Turks and Caicos Islands

views updated Jun 08 2018


Turks and Caicos Islands

Major City:
Grand Turk


Archeological expeditions have uncovered artifacts indicating Arawak habitation of the TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS at one time. Today, only eight of the 30 islands are inhabited. The Turks and Caicos Islands may have been the site of Columbus' landfall on his first voyage in 1492. Traditionally, however, Juan Ponce de Leon gets the credit for the European discovery of the islands in 1512. The islands then served as a hideout for pirates and as a port of call for explorers and merchants. The first European residents were Bermudians who, starting in the 1670s, came regularly to collect salt. The Caicos Islands were settled by Loyalist farmers who fled the southern states after the United States won independence from Britain. After slavery was abolished in 1838, the planters left and their former slaves remained. The islands were placed under the government of the Bahamas until 1848, and the islands were largely self-governing under the supervision of Jamaica until 1873. From 1874 until 1959, the islands were a dependency of Jamaica. The islands were under Bahamian control until the Bahamas became independent in 1973. In 1976, the Turks and Caicos Islands became a crown colony. Independence was originally planned for 1982, but a change in government brought a reversal of that policy. The islands are still a crown colony.


Grand Turk

Grand Turk (also known as Cockburn Town) is the main town among the islands, located on Grand Turk Island. The population of Grand Turk is about 4,000. The traditional economic activity was salt collection, but that industry ceased in 1964. Tourism and lobster fishing are the main economic activities. Offshore financial services have also become increasingly important. The main port for the Turks and Caicos Islands is at Grand Turk, and there are other ports at Salt Cay, Providenciales, and Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos. Grand Turk, South Caicos, Providenciales, and North Caicos have international airports. Cable and Wireless (West Indies) Ltd. provides national and international public telecommunications services. An Intelsat station on Grand Turk links the island to the USA, Bermuda, and the United Kingdom.

Recreation and Entertainment

The Provo Golf Club on the island of Providenciales has an 18-hole championship course. Scuba diving, snorkeling, yachting, fishing, horseback riding, tennis, and cycling are popular activities for visitors. The Turks and Caicos National Park covers 325 square miles and has 33 protected dive areas. There are organized whale-watching excursions for visitors. Grand Turk is known for its 19th-century architecture and horse carriages. There are historic windmills and salt-raking operations on nearby Salt Cay. The library in Grand Turk doubles as a museum. Its principal attraction is a display of Lucayan Indian artifacts. Churches and benevolent societies are important centers of social life throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands.


Geography and Climate

The Turks and Caicos Islands consist of two island groups separated by the Turks Island Passage, which is 22 miles across and about 7,000 feet deep. The island group consists of 40 mostly uninhabited islands and cays. The Turks group has two inhabited islands (Grand Turk and Salt Cay), six uninhabited cays, and numerous rocks surrounded by a triangular reef. The Caicos group has six main islands (North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, South Caicos, West Caicos, and Providenciales). The total land area of the islands is 166 square miles, or 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. Providenciales is the main island and has 200 miles of beaches, 200 miles of wildlife preserves, and 65 miles of coral reefs. The Turks group islands are low and flat, and surrounded by reefs and sunken coral heads. The land mass is limestone, with shallow creeks and man-grove swamps. The highest elevation is only 163 feet above sea level on Providenciales. There are limestone caves on Middle Caicos. Temperatures range from a low of 61° F to a high of 90° F, with April-November the hottest months. There are almost constant trade winds from the east. Rainfall averages 21 inches per year, and hurricanes are a frequent occurrence.


The islands have a population of about 17,000, or approximately 33 persons per square mile. About half the population lives on Grand Turk, and the other half resides primarily on South Caicos and North Caicos. Only six of the 40 islands are inhabited. Over 90% of the population is of black African descent. The remainder are of mixed, European, or North American heritage. Most islanders are Christian; the main sects are Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, and Roman Catholic. English is the official and common language spoken in the islands, interspersed with many local words and phrases.


