Alarming Facts On The History Of Port Royal Jamaica

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Did you know that Port Royal Jamaica had the reputation as both the richest and wickedest city in the world? Yes it was!

This was during the 17th century when it was the considered the center of shipping commerce in Jamaica.

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Built on a small island off the coast of Jamaica, it was notorious for its gaudy displays of wealth and loose morals, and was a popular place for pirates and privateers to bring, and spend, their treasure.

Pirates from around the world congregated at Port Royal, coming from waters as far away as Madagascar on the far side of Africa.

During the 17th century, the British actively encouraged, and even paid, buccaneers based at Port Royal to attack Spanish and French shipping.

Here is a map interpretation of Port Royal by Shaun Brown - as it was before the earthquake.

Disaster Struck

However, in the midst of 'Babylon', an earthquake and tsunami struck at 11:43 a.m, on June 7, 1692, largely destroying Port Royal. The destruction reportedly killed over 2000 persons!

It was unimaginable! According to, 'corpses from the cemetery floated in the harbor alongside recent victims of the disaster' at Port Royal Jamaica.

That disaster, described by the clergy as God's punishment for Port Royal's excess, piracy, smuggling and debauchery, caused over two-thirds of the city to sink into the Caribbean Sea, such that today it is covered by a minimum of 25 ft (8 m) of water.

A Survivor's Story

In an exclusive story by the BBC, Nick Davis, featured a letter, reportedly written by one of the survivors of the massive destruction.

It reads...

"On Tuesday the 7th of June 1692, betwixt eleven and twelve at noon, I being at a tavern, we felt the house shake and saw the bricks begin to rise in the floor, and at the same instant, heard one in the street cry, An Earthquake!

Immediately we ran out of the house, where we saw all people with lifted-up hands, begging God's assistance.

We continued running up the street, whilst on either side of us, we saw the houses some swallowed up, others thrown on heaps; the sand in the street rise like the waves of the sea, lifting up all persons that stood upon it, and immediately dropping down into pits; and at the same instant, a flood of water breaking in and rolling those poor souls over and over; some catching hold of beams and rafters in houses; others were found in the sand, that appeared when the water was drained away, with their legs and arms out, we beholding this dismal sight." Source

After that disaster, Port Royal's commercial role was taken over by the city of Kingston.

An Archealogists' Gold Mine

port royal jamaica

Known today to 16th–18th century focused archaeologists as the "City that Sank", it is considered the most important underwater archaeological site in the western hemisphere; yielding 16th –17th-century artifacts by the ton and many important treasures from indigenous peoples, predating the 1588 founding from as far away as Guatemala!

Several 17th and early 18th century pirate ships are sunk within the harbor and are being carefully harvested under controlled conditions by different teams of archaeologists.

Other "digs" are staked out along various quarters and streets by different teams.

Today, this famous place in Jamaica has inspired several movies, books, other place names and even beers!

According to a report on the BBC, Robert Grenier, a Canadian marine archaeologist who worked closely with UNESCO, considers Port Royal to be one of the most important underwater sites in the world!

Current development in progress will redevelop the small resultant fishing town into a flourishing tourist destination, serviced by cruise ships with the archaeological findings the heart of the attractions.

The attraction will also include a combination underwater museum, aquarium and restaurant with underwater dioramas and the ability to see the native tropical sea life.

For further information on Port Royal, be sure to visit this wikipedia page.

You might like these as well

Back To Top Of Port Royal Jamaica


  • "Earthquake destroys Jamaican pirate haven",, Retrieved from on July 26, 2019
  • National Museum Of Jamaica, Retreived from  on July 26, 2019
  • "Jamaica's 'wickedest city' Port Royal banks on heritage",, Retrieved from on July 26, 2019
  • "1692:Earthquake of Port Royal", Jamaica Gleaner, Retrieved from on July 26, 2019
  • "Port Royal",,, Retrieved from on July 26, 2019

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A patriotic Jamaican who adores his culture, Wellesley has been using this medium to share what he calls 'the uniqueness of Jamaica with the world' since April 2007.  

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