Great Stirrup Cay

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Great Stirrup Cay
Beach at Great Stirrup Cay
Beach at Great Stirrup Cay
Great Stirrup Cay is located in Bahamas
Great Stirrup Cay
Great Stirrup Cay
Coordinates: 25°50′N 77°54′W / 25.833°N 77.900°W / 25.833; -77.900Coordinates: 25°50′N 77°54′W / 25.833°N 77.900°W / 25.833; -77.900
Country  Bahamas
Island Great Stirrup Cay
District Badge of the Berry Islands.jpg Berry Islands
Population (2010)
 • Total 5
Time zone Eastern Time Zone (UTC-5)
Area code(s) 242
Great Stirrup Cay Lighthouse
Lighthouse at Great Stirrup Cay
Location Great Stirrup Cay
Berry Islands
Coordinates 25°49′24.7″N 77°54′03.1″W / 25.823528°N 77.900861°W / 25.823528; -77.900861
Year first constructed 1863
Construction stone tower
Tower shape cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / pattern white tower
Height 17 metres (56 ft)
Focal height 25 metres (82 ft)
Light source solar power
Range 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi)
Characteristic Fl (2) W 20s.
Admiralty number J4626
NGA number 11952
ARLHS number BAH-022
Managing agent Little Whale Cay Resort[1]

Great Stirrup Cay is a small island that is part of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. Norwegian Cruise Line purchased the island from the Belcher Oil Company in 1977 and developed it into a private island for their cruise ship passengers. The northern part of the island has a sandy beach surrounded by rocks with snorkeling areas. The southern part features a helicopter airfield (with a sign reading "Great Stirrup Cay International Airport"), a large area without vegetation, and numerous concrete blocks. These are all remnants of a previous U.S. military installation and satellite tracking station. The island's lighthouse was originally constructed in 1863 by the Imperial Lighthouse Service.

Great Stirrup Cay is adjacent to Little Stirrup Cay, Royal Caribbean Cruises' private island.


Great Stirrup Cay, along with the rest of the Bahamas, was formed by tectonic and glacial shifting. The first known settlers to the Bahamas were the Lucayan Indians, relatives of the Arawaks who populated the Caribbean around 600 A.D.

Great Stirrup was a pirate hideout while the British settled in Nassau and the larger islands until 1815. This time marks the first documented settlers of Great Stirrup, and many of the structures from this settlement still stand today. Charts of this era show simply "Stirrup's Cay".

"Stirrup's Cay" remained active during the American Civil War, as the Confederates wished to continue to export cotton to Europe. The island was used as a landfall for provisioning while Federal warships patrolled the area to thwart their efforts. After the abolition of slavery, the British began to slowly withdraw from the out island colonies, and the plantation at Great Stirrup was abandoned. Great Stirrup is the northern most island in a chain of islands known as the Berry Islands, and is situated in an area along the Northwest Providence Channel.

United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt fished off the reefs of Great Stirrup Cay in 1935.[2]

During World War II the United States, in an effort to protect its eastern shores, came to the Bahamas and Great Stirrup with a wide array of observational and defensive equipment. Among these were submersible cables, which were run along the ocean floor to listen for enemy submarines. Two "cable houses" still stand on the southeastern shore of the island, now overgrown by jungle. The United States Air Force later constructed a satellite tracking station. This facility was later leased to Motorola and other private sector companies. New technology has made the station obsolete, and it was closed in 1991.

Belcher Oil Company of Miami staked claim to the north section of the island for many years. Their interests there included real estate speculation, oil exploration, and a possible site for a corporate retreat. In 1977, Norwegian Caribbean Lines (later Norwegian Cruise Line) acquired this section from Belcher Oil.


In 1863, the Imperial Lighthouse Service erected the lighthouse on Great Stirrup Cay. The lighthouse site was manned for many years, but it is now fully automated and solar powered, making it self-sufficient. The structure stands nearly 80 feet, and its light is visible for over 20 miles.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The most common tree on the island is the coconut palm, which produces a cloudy milk and a sweet meat used in many island recipes. Another fruit-bearing tree is the Sea Grape.


Some of the creatures found on the island include several different varieties of lizard and land crab. Gulls, frigates, and sanderlings are the most prevalent bird species.

Great Stirrup Cay is a protected marine life sanctuary, and removal of anything from the water is strictly prohibited.

Great Stirrup Cay.


Great Stirrup Cay has a tropical climate. The daytime average temperatures from December to April are around 75 °F (24 °C), while the average daily temperature is between 85–93 °F (29–34 °C) from May to November.

The average rainfall is 1 inch (2.5 cm) per month from November to April and 3.5 inches (10 cm) per month from May to October.

The average sea temperature from May to November is 81–86 °F (27–30 °C); it averages 77 °F (25 °C) from December to April.

July averages the most hours of sunshine, while September through February averages the least hours of sunshine, with 7 to 8 hours per day.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Great Stirrup Cay The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 22 August 2016
  2. ^ "President to Land Monday, Sign Bill". The New York Times. April 7, 1935. p. 3.