The large, shallow stone-bordered ponds in the middle of Salt Cay, are not just nesting
sites for birds, they are salinas.
These salinas are abandoned artifacts of the salt industry, which ruled the Salt Cay economy for 300
industry began with seasonal salt-rakers coming to the Turks and Caicos Islands from Bermuda in the late 1600s and lasted
until commercial exploitation of the salinas ended in the 1960s.
Salt Cay, the original salt-producing island, has several natural, shallow inland
depressions (salinas) that filled with salt water directly from the sea or percolated up from under-lying rock.
Bermudians improved the natural salinas, making
them into rock-bordered salt pans or ponds.
Salt was made by letting seawater into the salinas through sluice gates located at the beach.
Water was concentrated by evaporation in the big
pond, then concentrated again in a second.
The slushy brine ws then let into smaller drying pans, where salt crystalized.
The cycle took about 90 days from start to finish,
but "crops" for each set of pans were spaced by the individual stages into 20-30 day periods.
Workers raked the crystalized salt into piles and
shoveled it into wheelbarrows.
salt under the midday sun was an incredibly labor-intensive business.
Today, although the windmills that helped to dry the salt are gone,
the ponds still fill with salt water and evaporate in the blazing, Caribbean sun.
time of the first European settlements in North America to the middle of the 1800s, salt was a critical food-preservation
States was dependent upon salt imports to some degree until almost the end of the 19th century.
The relative importance of the Turks Islands, however,
dwindled as the demand for salt expanded.
Dwarfed by the demand and other producers and unable to expand pond acreage, mechanize loading, or achieve
economie of scale, the salt industry in Salt Cay finally collapsed in the 1960s after 300 years of production.
---Courtesy of the Turks &
Caicos National Museum
Today on Salt Cay, sea salt is produced
naturally in the existing ponds.
The windmills no longer run, but when the island workers flood the ponds, the hot, Caribbean sun
does the work of drying the salt water to produce the sea salt that we use at Salt Cay Salt Works.
Two people, one who is a descendant
of a "captain" in the original salt business on Salt Cay, hand-rake the salt for me.
They collect it and bring it to sell
when it is still pink in color and wet from the sea.
Together, we drain most of the sea water from the salt. Then, I dry it in
it is laid on trays and dried in the sun for a day or two.
Then, I bring it in and grind it so the granules are more uniform
in size and can fit in our containers.
Finally, the ground salt goes through a second drying process, laid out on paper towels and racks
in trays to dry in the hot, island sun.
The sun bleaches the salt until it is shimmering in the sun like diamonds or as "white gold"
as the islanders used to say.
It is this white gold that we mix and package to make the Salt Cay Salt Works products.