Burt, I’d love to show you my garden.  Come on through.  Let me show you what grows here.  This tree here is a breadfruit tree.  Breadfruit is round and green; it’s very much like a potato.  You can bake it, mash it, boil it -- it’s a starch.  The leaves... we wait ‘til the leaves -- the brown leaves -- fall to the ground, harvest them, wash them, and brew them in a tea, for a tea.  Everything in nature has a reason for being.  God put everything here for us, it’s up to us to find what it’s for.  The breadfruit leaves, they say, are very good for high blood pressure.  And this is the breadfruit tea from the breadfruit tree that we spoke about.  I hope you enjoy it.

BURT WOLF:  Thank you.  Thank you, Charlie.


BURT WOLF:  I feel my blood pressure going down already.

Well... that’s a brief look at the island of Grand Cayman and its history. Five hundred years have slipped by since Columbus passed through the neighborhood but the turtles are still here. The kind of treasure that Chris was looking for wasn’t here during his visit but it sure is now. That gold is in the banks.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): For me the real treasures on these islands are to be found in the natural beauty of the place and the attitudes of the people who live here.  I could actually settle down on this beach for quite a while, but I hear the call of the wild.  In this case it’s my crew that’s going wild because I am stalling this segment -- I wanna see the sun go down!  But now I must join them, and I hope you will join me next time as we travel around the world.  I’m Burt Wolf.