The islands experienced a great deal of autonomy under the supervision of Jamaica until 1873, and were made a dependency of Jamaica from 1874 until 1959. The Turks and Caicos were then placed under Bahamian control until the Bahamas became independent in 1973. In 1976, the islands became a crown colony. The Turks and Caicos Islands were supposed to become independent in 1982, but a change in government brought a reversal of that decision. The islands are still a crown colony. The 1976 constitution, revised in 1988, established a ministerial system in which a governor, representing the British monarch, has responsibility over external affairs, defense, and internal security. An Executive Council consists of eight members of the Legislative Council, three nominated and five appointed by the governor. Derek H. Taylor was appointed as chief minister in January 1995 by the governor. The Legislative Council has 19 seats, of which 13 are elected. The legal system is composed of Legislative Council acts, certain laws of Britain's parliament, and a few Jamaican and Bahamian statutes. A magistrate conducts weekly hearings to administer justice.

The flag is the Blue Ensign of Great Britain with a shield of the colony in the fly; the shield is yellow with a conch, lobster, and Turk's head cactus represented in natural colors.

Arts, Science, Education

Education is provided free of charge and is compulsory for children aged 7-14. Six years of primary education are followed by five years of secondary school. There are no higher educational institutions on the islands.

Commerce and Industry

The economy is based on tourism, fishing, and offshore financial services. The US was the leading source of tourists in 1996, accounting for more than half of the 87,000 visitors; tourist arrivals had risen to 93,000 by 1998. Offshore financial services have become an increasingly important part of the islands' economy. With no direct taxation, the US dollar as the local currency, confidentiality, and a growing financial sector, there are over 10,000 offshore companies registered with the government. The Offshore Financial Center Unit was established in 1989 to promote the islands as a financial center. The government also actively tries to attract captive insurance companies from the US. An offshore registry program with the United Kingdom enables British merchant ships to register with the Turks and Caicos Islands. The program cuts crew costs while enabling vessels to sail under the protection of the Red Ensign flag of the United Kingdom.


The islands have about 75 miles of roads; the roads on Grand Turk and South Caicos are paved. The main seaports are Grand Turk, Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos, Providenciales, and Salt Cay. The islands have seven airports and four paved runways long enough to handle commercial jets. There are also three small unpaved landing strips on the uninhabited islands.


International telecommunications service is available through Cable and Wireless (West Indies) Ltd. There are three AM radio stations and several cable television stations. Broadcasts are also received from the Bahamas. The Turks and Caicos News is a weekly newspaper published in Grand Turk.


Grand Turk has a 30-bed hospital and an outpatient and dental clinic. There are 11 more outpatient and dental clinics on South, Middle, and North Caicos, Providenciales, and Salt Cay.


January 1 New Year's Day

*Good Friday

*Easter Monday

May. *Common-wealth Day

June *Queen's Official Birthday

August (first Monday) Emancipation Day

August 30 Constitution Day

October (second Monday) Columbus Day

October *Human Rights Day

December 25 Christmas

December 26 Boxing Day



Boultbee, Paul G. Turks and Caicos Islands. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1991.

Turks and Caicos Islands

views updated May 29 2018

Turks and Caicos Islands

Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom

  • Area: 166 sq mi (430 sq km) / World Rank: 189
  • Location: Northern and Western Hemispheres, in the Caribbean Sea; two island groups in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of The Bahamas.
  • Coordinates: 21°45′N, 71°35′W
  • Borders: None
  • Coastline: 242 mi (389 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Blue Hills, 161 ft (49 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest River: None of significant length
  • Natural Hazards: Subject to hurricanes
  • Population: 18,122 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 202
  • Capital City: Cockburn Town (on Grand Turk)
  • Largest City: Cockburn Town, 4,900 (2002 est.)


Turks and Caicos Islands are a British dependency consisting of more than 30 islands forming the southeastern end of the Bahamas chain of islands about 90 mi (145 km) north of Haiti. Eight of the islands are inhabited: Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos, Providenciales, Pine Cay, and Parrot Cay. The islands consist of a low, flat limestone terrain with extensive marshes and mangrove swamps, and the north shore of Middle Caicos features a network of limestone cave formations. The islands are located on the North American Tectonic Plate, near where this plate borders the Caribbean Tectonic Plate, but not close enough to draw any threat of major or frequent seismic activity.


The islands do not feature any mountains or significant hills, being mostly flat limestone. There are some areas of small hills, however. The highest point on the islands is only 161 ft (49 m), in the Blue Hills on the island of Providenciales, one of the largest and oldest settlements on the islands.


