Cayman Brac is an island that is part of the Cayman Islands. It lies in the Caribbean Sea about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Grand Cayman and 5 miles (8 km) east of Little Cayman. It is about 12 miles (19 km) long, with an average width of 1 mile (2 km). Its terrain is the most prominent of the three Cayman Islands due to "The Bluff", a large central limestone outcrop that rises steadily along the length of the island up to 140 feet (43 metres) above sea level at the eastern end. The island is named after this prominent feature, as "brac" is a Gaelic name for a bluff.
The Teignmouth Electron, the boat in which Donald Crowhurst attempted to sail round the world single-handed in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, has been left to decay on the south coast of Cayman Brac.
Christopher Columbus sighted Cayman Brac and its sister island, Little Cayman, on 10 May 1503 when his ship was blown off course during a trip between Hispaniola and Panama. He named them "Las Tortugas" because of the many turtles he spotted on the islands. The Cayman Islands were renamed by Sir Francis Drake, who came upon the islands during a voyage in 1586. He used the word "Caymanas", taken from the Carib name for crocodiles after seeing many of the large crocodilians. Many people believe he had only seen the Rock Iguanas that inhabit the island today.
During the heyday of piracy, pirates would use Cayman Brac as a haven and a place to replenish their supplies as there are a number of fresh water wells on the island and had many sources of food included in the local flora and fauna.
Of interest to scuba divers is a 330-foot (100-m) Russian Koni class frigate built in the Soviet Union in 1984 for the Cuban Navy. It is one of only a few sunken Soviet naval vessels in the Western Hemisphere, and the only one that is easily dived. The Koni II class frigate was purchased and sunk by the Cayman Islands government in September 1996. Originally designated 356, the frigate was rechristened the M/V Captain Keith Tibbetts, after a well-known Cayman Brac politician. The wreck is the only Russian warship that divers can explore in the Western hemisphere. It originally sat upright in approximately 90 feet (27 m) with the deck at 60 feet (18 m), until wave action generated by a winter Norwester storm (December 1998-January 1999) which nearly tore the ship in two. The result was that the fore section tipped to about a 45 degree angle in relation to the remainder of the still-upright aft portion. and the midships became a debris field. The wreck's stern area was essentially unaffected. The frigate is located in a sandy area with generally good visibility, approximately 200 m (650 feet) offshore (a fairly long swim) from 'Buccaneer', on the island's north side, near the western tip of the island. There are numerous openings in the upper portion of the ship for non-wreck certified divers. Many more openings are available since the ship broke in half. The site also serves as an artificial reef. Other interesting dive sites are Radar Reef, Cemetery Wall, and the Wilderness Wall, all well covered in corals and with a wide diversity of marine life.
Cayman Brac also appeals to visitors of many persuasions besides divers. Caves are found around the island, offering spelunkers a glimpse of delicate underground formations. Steps and, in some cases, ladders have been constructed to allow visitor access to more remote caves. One cave, Rebecca's Cave, contains the grave of a young girl lost in a struggle against the ravages of the great '32 Hurricane, and it is a Cayman National Heritage Site.
Rock climbing was developed beginning in 1992 and the island is now known as a world-class climbing destination. One must be somewhat experienced to climb here as the terrain is steep, many times over-vertical.
Walking and hiking trails
Walking and hiking trails have been opened by the Nature Tourism Programme which allow exploration of the island's dense Karst forestation. Unique flora and fauna thrive here and can be observed in the wild.
Cayman Brac's waters are especially utilized for both fishing and the pursuit of big game fish.
The local economy tends to be concentrated in three areas which are probably typical for many Caribbean locales: tourism, municipal government, and local enterprises. Although on the Brac, the government (including Cayman Airways, the National carrier) is the largest employer. Some of the more economically prominent families in Grand Cayman originate from Cayman Brac, namely the Kirkconnell's, Foster's, Walton's, and Scott's. The majority of the tourism sector is concentrated on scuba diving, although this is in recent decline in the hospitality sector, with one of the two local hotels, Divi Resorts, having closed operations in 2006. The island's economy was also adversely impacted by significant damage from Category 4 Hurricane Paloma in November 2008.
A local enterprise that is nearly unique to Cayman Brac is its artists who work in a local stone known as Caymanite, typically making jewelry or small stone carvings. Two of these artists have been Mr. Eddie Scott and Mr. Tenson Scott, whose works have won national contests, as well as being the official gift to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew during the 1994 State Visit. For the 2011 Wedding of Prince William, the official gift was crafted by Mr. Horacio Esteban, who grew up on Cayman Brac and is currently living on Grand Cayman.
Charles Kirkconnell Airport serves the island, former Gerrard Smith International Airport.
Cayman Islands Education Department operates two primary schools and one secondary school on the island. These include:
- Creek & Spot Bay Primary School
- West End Primary School
- Layman E. Scott Sr. High School
- Original Upright 356 Bow UW photo of the 356 Bow (Sept 1996), from huntzinger.com
- Sport Diver Magazine, April 1998, page 11
- Tipped-over 356 Bow UW photo of the 356 Bow (Sept 2000), from huntzinger.com
- GDS Dive Directory Dive Sites Cayman Brac
- Closure of Divi Tiara Beach Resort, of Divi Resorts as reported by Caymannetnews.com
- Eddie Scott Biography from Caymannetnews.com
- 1987 Opening of MIM Things from Ms. Simone Scott's blog
- 2006 McCoy Prize - Dirty Joke Necklace
- 26 April 2011 Cayman27 News Story
- Skip Harper (2002). Adventuring on Cayman Brac: A Guide to Great Adventures on this Small Caribbean Gem. Heel and Toe Publishers. ISBN 0-9640645-2-9.
- Cayman Brac's website
- Cayman Brac's 360° Virtual Tours
- Attractions, photographs and much more information on Cayman Brac
- Cayman Travel Guide
- Climbing on Cayman Brac
- pictures and a brief bit of history regarding a unique form of crochet that developed on Cayman Brac
- 2005 Photo of the Teignmouth Electron on Cayman Brac
- 2005 Photo of the Teignmouth Electron on Cayman Brac
- The Teignmouth Electron is at coordinates