Andros, Bahamas

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About Andros

Originally named Espiritu Santu by the Spanish, Andros Island is an archipelago within The Bahamas, and is the largest of the Bahamian Islands. Politically considered a single island, Andros in total has an area greater than all the other 700 Bahamian islands combined. The land area of Andros consists of hundreds of small islets and cays connected by mangrove estuaries and tidal swamplands, connecting three major islands: North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros

The Lucayans, a subgroup of the Taíno people, were indigenous to The Bahamas at the time of European encounter. Archeological artefacts and remains have been found in both Morgan's Cave on North Andros, and in the Stargate Blue Hole on South Andros.
The Spanish valued the Lucayans for their free-diving skills used in fishing conch; they enslaved the natives and transported them to Cubagua to work as pearl divers. 

Andros exhibits greater botanical diversity than any other island in The Bahamas. Among the various land ecosystems are hardwood coppice, pineyard, scrub, saltwater marsh, rocky and sandy beaches, palm savannas and mangroves. 
Andros has the Bahamas' only freshwater river, contributing to its biodiversity. Thousands of kilometres of underground water from rainwater collect in aquifers below the island's surface. 
Andros has a variety of close-to-shore and on-shore ecosystems including tidal inland and ocean blue holes, shallow sand and mud flats, tidal estuaries, mangrove swamps, the pelagic ecozone of the 6000-foot drop-off only a mile from shore, the world's third-largest barrier reef, and huge freshwater aquifers mentioned above. The marine biosphere is fed by both the teeming life of the mangrove marshes and estuaries on the mainland, and the upwelling of cool water from the Tongue of the Ocean, resulting in an unparalleled variety of sea life. Humpback whales and Pilot Whales are still seen infrequently off the coast of Andros.

Inside the Andros Barrier Reef, staghorn, elkhorn and other corals are found in shallows 10–20 feet deep. Beyond the shallow reefs are tiny cays and islets, from which the sea bottom gradually deepens until at a depth of between 70 feet and 120 feet comes "The Wall", with its plunge 6000 feet into the abyss of the Tongue of the Ocean.

Four species of turtles are found in Andros' waters: loggerhead, green, hawksbill and, rarely, the leatherback

The Bahama oriole is unique to Andros Island. Critically endangered, it has an estimated remaining population of as few as several hundred. The great lizard cuckoo is found only on Andros, New Providence, and Eleuthera. The rare Kirtland's warbler—an estimated 600 remain—was first seen on the island in 1879 and some individuals winter on Andros.The endangered migratory Atlantic subspecies of the piping plover favours the rocky shores and sandy beaches of Andros. Other rare and uncommon birds found in the Andros environ include the Bahama yellowthroat, Bahama woodstar, Bahama swallow, West Indian whistling duck and Key West quail dove, loggerhead kingbird, La Sagra's flycatcher, Cuban pewee, Bahama mockingbird, red-legged thrush, thick-billed vireo, black-whiskered vireo, olive-capped warbler, Greater Antillean bullfinch, black-faced grassquit, melodious grassquit, least grebe, olivaceous cormorant, Chickcharney, American flamingo, Bahama pintail, osprey, American kestrel, sooty tern, roseate tern, noddy tern, white-crowned pigeon, zenaida dove, Caribbean dove, smooth-billed ani and Cuban emerald hummingbird.

More than 50 species of wild orchids thrive in the more than 104 km2 (40 sq mi) of subtropical forests and the swamps of Andros.Many are endemic, including three native species of the climbing orchid Vanilla.Commercial flower collectors have been known to set fire to the pineland coppices to collect the sharp-petaled bletias (Bletia purpurea) that flourish in ashy soil. The orchid genus Epidendrum has nine species endemic to the Bahamas, all of which can be found on Andros.

According to local lore, two mythical creatures are endemic to Andros: the Lusca and the Chickcharney (also spelled "Chickcharnie".) The Lusca, half-octopus, half-shark and gigantic, supposedly swallows whole boats. The Chickcharney, furry and feathered and three-foot tall, has one red eye and three-toed claws. Some ornithologists believe that the legend of the chickcharney is based on the flightless, 1 metre-tall barn owl, Tyto pollens, whose remains have been found on Andros.

Noted oceanographer and environmentalist Jacques Cousteau visited Andros Island in 1970 to explore and film the Andros Blue Holes. The video of this expedition, called The Secret of the Sunken Caves, is included in the 2005 Cousteau video collection, The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey: The Complete Collection. Cousteau explored several ocean blue holes, and the inland blue holes known as Uncle Charlie's, Church's, and the Guardian.