Turneffe Atoll is located southeast of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize in Central America, 20 miles (32 kilometres) from Belize City, is one of three atolls of the Belize Barrier Reef, besides Glover's Reef and Lighthouse Reef. It is approximately 30 miles (48 kilometres) long and 10 miles (16 kilometres) wide, making it the largest coral atoll in Belize and in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The atoll was officially declared a marine reserve on November 22, 2012.
In October 2013, the Ministry and the Belize Fisheries Department appointed the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA) to co-manage the Reserve's day-to-day operations. The creation of the reserve was championed and supported by a number of NGOs and foundations including the Blue Marine Foundation, the Bertarelli Foundation and the Oak Foundation.
Turneffe is home to many marine species that are threatened and/or commercially important. The land and seascape consists of a network of highly productive flats, creeks, and lagoons dotted by more than 150 mangrove islands and higher cayes with savanna and littoral forest. Large expanses of intact mangrove and seagrass habitat and shallows provide important nursery functionality for a wide array of fish species, crocodiles, lobster, conch and other invertebrates. It is home to more than 500 species of fish, 65 species of stony corals, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, seabirds, and other wildlife. In addition, at least three known important fish spawning aggregation sites have been identified.
At the northern end of the island group is Mauger Caye, with its eponymous lighthouse, the southern end has a smaller aid to navigation on Caye Bokel.
The infamous pirate Blackbeard, also known as Edward Teach, spent the winter of 1717–1718 harassing ships sailing to and from the port of Vera Cruz, Mexico and traversing the Bay of Honduras. On April 4 or 5th of 1718, at Turneffe, Blackbeard captured the ten-gun logwood cutting sloop Adventure and forced its captain, David Herriot, to join him. Also on board was Edward Robinson, the ship’s gunner, who would later be involved in the Battle of Cape Fear River. Blackbeard then made Israel Hands captain of the Adventure and began sailing for North Carolina.
In popular culture
In 2018, Internet personality Matthew Patrick published a theory about the atoll being the real-life counterpart of the fictional island Neverland from Peter Pan on YouTube. This theory is based on similarities in geographical position, wildlife and historical characters as compared to Neverland. It speculates that Captain Hook could have been a former boatswain on Blackbeard's ship who ranked up to a position of a captain after a ship robbery in spring of 1718, during which Blackbeard captured a few ships in the gulf of Honduras in Yucatan peninsula, where Turneffe Atoll is situated. After becoming a captain on a Jolly Roger Hook would supposedly settle down on the atoll, hence his presence in the Peter Pan stories. There is however a time gap between Captain Hook's supposed existence in 1718 and the story-line of the Darling family in the early 1900s. This time gap in the story could be linked to the idea that in Neverland you never grow old. Although some might say this was invented just for the purpose of the story, it is also believed to have even more historical links as Turneffe Atoll is the exact historical region believed to contain the Fountain of Youth. It has originally been searched for by Juan Ponce de Leon, who mostly looked around for it in Florida, and then later by Juan Diaz de Solis , who was searching for it in the gulf of Honduras. The video has 3.2 million views as of June 5, 2018.
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- "Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve". Oceanicsociety.org. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
- "Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve Management Plan" (PDF). Belize Fisheries Department. 2011. p. 6. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
- Woodard, Colin. "A Blackbeard mystery solved". Republic of Pirates Blog. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- Brown, Paul. "The Lost Pirate of Blackbeard's Golden Age". en.expostmagazine.com. Retrieved 9 August 2016.[permanent dead link]
- Byrd Downey, Cristopher (22 May 2012). Stede Bonnet: Charleston's Gentleman Pirate. The History Press. p. 44. ISBN 1609495403. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- "Film Theory: We Found Neverland! (Disney Peter Pan)". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
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