1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Turks and Caicos Islands
TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS, a group in the British West Indies. They belong geographically to the Bahamas and lie between 21° and 22° N. and 71° and 72° 37′ W. They are of coral and sand formation, their combined area being 169 sq. m. The Turks Islands, taking their name from a species of cactus having the appearance of a turbaned head, are nine in number, but Grand Turk (10 sq. m.) and Salt Cay (5½ sq. m.) are the only two of any size. The town of Grand Turk, on the west of the island of that name, is the seat of government and a port of registry. Salt Cay has a good harbour.
The Caicos Islands lie to the north-west of Turks Islands and are seven in number. Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos, 22m. from Grand Turk, is the principal settlement and a port of entry. The climate, though somewhat relaxing, is healthy, but there is a scarcity of drinking water, the average annual rainfall being only 27½ in. The mean temperature is 82° F., but owing to the sea breezes the climate is never oppressive. Salt raking is the staple industry. Sisal hemp is grown, sponges are found in some quantities off the coast and there are four sponge-curing factories on the Caicos Islands. Pink pearls are occasionally found. The exports, chiefly to the United States, include salt, sponges and sisal hemp. Grand Turk is in cable communication with Bermuda and with Kingston, Jamaica, some 420 m. to the S.W.
The islands were uninhabited when, about 1678, the Bermudians began to visit them to rake the salt found in the ponds. These visits became annual and permanent settlements were made. In 1710 the British were expelled by the Spaniards, but they returned and the salt trade (largely with the American colonies) continued to be carried on by the Bermudians despite attacks by Spaniards and French, and counter-claims to the islands by the British authorities at the Bahamas, who about 1765 made good their claim. In 1799 the islands were given representation in the Bahamas Assembly, and they remained part of that colony until 1848, when on the petition of the inhabitants they were made a separate colony under the supervision of the governor of Jamaica. This arrangement proving financially burdensome the islands were in 1873 definitely annexed to Jamaica. They are governed by a commissioner assisted by a nominated legislative board. The census of 1901 showed a total population of 5287, of whom 342 were whites, the rest being negroes or mulattoes; 1751 of the inhabitants lived in Grand Turk Island.
See J. N. Bellin, Description géographique des débouquements au nord de St Dominique (1768); the Jamaica Handbook (London, yearly) and Sir C. P. Lucas, Historical Geography of the British Colonies, vol. ii. (2nd ed., Oxford, 1905).