Cayman Brac is an island in the Cayman Islands that lies about 89 miles (143 km) northeast of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Sea. It is about 12 miles (19 km) long, with an average width of 1.25 (2 km), making the total area of the Island approximately 14.7 mi.2 (38 km2). Its terrain is the most spectacular of the three Cayman Islands. "The Bluff", a massive central limestone outcrop, rises steadily along the length of the island up to 140 feet (43 m) above the sea at the eastern end. The island is named after this prominent feature "brac," which is a Gaelic name for a bluff. The population of the island was estimated at 1,822 in 1999.
Christopher Columbus sighted Cayman Brac and its sister island, Little Cayman, in 1503 when his ship was blown off course during a trip between Hispaniola and Panama. He named them "Las Tortugas" because of the many tortoises he spotted on the islands. The Cayman Islands were renamed by Sir Francis Drake, who landed on them during a voyage in 1585-86. He used the word "Caymanas", taken from the Carib name for crocodiles after seeing many of the large crocodilians on the island. It is speculated that he may had only seen the Rock Iguanas that inhabit the island today, however, there were large crocodiles that lived in the swamp areas on both sister islands but they were all killed after causing a number of human deaths in the late 1800s.
During the heyday of piracy, pirates used Cayman Brac as a haven and a place to replenish their supplies as there are a number of fresh water wells on the island and had many sources of food that included in the local flora and fauna.
Of interest to scuba divers is a 330-foot (100-m) Russian Frigate ship built in the Soviet Union in 1984 for the Cuban Navy. It was purchased and sunk by the Cayman Islands government in September 1996. Originally designated 356, the frigate was rechristened the M/V Captain Keith Tibbetts, after a well-known Cayman Brac politician. The wreck originally sat upright in approximately 90 feet (27 m) with the deck at 60 feet (18 m), until wave action generated by a winter Norwester storm (Dec 1998-Jan 1999) which nearly tore the ship in two. The result was that the fore section tipped to about a 45 degree angle in relation to the remainder of the still-upright aft portion, and the midships became a debris field. The wreck's stern area was essentially unaffected. The frigate is located in a sandy area with generally good visibility, approximately 650 feet (200 m) offshore (a fairly long swim) from 'Buccaneer', on the island's north side, near the western tip of the island. There are numerous openings in the upper portion of the ship for non-wreck certified divers. Many more openings are available since the ship broke in half and the site also serves as an artificial reef.
The Teignmouth Electron, the boat in which Donald Crowhurst attempted to sail round the world single-handed in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, has been left to decay by the beach on Cayman Brac. The Electron has been beached since at least 1989, after Hurricane Gilbert.
Cayman Brac also appeals to adventurers of many persuasions besides diving. Caves are found around the island, offering even the fledgling spelunker a glimpse of delicate underground formations, steps and ladders, have also been constructed to allow visitor access to more remote caves. One cave, Rebecca's Cave, contains the grave of a young girl lost in a struggle against the ravages of the great '32 Hurricane and it is now a Cayman National Heritage Site.
Rock climbing was developed beginning in 1992 and the island is now known as a world-class climbing destination. One must be somewhat experienced to climb here as the terrain is steep, many times over-vertical.
Walking & Hiking
Walking and hiking trails have been opened by the Nature Tourism Programme which allow exploration of the island's dense Karst forestation. Unique flora and fauna thrive here and can be observed 'in the wild'.
Because of Cayman Brac's unique geographic location, the pristine waters around the island are especially coveted for both surf fishing and the pursuit of big game fish.
Economy & Tourism
The local economy tends to be concentrated in three areas which are probably typical for many Caribbean locales: tourism, municipal government, and local enterprises. The majority of the tourism sector is concentrated on scuba diving, although this is in recent decline in the hospitality sector, with one of the two local hotels closing operations in 2006.
A local enterprise that is nearly unique to Cayman Brac are its artists who work in a local stone known as Caymanite, typically making jewelry or small stone carvings. Two of these artists have been Eddie Scott and Tenson Scott, whose works have won National contests, as well as being the official gift to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew during the 1994 State Visit. Many of the families originating from Cayman Brac, including the Waltons, Scotts, Kirkconnells, and Fosters have become significantly wealthy in Grand Cayman through property and business ownership.