The island of Barbados sits at a unique position on the Atlantic Ocean, farthest east of other west Indies islands at Latitude 13º10′ N & Longitude 59º 32′ W. The island is part of the ‘Lesser Antilles’, a chain of islands in the English Caribbean. Barbados is 14 miles wide and 21 miles long, with 166 square miles of beaches, forests, and quite a number of natural features that make it stand out. Barbados’s territorial boundaries extend 12 nautical miles but it enjoys an impressive 200 nautical miles of an exclusive economic zone.
Because of its unique location in the Antilles, alongside Bahamas, Trinidad, Cayman and Netherland Antilles among other islands, and because it is located to the North East of Venezuela, Barbados is not considered a part of the Caribbean Islands Arc. The west coast of the islands is the Caribbean Sea while the North and East coasts touch the Atlantic Ocean.
These coasts are known to be very turbulent and with high waves accompanied by strong currents, something surfers scour the planet for. Interestingly, the west coast of Barbados island is very calm and barely get bashed by the high seas. Cold front, which brings surfers’ waves, often come during the summer months and hurricane winds blow during the winter months.
Barbados can be described as generally being a flat island that doesn’t share the extensive mountainous ranges its neighboring islands are known for. Science tells us that this is because Barbados is a coral island that gradually rose out of the sea whereas its neighbors were pushed out of the seas by volcanic eruptions and others formed by collision of tectonic plates. Whatever the explanation, Barbados sits in the least dramatic location in the Caribbean Sea with terraces beautifying the edges of the islands as it proudly displays the layered terraces bearing the scars of its gradual but progressive growth.
The center of the island is generally a gentle slope over rolling hills that run parallel to the coast. The land mass of Barbados island is about 85% coralline limestone which is as much as 30 meters thick but the surface has fertile soil insulating the rock beneath and necessitating a fantastic natural and artificial vegetation overlooking the hills. The soil of the island is fertile and arable and is used to mainly grow sugarcane.
Towards the Atlantic end of the island is the Scotland District, an area with lots of coral rock cropping, especially along the beach. Erosion is gradually eating away at the rock. This is the reason there has been a surge in cases of landslides and washouts over the past couple of decades. The coral rocks have great water filtering benefits. When it rains, water sips through the coral rocks in the ground and is filtered naturally as it makes its way through the underground mesh of reservoirs and caves where it is harvested and pumped to homes. The Island of Barbados is known by many because of the white sandy beaches unlike any others. The white color is because of the coral reefs that surround the islands, providing protection to its coast line.
Towns ideal for visitors seeking to understand Barbados, its people, immerse its culture or enjoy the view will find something unique in a town in each of the four parishes. The capital City, Bridgetown, which is in the Parish of St. Michael, Holetown in the Parish of St. James, Oistins in the parish of Christ Church and in the parish of St. peter, Speightstoen.
The geography of the Barbados islands makes it easy to interconnect between these towns through inter-connecting roads that run across the island. However, because the road network in the islands is not planned, navigating the roads can be quite a challenge for a visitor who hasn’t had a hang of it. Most towns are on the coast for the same reason that the roads are not planned – they grew as shipping ports mainly to England, the Caribbean and the Americas. Today, these towns have evolved from shipping port economies into providers of tourism-based services.
If there is something that drives hordes of holiday makers to Barbados every year it is the immaculate Caribbean weather.
The period between December and June is a dry season with tropical temperatures moderated by the blowing Northeast trade winds. The months between July and December are generally rainy but this varies significantly depending on how elevated an area is. The highest point in the island is the peak of Mt. Hillaby at 1,120 feet above sea level. The annual temperature in Barbados ranges between 72.5 and 82.4 °F (24 to 28 °C) with more elevated areas throughout the country experiencing slightly lower temperatures. The humidity is often stable at between 71 and 76 percent throughout the year.
Because of its geographical location outside what is called the Principal Hurricane Belt, Barbados is usually spared the horrible effects of the tropical storms and hurricanes that often pound islands in the region. As a matter of fact, the last major hurricane was Janet, a category 3 hurricane which hit the islands in 1955 leaving a trail of destruction and pain.
Before the first British settlers arrived in 1627, Barbados island was uninhabited. It has had a long history since then but it thrives and enjoys sufficient attention and regard globally because of tourism. Sugar has always been the island’s primary driver of the economy. Social and political reforms in the 1940s through 50s led to Barbados gaining full independence from the UK in the year 1966. The name ‘Barbados’ is a derivative of the Portuguese name ‘Los Barbados’ which means ‘the bearded one’. The island is called so because of the signature bearded tree that once extensively covered the island.
