A Bit of Tortola History

The peaceful Taíno Indians were the first settlers on Tortola. Perhaps they saw Columbus sail by in 1493 on his second voyage to the New World, but he didn't come ashore. Even though Sir Frances Drake arrived on the shores in 1595, it wasn't until the late 17th century that British claimed the islands. The seat of the British colony moved from Virgin Gorda to Tortola in 1741.

The Notorious Pirate: Sir Francis Drake -- Sir Francis Drake (1543-96) was an English navigator and explorer famous for leading his country's defense against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He was also one of the most notorious pirates in the Caribbean. Arriving in the West Indies as the young captain of the Judith, this favorite of Queen Elizabeth I brought the swashbuckling attitudes of the Elizabethan Age to the Virgin Islands. Although a military hero to the English, he was a pirate to his main enemy, the Spaniards. Because of his attacks on Spanish ships, King Phillip II put a reward of 20,000 ducats on his head (or $6.5 million in today's U.S. currency). A channel through the Virgin Islands now bears his name. In 1580, Drake became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. He died aboard his ship off Panama on January 27, 1596, and was buried at sea.

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