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. It is one of three atolls of the Belize Barrier Reef, along with 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. Between 4 and 5 April 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 the Peter Pan stories on YouTube. Utilizing facts from the novel and the Disney film, this theory is based on similarities in geographical position, wildlife and historical characters between Turneffe Atoll and 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 1718, during which Blackbeard captured a few ships in the Gulf of Honduras off of Yucatán Peninsula, where Turneffe Atoll is located. After becoming a captain, Hook supposedly settled down on the atoll, hence his presence in Neverland. There is, however, a time gap between 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, one never grows 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 was most famously searched for by Juan Ponce de León, who mostly looked around for it in Florida, but was also sought by Juan Díaz de Solís, who searched for it in the Gulf of Honduras. Patrick's video has more than 5.4 million views as of December 2020.
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- "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 978-1609495404. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- "Film Theory: We Found Neverland! (Disney Peter Pan)". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
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