Just like other islands in this part of the ocean, slaves worked the sugar plantations until slavery in 1834. Since slavery was banned, the economy since then became heavily dependent on Sugar, Molasses and rum throughout most of the 20th century. In the early 1990s, manufacturing and tourism surpassed the sugar industry as the country’s economic backbone.
The flag of Barbados boasts of three equal vertical stripes along the flag height: one gold/yellow stripe sandwiched between two blue stripes. On the center of the flag is a black trident head vertically facing up.
The first blue stripe on the left of the Barbados flag stands for the sky, the middle gold stands for the sand and the right blue stripe signifies the blue sea. The black trident at the center of the flag is purposefully missing a handle because it represents the island’s break from England during independence, hence the reason it has only the top. The trident has three points to represent the three principles of democracy: A government of the people, by the people for the people.
The most outstanding elements on the Barbados island coat of arms are two Pride of Barbados flowers and a bearded fig tree. The flowers are the island’s national flower and the ficus Citrifolia tree is the bearded fig tree that gave the island its name in the first place.
On either side of the coat of arms, a pelican is supporting the shield to the right while a dolphin is holding the left. The pelican shows association with the smaller island of Pelican off the coast of Barbados that was integrated with the Deep Water Harbor development project while the dolphin symbolizes the dominant fishing industry.
Just above the shield supported by the dolphin and the pelican is a helmet and a mantling with a protruding arm holding crossed sugarcane pieces. The sugarcane is symbolic of the dominant sugar industry while the formation, the cross, is actually satirical for the cross on which Saint Andrew was crucified on. Barbadians celebrate their independence day on November 30th, which is also St. Andrew’s Day. At the bottom of the coat of arms is the island’s motto: “Pride and Industry”.
Her Majesty the Queen of England presented the grant of arms by royal warrant to the President of the Senate of the island of Barbados on February 14th 1966, also considered the day of independence, during her visit to Barbados. Before the grant, the island’s only other heraldic item was the Seal of Colony which is a representation of the British Sovereign in a chariot shell being drawn by 2 sea horses through foam waves.
The current Barbados island coat of arms is the work of a prolific designer and writer who was the director of the Barbados Museum for close to 25 years. He died aged 66 in 1973. Some of his most popular works include articles in the museum journals, pieces in local papers and publications overseas. Neville attended the Harrison College in Barbados and the Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He served with the Royal Artillery during the war and on discharge he worked as a dealer in antiques besides working as an assistant secretary in advertising at the Institute Practitioners.
Neville designed the Barbados coat of arms after extensive research he conducted while he studied at the Heraldy and the assistance he got from an excellent artist the late Mrs. Hilda Ince. To his day, the original developmental sketches of the island’s coat of arms remains under the protection and care of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.
“Know ye therefore that We of Our Pricely Grace and Special Favour have granted and assigned and by these Presents do grant and assign the following Armorial ensigns for Our Island of Barbados”:
For Arms: “Or a Bearded Fig Tree eradicated in Chief two Red Pride of Barbados Flowers proper. And for the Crest; On a Wreath Or and Gules A dexter Cubit Arm of a Barbadian erect proper the hand of grasping two Sugar Canes in saltire proper. And for the supporters: On the dexter side a Dolphin and on the sinister side a Pelican proper, together with the Motto “Pride and Industry”, as the same are in the painting hereunto annexed more plainly depicted the whole to be borne and used for our Island of Barbados – on Seals or Otherwise according to the Laws of Arms.”
Barbados National Pledge
“I pledge allegiance to my country Barbados and to my flag,
To uphold and defend their honour,
And by my living to do credit
To my nation, wherever I go”
In plenty and in time of need
When this fair land was young
Our brave forefathers sowed the seed
From which our pride is sprung
A pride that makes no wanton boast
Of what it has withstood
That binds our hearts from coast to coast
The pride of nationhood
We loyal sons and daughters all
Do hereby make it known
These fields and hills beyond recall
Are now our very own
We write our names on history’s page
With expectations great
Strict guardians of our heritage
Firm craftsmen of our fate
The Lord has been the people’s guide
For past three hundred years
With him still on the people’s side
We have no doubts or fears
Upward and onward we shall go
Inspired, exulting, free
And greater will our nation grow
In strength and unity