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BARBUDA FRIGATE BIRD
most valued asset to Barbuda's tourism, second only to
the white sand beaches over 10 miles long, is the
Frigate Bird Colony. This is towards the north end of
the lagoon in a mangrove locality, a significant nesting
colony of the gracefully flying Frigate Bird (Fregata
magnificans) may be visited. It is said to be the
largest Frigate Bird gathering in the world, with an
estimated 2,500, (1971). There may be no more than 25
nesting sites in the Caribbean today.
Photograph by Peter Duce
They are relatives of
pelicans, cormorants and boobies.
Males are glossy
black, females have white breasts, the immature have
white heads and necks.
Males blow up a
scarlet throat sac the size of a balloon, taking about
25 minutes, to attract a female mate. When one
appears, the wings are trembled showing the under
surface, flashing in the sunlight and drumming sounds
The wing span is 8 ft.
and a body weight of 3 lb. Flight speed, 22 mph.
A 2,000 ft. altitude
Frigates cannot take
off from the sea or from the ground.
They feed on fish from
Barbuda's lagoons and interior ponds. Also flying
fish, jelly fish and small turtles taken from the
Adults chase other sea
birds to grab their catch, hence the names, Frigate
Bird and Man-o-War Bird.
In a colony there are
three twig nests average, in an area 9x12 ft.
The colony is a
contentious place where birds argue over landing
rights, perch ownership or who owns each nest twig!
One male and three
females produce two young every two years.
One white egg is laid
sometime between mid-September to late March.
Incubation is seven weeks.
The young are fed by
regurgitation. They fly about 25 weeks after hatching.
Six years before first breeding.
The oldest known age
is 34 years.
is perhaps the most interesting natural feature of
Barbuda. It is not a true cavern but a vertical sided
sink hole formed by solution below ground and subsequent
collapse. One side of the sink hole is undercut by a
full 30 ft. hence the name “cave”. The cliffs are about
70 ft high and the hole is about 350 ft in diameter.
possesses very lush vegetation, full of tall trees, the
commonest of which is the palmetto palm once used by
Barbudans for many purposes. Over the cliff’s rim
descend hawser thick roots of mighty lianas. The lianas
interlace the trees, ferns cluster on the damp soil and
birds are abundant; the scene is reminiscent of a
tropical rain forest. This is uch a contrast to the
surrounding dry bush land.
overhang of the cliff there is an intermittent drip of
water, which, in time, has created stalagmites of
calcium, There is a startlingly large flat-topped
stalagmite eight feet high and not less than two feet in
diameter. This greenish white, almost translucent, mass
of limestone is so smooth and solid that it would be
difficult to find its counterpart in any other part of
the world. A fossilised part of an upper shark's tooth
of a Pliocene (2-4 million years ago) species (Carcharodon
megalodon) was been found in the limestone of the
cave in May 1997.
By far the
most interesting prehistoric site in Barbuda is the cave
at Two Foot Bay, a wild windswept part of northeast
Barbuda. The entrance to this cave is close to a
roofless stone ruin near the shore. It was probably a
house associated with the phosphate mining operation
undertaken at Gun Shop Cliff in the 1890’s.
ENTRANCE TO THREE CHAMBERS
- The entrance to the cave is small, and located near
the top of the low cliff opposite the ruin. This
entrance leads directly into a round chamber of lower
level called the Drop Cavern. Connected to this is Bat
Chamber, about 35 ft high, with many bats hanging from
the roof. To the side of the chamber is a small hole
through which daylight enters and through which bats
PETROGLYPHS - From
the main entrance corridor there is a short narrow
passage to the east in which two small Amerindian
petroglyphs (rock carvings) may be seen. These are the
only petroglyphs found in Antigua or Barbuda. The passage leads to
yet another cave, which is flooded with daylight through
loose fitting rocks, giving a somewhat glowing effect.
Indian Cave is
small, though a neat complex. Giving a mysterious
feeling, it is not difficult to imagine the Amerindians
having lived here long ago. The cave’s outlook is along
the north-eastern windward coast. It may have been a
lookout for a large Amerindian village site that is
close at hand.
1745 - c. 1850).
This tower, 32 feet high, and fort
of 3 guns was used as a look-out along the south coast
and for sighting in-coming or wrecked ships. This
information was then signalled onward to the village of
Codrington, several miles north..
The fort, once with 3 guns, is
placed near a small river which only appears in times of
wet weather. This small stream is caused by the drainage
of swamps that lie inland behind the beach. The fort
guarded the main anchorage on the south-western side of
Barbuda. The name 'Martello' is derived from a tower at
Cape Mortella in Corsica that the British, had
difficulty in taking in 1794. The south coast of England
was defended by Martello Towers against Napoleon's
intended invasion of England in 1803.
HIGHLAND HOUSE, (c.
know this locality as "Willybob". This may have been
derived from a corruption of William Codrington, a
former owner. The Codringtons built Highland house
sometime after 1720 on the Highlands of Barbuda, which
is about 125 ft. above sea level. It is also the highest
point of Barbuda.
Other names connected with Highland House have been
found archaeologically. A bottle seal from the side of a
bottle bearing the name of Col. John Gunthorpe was found
amongst the ruins of Highland House. Interestingly
enough, William Byam, who leased Barbuda from 1746 until
1762, married Anne Gunthorpe, the daughter of John in
1735. So it may be that Byam was given a bottle of wine
by his father-in-law! It certainly connects Byam with
Highland House. It is also known from a letter of the
period that William Byam built some wooden bedrooms near
the dwelling house at Highland House.
studded with coral reefs, is the most southeasterly
point of Barbuda and is perhaps named after the wreck of
a Spanish merchantman by the name of "Santiago de
Cullerin". She was lost here in 1695, and indeed,
shortly afterwards maps began to appear with the name of
Spanish Point. She was carrying 13,000 pesos to pay
Spanish garrisons at Maracaibo, on the Spanish Main, but
all this and some of her other cargo was salvaged by
divers at the time. In 1988, the dive ship "Riptide" of
H & E Marine, began mapping the site and recovered a few
artifacts from under a thick coral concretion in heavy
surf on the windward side. No coins were found, but
large jars and a wooden comb are some of the many
The Point's history had begun much earlier, for maritime
Amerindians from South America had settled in the
vicinity about 500 years after the birth of Christ. Then
later, European colonists built a small lookout tower,
probably as a precaution against marauding Amerindians
from Dominica who at the time were jealous of the
We would like to thank
Desmond Nicholson of the
Museum of Antigua and Barbuda for the huge help he has given us
in producing these pages, To read more about the history of
Antigua and Barbuda please visit the Museum Website at