Klein Curacao Lighthouse

Willemstad, Curaçao | C.1879

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Czum

After sailing two and a half hours southeast from the old Dutch outpost of Curaçao, you’ll encounter this coral pink lighthouse on the uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao (Little Curaçao). Sail closer over the bright Caribbean waters, and an eerie scene will unfold before you. Multiple shipwrecks become apparent, and the desert that is Klein Curaçao comes into full view. The small island, just over half a square mile, reveals ruins of stone buildings as well as a sizable burial ground.

Klein Curaçao was once a verdant home to tropical birds, turtles, and monk seals. However, in the eighteenth century, the Dutch West India Company wreaked havoc on it by using it as a layover quarantine station for enslaved people who had taken ill during the unforgiving journey across the Atlantic. Those who did not survive were buried on the island.

Meanwhile, the English and Dutch mined the island for phosphate until it was completely depleted of the essential mineral. Monk seals were hunted, while herds of goats quickly decimated any remaining vegetation. When the Dutch finally abandoned their outpost, desertification ensued, and Klein Curaçao became the barren ghost isle it is today. The only structures remaining are a bleached blank cross marking the graveyard, and Klein Curaçao’s faded pink lighthouse structure. After decades of disuse, it was reequipped with operational lights and still serves as a beautiful marker of the desolate island.

Efforts are being made to reforest Klein Curaçao. Monk seals and sea turtle populations are rising, and tourism is helping draw more attention to the land. The lighthouse is currently under renovation and the beacon will soon be freshly painted to welcome those who sail to Klein Curaçao seeking its tropical, albeit haunting, atmosphere.

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AWA Community Insight:
promatik Coração is Heart ♥️ in Portuguese. The slaves who named the island were originally from Portuguese colonies.

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