Cockburn Town is the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The capital is found on Grand Turk, the easternmost island of the group. If you head eastwards from Grand Turk the next land you will see is the continent of Africa.
Cockburn Town is a very relaxed place. There are some modern buildings and some dilapidated ruins, sometimes on opposite sides of the same road. There are some salt pans in the centre of town, which are no longer used to export sea salt to the world. Between 1678 and 1964 Grand Turk only had 1 export and that was salt. An example of how much salt was produced by Grand Turk can be gauged by some statistics from 1907. In this year, there were 230 acres of salt pans on Grand Turk and each acre produced 4,000 bushels of salt. A bushel was between 75 and 80 pounds.
All of this information and more can be found in the excellent Turks and Caicos National Museum in Cockburn Town, where visitors can found out about the wreck of a caravel, dating from 1513, that was found on the Molasses Reef in 1976, which caused a sensation at the time because some people thought it was the Christopher Columbus vessel ‘Pinta’. It was not. The area around the Caicos Islands is the world’s third largest reef and this caravel must have hit the reef at night, when there was no indication of the reef’s presence. The depth of water here is around 15 feet, which might explain why no bodies were found in the wreck. Many cannons, crossbows, and armaments were found, suggesting this vessel was heavily armed to repel attackers. No treasure was found on board.
This museum is highly recommended for its displays on the flight of the first American astronaut, John Glen, a feature on stamp-collecting, and a project on sending messages in bottles conducted by schools in the Turks and Caicos a dozen years ago.