Royal Jamaica. Once known as the wickedest place on earth is now a
mere shadow of its former glory. It is a part of the capital
When my son comes home to Jamaica he loves to visit Port
Royal (the pictures here are his), for this little sleepy village is
such a wonderful showcase of the effects of a
catastrophe and is of great historical significance. It shall in my
humble opinion never regain it's former glory but it should be getting
more publicity. Seriously Port Royal Jamaica is an
Royal is just a stone's throw from the Norman Manley International
Airport. Turn right at the roundabout and it's about
nine kilometres from there.
The view along the Norman Manley Highway is largely uninteresting. You
will yearn to see something to break up the monotony of this:
Of course we pause to gawk at the spot where the American Airlines jet
overshot the runway plunging past the perimeter fencing right about
After a sigh of relief at God's good graces we grasp the respite
granted by this white lighthouse.
Apart from the odd break to afford a glimpse of the sea, there is not
much more to see and you will be truly grateful that the drive is short
after passing the cemetery and gaining the entrance to the Morgan's
Harbour Hotel and Marina.:
Welcome to Port Royal
Now if you do not know the basis for the name of the hotel that is the
closest to Kingston's main airport then you need to brush up on your
Morgan's Harbour Hotel is named after Sir Henry Morgan who was a Welsh
buccaneer/privateer/pirate (although some eschew the latter
description). Morgan you see was authorized by England to plunder the
coffers of the Spanish colonies on behalf of England as was the way
back in the 17th century. He currently lives under the Caribbean Sea,
but we will talk about that later.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust greets you with a sign that engages
with its descriptive summary of the town's wild history.
to enlarge and read.
Yes Port Royal was the victim of an earthquake of powerful magnitude in
1692. Some estimate it at 7.5 on the moment magnitude scale. This spit
that protrudes in the Caribbean Sea and which was the center of power,
wealth and ruthlessness succumbed to the forces of nature but still the
We are so grateful to have this fortress built in 1656 - not that it
offers military protection to our shores - but it is the only one of
six forts that existed at Port Royal Jamaica that survived the
so is of historical value as you can see here:
The fact that the fort was completely surrounded by water shouldn't be
ignored because it invites us to ask how is it that it is now
surrounded by sand. Let's take a walk inside:
The Giddy House is located on sand that wasn't there at the time of the
1692 earthquake. After the earthquake in 1692 the silt deposits caused
that side of the coastline to devlop. Giddy House was built there after
the earthquake as a place to store arms BUT then why has it tilted like
that. Yes there was another earthquake in 1907 and this is the result.
Note the sand is almost flush with the window. Yep that's me.
Other storage facilities, bunkers and tunnels were constructed on this
sandy area as Port Royal Jamaica was left with one fort and there was
for more arms.
Here is a cartridge store accessed via tunnel.
When you leave Fort Charles you face a flat lot of land now a parade
ground to the right of the JDF Coast Guard and the site of Chocolate
Hole. You are greeted
by the peaceful lapping sounds of the sea.
Beneath these waves could lie the body of Sir Henry Morgan who was
a cemetery in 1688. He is joined by those who perished in the 1692
earthquake. His cemetery was part of the 2/3rds of Port Royal that
sunk. Thirteen acres of the city remain
beneath the sea and only the surface has been scratched.
there have been excavations as the artificats in Fort Charles maritime
confirm but that 16th century time capsule entombed under the ocean
floor is still tightly screwed. Fort Carlisle, Fort Rupert and Fort
James sank along with tons of the city's riches. One wonders
whether they will ever be unearthed.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust
has played a significant role in the protection and preservation of
Port Royal as a historic Jamaican district. Indeed you can't just put
on scuba gear and go diving out there, you must obtain a permit. Underwater archaeologists
excavated five buildings and a ship, but one can't help but wonder.
What else is out there? Can you imagine an underwater city preserved in
the state it was in the 17th century?
people say that beside the Morgans Harbour Hotel was a church that is
still underground. Considerations of preservation require therefore
that there be careful supervision accompanying any future
achaeological research and excavation. Hence talk about building a
casino on the spot was scratched, understandably.
With the decline of Port Royal came the birth of Kingston, the current
captial of Jamaica, which did not even exist in 1692.