There are relatively few inland waterways, and little fresh water. On North and Middle Caicos there is a limited underground water supply but most islanders rely on cisterns to gather fresh water. However there are numerous salt ponds known as salinas, which are believed to have been connected to the ocean at some point in history. Wind and tidal patterns caused shifts in the shoreline and land mass to the extent that salinas, once bays, are now inland. Refreshed by seasonal tide activity, the salinases continue to collect salt. In areas of low elevation they form salt-saturated swamps. The salt concentration—up to four times that of the open ocean—varies according to rainfall, tidal patterns, and general climatic conditions.


Oceans and Seas

The islands are surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, and to the north by the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean waters around the islands feature one of the world's most extensive coral barrier reefs, 65 mi (105 km) across and 200 mi (322 km) long. Running roughly southwest to northeast, a 7,000-ft (2,100-m) deep trench known as the Turks Island or Columbus Passage separates the Turks Islands group from the Caicos Islands group; the trench, ranked as one of the best diving spots in the world, is known to scuba divers as "The Wall." The islands are separated from the most southeastern Bahamian islands by a 30-mi (48-km) section of ocean known as the Caicos Passage.

Major Islands

The islands are divided into two groups. The Turks Islands (including Grand Turk, Salt Cay, Pine Cay, Parrot Cay, Ambergris Cay, Bush Cay, Big Sand Cay) lie to the east, and are more widely scattered and are separated from the island of Hispaniola by the Mouchoir Passage and from the Caicos Islands by Turks Island Passage. The islands of the Caicos Islands group (including West Caicos, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, and South Caicos) lie fairly close together, separated by narrow channels.

The Coast and Beaches

The islands have many beautiful white sandy beaches that attract numerous tourists. Most of these are found on the north and west shores, facing the open ocean. Some of the islands, such as West Caicos, have coastlines that drop abruptly to deep water. Middle Caicos, North Caicos, and Providenciales all feature a shoreline that zigzags in and out with many bluffs and small coves. Grace Bay on Providenciales is a 5-mile (8-km) long strip where most of the tourist resorts are located. Grand Turk Island features numerous bays on its eastern coast. South Caicos features Belle Sound and also has a formidable harbor in Cockburn Harbor, the only town on the island.



Situated just south of the tropic of Cancer, the Turks and Caicos Islands have a climate that is marine tropical, moderated by trade winds. It is usually sunny and relatively dry. The average temperature is 83°F (28°C) year round, with winter temperatures averaging 77°F (25°C) and summer readings averaging 90°F (32°C). The humidity is usually low, making the island heat more tolerable.


Rainfall averages 21 in (53 cm) per year, with slightly more precipitation falling during the summer. Hurricanes strike the islands frequently, with major hurricanes occurring on average at a rate of one every 10 to 15 years.


The majority of the population is descended from African slaves who were brought to Providenciales Island to grow cotton. The rest of the population (less that 5 percent) consists of British, American, French, Canadian, and Scandinavian expatriates. Most of the islands have only one town. More than one-quarter of the population lives in the capital of Cockburn Town. Providenciales, the only town on the island of the same name, is the most tourist-oriented island with the most resorts and residential developments for retirees.


Having little or no arable land or mineral deposits, the most important resources of the Turks and Caicos Islands are tourism and fishing. The two chief industries are tourism and collecting sea sponges. The leading exports are sponges and shellfish, including the spiny lobster and conchs. Another leading source of income for the Turks and Caicos economy is revenue from customs receipts and offshore financial services.


Baker, Chrstopher. Lonely Planet Bahamas Turks & Caicos. Lonely Planet: 1998.

Cable & Wireless. Turks and Caicos Islands Gateway-TCI Mall. http://www.tcimall.tc/index.htm (Accessed June 2002).

Davies, Julia, and Phil Davies. The Turks & Caicos Islands: Beautiful by Nature. New York: Macmillan Educational Corp, 2000.

Palmer, Charles. Living in the Turks and Caicos. Atlanta, Ga.: Protea Publishing, 2001.

Pavlidis, Stephen. The Turks and Caicos Guide: A Crusing Guide to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Port Washington, Wis.: Seaworthy Publications, 1999.

Sadler, Herbert. Turks Islands Landfall. Turks and Caicos Islands: Marjorie Sadler, 1997.

Turks and Caicos Islands

views updated May 23 2018

Turks and Caicos Islands

Basic Data
Official Country Name:Turks and Caicos Islands
Region:North & Central America
Literacy Rate:98%

The Turks and Caicos Islands is a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean near the southeastern Bahamas. As a British territory, the educational system of Turks and Caicos is based closely on the British model, and the primary language of instruction at all levels is English. Because residents are widely scattered among the island system consisting of the Caicos Islands and the Turks Islands, which are separated by the Turk Passage, the creation of a standardized education system offering equal access to all of the islanders has proved difficult. To counter this problem, several church groups, businesses, and individuals launched their own schools.

Education is free and mandatory for children aged five to fifteen. Primary education lasts for six years. In the 1990s, the island nation launched the Primary In-Service Teacher Education Project (PINSTEP) in an effort to increase the skills of its primary school teachers, nearly one-quarter of whom were unqualified. Turks and Caicos also worked to refurbish its primary schools, reduce textbook costs, and increase equipment and supplies given to schools. For example, in September of 1993, each primary school was given enough books to allow teachers to establish in-class libraries. In 2001, the student-teacher ratio at the primary level was roughly 15:1. Secondary education lasts for three years. The Turks and Caicos Islands Community College offers higher education to students who have successfully completed their secondary education. The community college also oversees an adult literacy program. The Ministry of Health, Education, Youth, Sports, and Women's Affairs oversees education in Turks and Caicos.


"Turks and Caicos Islands." Britannica.com. Chicago: Britannica.com Inc., 2001. Available from http://www.briticannica.com.

World Education Forum. "The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports: Turks and Caicos Islands." Paris: UNESCO, 2000. Available from http://www2.unesco.org.

AnnaMarie L. Sheldon

Turks and Caicos Islands

views updated Jun 11 2018

Turks and Caicos Islands

Basic Data

EOfficial Country Name:Turks and Caicos Islands
Region (Map name):North & Central America
Literacy rate:98%

The Turks and Caicos Islands includes 30 islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of the Bahamas and north of Haiti. The islands were settled in the late 1600s by Bermudians, who mined the islands for salt. Over the next 100 years, the French, Spanish and British vied for control of the area, but control eventually went to the government of the Bahamas, which extended its jurisdiction to the islands in 1766. In 1848, residents of the islands chose to become a self-governing unit under the Governor of Jamaica. When Jamaica became an independent state in 1962, the islands returned to Bahamian control until they became a separate crown colony of Britain in 1973. English is the official language. The population is approximately 18,000, and the literacy rate is 98 percent. The head of state is the British monarch, represented locally by a governor who, in turn, appoints a chief administrator. A legislative council is popularly elected, and three members of this body are appointed by the governor to sit on the executive council. The economy is based primarily on tourism and offshore financial industries.

Freedom of the press is guaranteed under British law. The country's only newspaper is the weekly Free Press, which appears every Thursday. It is available online through the Turks and Caicos Islands Gateway Web portal.

There are four radio stations, three AM and six FM, serving approximately 8,000 radios. There is one television station and 14 Internet service providers.


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Turks and Caicos Islands," World Factbook (2001). Available from http://www.cia.gov.

"Destination Turks and Caicos," Lonely Planet World Guide (2002). Available from http://www.lonely planet.com .

Turks and Caicos Free Press (2002). Home Page. Available from http://www.turksandcaicos.tc .

Jenny B. Davis

Turks and Caicos Islands

views updated Jun 11 2018

Turks and Caicos Islands Two island groups of the British West Indies, including more than 40 islands, eight of them inhabited. The capital is Cockburn Town on Grand Turk Island. Discovered (1512) by Ponce de León, the islands were British from 1766, administered via Jamaica from 1873 to 1959, and a separate Crown Colony from 1973. Exports include salt, sponges, and shellfish. The islands' main sources of income are tourism and offshore banking. Area: 430sq km (166sq mi). Pop. (2000) 12,000.



views updated Jun 08 2018

TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS. A British Caribbean dependency, consisting of two groups of 30 islands and bays forming the south-east end of the Bahamian archipelago. Languages: English (official), CREOLE. In 1765, the islands were formally linked with the Bahamas, then in 1848 with Jamaica. When Jamaica became independent in 1962, the islands were again associated with the Bahamas, then in 1972 became a British colony by local choice.