Tuesday the 26th. Things I've learned about Grand Bahama Island... The first settlers, the Siboney Indians, lived on the island as long as 7000 years ago, living off conch and fish. They disappeared around the time the Lucayans made their way to the island by way of the Caribbean from South America. Good old Christopher Columbus and his fellow Spaniards quickly wiped out the 4,000 Lucayan inhabitants in 1492 through enslavement, murder, and the introduction of new diseases. The island, named Gran Bahamar (meaning great shallows) by the Spanish, was almost completely abandoned after ships started avoiding it because of the surrounding shallow reef. Great Britain claimed the Islands of The Bahamas in 1670. A period of piracy kept the island active for a while, but by 1720 the British had that under control and things were again left inactive until the American Civil War two hundred years later. The island was then used as a port to smuggle goods through the Union blockades to the southern states only 55 miles away. Prior to the Civil War less than 400 people lived on the island. Prohibition provided the next smuggling boom and it wasn't until the 1950s when an American financier created the town of Freeport that tourism became the driving force behind the island's economy. By the late 1990s tourism had steadily declined due to aging hotels and lack of investment. However in 2000, Hutchison Whampoa, the Chinese company that has operational control of the Panama Canal and built the largest container port in the world at Freeport, completed construction of The Westin and Sheraton at Our Lucaya (where we stayed). The resort along with the attached casino has re-energized the local economy and made Grand Bahama Island the second most visited island in the Bahamas. Other interesting notes: the Bahamas are in the Atlantic, not the Caribbean. The Islands of The Bahamas have only been emancipated from British rule since 1973. Only foreigners are allowed to gamble in the casinos.