Klein Curacao History
Klein Curacao is three square kilometers and is located ten kilometers south-east of Curacao. Today it is uninhabited, but formerly fishermen lived here.
The island is now quite bare, but once a lot of grass grew here and small farmers often left their goats behind here to graze. Klein Curacao was a haven for seabirds in the 19th century, which came there to breed.
The droppings of the birds (guano) contains tricalcium phosphate; through the rain this sank into the underlying limestone and after a chemical reaction a layer of ‘seabirdguarofosfaat’ emerged. Phosphate was a popular product in the 19th century, it was used in Europe as an additive for animal food and fertilizer. In 1871 a British mining engineer, John Codden, was seeking phosphate. Through currents he accidentally ended up on Klein Curacao with his ship, where huge amounts of phosphate proved to be. From 1871 to 1886 roughly 90 tons of phosphate was mined at Klein Curacao and shipped to Europe. The island remained bare and a few meters lower. The seabirds have never returned. Carmabi initiated a reforestation project which is the reason there are now a lot of bushes.
There have also been other forms of exploitation of the island. The West India Company, WIC brought many slaves from Africa to Curacao. Before these slaves came ashore at Curacao, the sick were taken out and put in quarantine at Klein Curacao. The remains of this Curacao first quarantine building can still be found in the North-West of the island. The slaves and other passengers who did not survive the voyage were buried at Klein Curacao. There are tombs found in the southern part of the island.
During this activity the West India Company were also licensed to seal (the now extinct monk seal) to be allowed to catch Klein Curacao and use for their skins.
In 1932 a crocodile was caught on the island. It came from Venezuela and after a violent storm landed on the island. The former islanders then killed the crocodile and ate it.
Klein Curacao, like Curacao, is little affected by hurricanes. Still, there have been quite a few hurricanes in the course of time which have left their marks on the island. The first, according to tradition, was the hurricane in 1877. This hurricane destroyed the first lighthouse on the island. Therefore, it was decided that the next lighthouse – and that’s the lighthouse that still stands – was built in the center of the island.
The island, with its beautiful white beach, is a well known nesting location for turtles. Every year, sea turtles, who were born in Klein Curacao, come back to their home beach to continue their species. Therefore you will have a great opportunity to see turtles graze and swim to shore while you are diving and snorkeling.
Another phenomenon is the legend of an English captain who was stranded in the 19th century and has deceased on the island. After his death he was buried on the island, but ghosts would have found no rest yet and still haunt the island. There are many ghostly stories and events about it in circulation.
Interesting Sights on Klein Curacao
- Over the years many ships have stranded on the eastern side of the island. The recent wreck of a tanker ran aground 28 years ago. Now only a part of it remains. The anchor is still clearly visible in the bow.
- In the middle of the island the monumental lighthouse is located, which was built after the hurricane of 1877 and is still in use, now unmanned. You can go inside, but watch out for loose floorboards and stone.
- An underwater cave is indicated on the map (at the beach). This cave is 48 meters deep and is known for its sharks. For safety reasons contact guides who have experience with this if you want to go dive here.
- On the West coast (near the beach huts) you can snorkel very well and you will have a good chance to see sea turtles grazing and swimming. An unforgettable experience.
- On the north side of the island the German freighter Magdalena stalled in 1934. This giant ship was located and fixed weeks after the excavation of a channel and multi tugs pulled it back to open sea.
- There is a geocache site at Klein Curacao. The coordinates are N11’59”447 W068’38”590. If you want to know more about this, please visit geocaching.com
- There is also a possibility to make a helicopter flight to Klein Curacao with Blue Skies Helicopters. Enjoy yourself after the landing of the island and return to Curacao with the Mermaid yacht, which visits Klein Curacao several times a week. Check with the crew or captain Cor of the Mermaid and otherwise at Blue Skies Helicopters for reservations and availability.
“The best beach isn’t on Curacao at all. It’s on Klein Curacao, an uninhabited cay a few miles off the Southeastern coast.”
(Lonely Planet, travelbook)