New Providence Island and Eleuthera Island from space, April 1997
|Major islands||Andros Island, Grand Bahama, Great Inagua|
|Area||518 km2 (200 sq mi)|
|Length||110 mi (180 km)|
|Width||1 mi (2 km)|
|Highest elevation||200 ft (60 m)|
|Districts||North Eleuthera, Central Eleuthera, South Eleuthera|
|Population||11,165 (as of 2000)|
|Density||21.6 /km2 (55.9 /sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||85% black (esp. West African), 12% European, 3% other|
Eleuthera //, sometimes spelled Eleuthra, is an island in the Bahamas, lying 50 miles (80 km) east of Nassau. It is long and thin—110 miles (180 km) long and in places little more than 1 mile (1,600 m) wide. According to the 2000 Census, the population of Eleuthera is approximately 8,000. The name "Eleuthera" is derived from the feminine form of the Greek adjective ἐλεύθερος, eleutheros, i.e. "free".
The topography of the island varies from wide rolling pink sand beaches to large outcrops of ancient coral reefs. The eastern side of the island faces the Atlantic Ocean while the western side faces the Great Bahama Bank, one of the two Bahama Banks.
The original population of Taino, or Arawaks, was mostly deported by the Spanish to work in the mines of Hispaniola, where they died out by 1550. The island is believed to have been unoccupied until the first European settlers—puritan pilgrims—arrived in 1648 from Bermuda. These settlers, known as the "Eleutherian Adventurers", gave the island its current name—ἐλευθερία eleutheria means "freedom" in Greek, while ἐλευθέρα eleuthera means "free". Some people think that Christopher Columbus may have come to Eleuthera before visiting islands in the West Indies.
The settlements include (north to south) the Bluff, Upper and Lower Bogue, Current, Gregory Town, Alice Town, James Cistern, Governor's Harbour, North and South Palmetto Point, Savannah Sound, Winding Bay, Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound, Greencastle, Deep Creek, Delancy Town, Waterford, Wemyss Bight, John Millars, Millar's and Bannerman Town. Airports with regularly scheduled flights are available at North Eleuthera, Governor's Harbour and Rock Sound.
The island was quite prosperous in the period from 1950 to 1980, attracting several prominent American industrialists such as Arthur Vining Davis, Henry J. Kaiser, and Juan Trippe. Frequent visitors included film stars like Robert De Niro as well as Prince Charles and a then pregnant Princess Diana.
Due to changes in foreign-ownership policy, with the Bahamas becoming independent in 1973, all of the large resorts and agricultural businesses were abandoned or compelled to be sold to government-favoured Bahamian interests. Because of the strain of a newly forming country, and unfavourable changes in US tax law, some businesses failed during the period from 1980 to 1985.
While offshore Harbour Island and Spanish Wells offer unique experiences, the main island is a destination for those interested in history and nature. Natural attractions include the Glass Window Bridge, Hatchet Bay caves and Surfer's Beach in the north, and Ocean Hole and Lighthouse Beach at the south end. Preacher's Cave on the north end was home to the Eleutherian Adventurers in the mid-17th century, and recent excavations have uncovered Arawak remains at the site.
The principal settlements are Governor's Harbour (the administrative capital), Rock Sound, Tarpum Bay, Harbour Island with its unusual pink sandy beaches and Spanish Wells. The island is particularly noted for the excellence of its pineapples and holds an annual Pineapple Festival in Gregory Town.
In 2010, the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, a lush, 25-acre sanctuary, opened as Eleuthera’s first National Park. Created jointly by the Leon Levy Foundation and the Bahamas National Trust, the Preserve is home to more than 171 species of indigenous plants and has become a popular destination for local teachers and schoolchildren, as well as tourists.
Naval Facility (NAVFAC) Eleuthera, Bahamas was commissioned on 1 September 1957, with a complement of 150 officers and enlisted men. A Western Electric engineer and 45 Bahamian employees also supported the base. Eleuthera made history on 30 June 1970; it was the first facility to employ women in oceanographic research. Adjacent to the NAVFAC was the original site of the first experimental array and electronics which continued in service as an avenue for experiments to bring about improvements in the SOSUS equipment. It was operated by two Western Electric engineers and a few military personnel. As for recreation, Eleuthera is surrounded by warm, crystal clear water filled with fish, making water sports a most popular pursuit. Other entertainment included golfing, spelunking, beach combing, nightly films and the "OAR HOUSE CLUB." NAVFAC Eleuthera was decommissioned 31 March 1980 after 23 years of dedicated service.
The US Air Force Eastern Test Range (ETR) Range Tracking Station No. 4 was sited at Eleuthera AAFB (ELU AUXILIARY AIR FORCE BASE), supported by contractor employees of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and Pan American Airways (PAA) in the 1960s and 1970s. This was used by the MISTRAM system.
- Eleutheros, Liddell and Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus.
- The Early Settlers of the Bahamas and Colonists of North America, p.82, A. Talbot Bethell
- Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve