Little Cayman

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Little Cayman

Little Cayman is the smallest of the three Cayman Islands, both in area and population. It is located in the Caribbean Sea, about 87 miles northeast of Grand Cayman and five miles west of Cayman Brac. Little Cayman has a permanent population of less than 170 and is less than ten square miles in area, about ten miles long and one mile wide.

Most of the island is at sea level. The highest elevation is about 40 feet.

Little Cayman is famous for its scuba diving. The most famous dive site areas, Bloody Bay and Jackson's Bight, are both located on the north side of the island, just west of its midpoint. Bloody Bay is consistently ranked as one of the world's top wall dives with the ocean floor, which was proportedly based on a claim made by the late Phillipe Cousteau (citation needed). At its shallowest point in Bloody Bay, the drop-off goes a depth of 18 feet (Three Fathom Wall) to approximately 1000 feet (314m), in what is a near-vertical topology at recreational depths (and a bit beyond).

The sheer wall dropoffs in Little Cayman, and Bloody Bay Wall in particular, has been a source of exaggeration, not of its degree of verticality, but of the depth to the bottom of the wall: local Dive Resort Divemasters typically claim the proximate depth to be 3000 feet or 5000 feet. While the local waters do go deeper than 1000ft, these depths simply are not as proximate to shore as is suggested or claimed; the 1000m contour (3000+ft) has been charted to be approximately one mile offshore on Little Cayman's South side, and 2.5 miles offshore of Bloody Bay on the island's North side (Ibid). These distances are generally beyond the normal range expected of freeswimming recreational scuba divers who are not Drift Diving or employing Dive Propulsion Vehicles. This exaggeration phenomenon also exists on Cayman Brac Walls.

Little Cayman is accessible by air (via Cayman Airways) and water from both Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. Little Cayman has one store, a few restaurants, Edward Bodden Airfield (the airport), a post office, a fire station, and one church. Little Cayman also has a visitor center for its red-footed booby pond, the largest red-footed booby population in the Caribbean and a designated Ramsar wetland of international importance. Other important species present on Little Cayman include the endangered Lesser Caymans iguana, the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, and the threatened Black - billed Whistling Duck, which are also present to a lesser degree on nearby Cayman Brac as well.

The first recorded sighting of Little Cayman, along with Cayman Brac, was by Christopher Columbus on May 10, 1503 on his fourth and final voyage, when heavy winds forced his ship off course. At that time, he named the islands "Las Tortugas" for the many sea turtles found living there. The islands were later renamed "Las Caymanas" for the iguanas that were thought to be caimans living there.

The first settlement on the island was in the 17th century, when turtle fishermen set up camps. After a raid by a Spanish privateer, the settlements were abandoned in 1671 and the island was not resettled until 1833, when Blossom Village was established by a few families. By the early 20th century, a few hundred people lived on Little Cayman and exported phosphate ore, coconuts, and marine rope. Little Cayman, along with the other Cayman Islands, is now a British dependancy.

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