Whoever heard of these Caribbean Islands- Big Corn and Little Corn?
Situated about 70 km from the Nicaraguan coast, they were frequented by marauding pirates, sea dogs, corsairs, filibusters and buccaneers from the 16th through the 19th centuries plotting attacks on the Mosquito Coast (Nicaragua), hoping to reap gold treasure from the Spanish Main. The Frenchman Jean David, Irishwoman Anne Bonny, Englishman Sir Henry Morgan, Englishwoman Mary Read, Americans William Walker and Thomas Paine (yes- that Thomas Paine), Dutchman Janke (Yankee) Willems, and the most prolific pirate, Welshman Black Bart, who alone captured 470 vessels in the Caribbean Sea in the Golden Age of Piracy, parked it here at one time or another.
Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast became the property of the British from 1655 to 1860. In 1914, the Corn Islands were leased to the United States of America, but the US had no real interest in the islands, so the islands reverted to Nicaragua control in 1971.
Big Corn Island has an airfield. It’s a 55-minute flight from Managua on a small twin-prop airplane. Otherwise it’s a 7 to 20 hour boat ride on a trawler from Bluefields. Everyone says take the plane.
I spent two days on Big Corn Island. It only takes about three hours to walk around the entire island. It’s not really set up for tourism; oh sure, there are hotels and such, but the vibe is not one that caters to tourists. Islanders tend to their daily lives.
I stayed at a nice enough place- Casa Canada, but was flabbergasted by the cost for what it was. Nice, but not that nice. It’s on the windy side of the island and there is no beach to swim.
John Keats lamented how science (Isaac Newton) ruined a rainbow by measuring it:
Excerpt from Lamia, Part II (1820)
…Do not all charms fly,
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven.
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine-
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into shade.
A Lamia is a mythic creature with the head and breasts of a woman and a body of a snake that eats people and sucks the blood from children. I think I’ve known a few of these!
Richard Dawkins wrote a book entitled Unweaving the Rainbow (1998) which expressed a view that science was not a mechanistic practice that somehow ruins poetry and the arts, but rather science demonstrates how rich nature is by observing its textures, patterns, and movements. By “unweaving” the rainbow, that is, breaking down white light into its constituent colors with a prism, we now know how old the universe is. That is poetic.
I think the first lines of Dawkins’ book reveals the profound beauty of a scientific mind:
The Aneasthestic of Familiarity
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”
The weather turned inclement, conjuring up thoughts of another Romantic: painter Joseph Mallord Willliam Turner.
Realizing there was little to see or do on Big Corn, I took a panga – on open vessel that holds maybe 30 people- the 13 kms across rough seas and high winds to Little Corn. It took about an hour. Everyone was drenched.
Little Corn is very small. There are no motorized vehicles at all on the island. People mostly walk or ride a bike.
There is snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing and kite boarding. I didn’t do any of these things. It rained for four days straight.
Kids play with “Clackers.” Do you remember those things? They were banned because the balls were made of hard plastic and kids were breaking their hands, wrists, fingers and forearms swinging these balls around.
The locals here speak a Creole – a blend of English, Spanish and God knows what else. If they want to, they can make it very difficult to understand them speaking.
At long last the weather started to get better.
There are a few good restaurants on the island. Prices tend to be closer to American costs but there is not much choice for food. Clearly all the food is brought by ship, except coconuts.
This is a nice place to be for a quiet holiday and to relax. Really- if your nerves are fried and you need a quiet place to let the air out of your shoes, this is a pretty good place to do so.