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Redonda Rock Of Antigua

Redonda Rock Of Antigua.

Redonda is the remnant of a volcanic cone and is one of the smallest islands in the chain of the Lesser Antilles. It lies between Montserrat and Nevis at distances of 15 and 25 miles, respectively and 35 miles south-west of Antigua. Redonda is one and a half miles long by half a mile wide, and is exactly 971 feet high.

The Caribs called the island Ocanamanru, and it is thought that weary prehistoric paddling seafarers immigrating or trading between the islands, used the island as a way station. On November 11, 1493, Columbus named it Santa Maria la Redonda meaning St Mary the Round.

Natural Resources On Redonda

Redonda was found to have much phosphate on the island due to the droppings of sea birds over the eons. In the 1860s, the island was worked for its bird guano because of a worldwide demand for calcium phosphate. Later, aluminum phosphate was discovered beneath the guano, and operations were transferred to mining this mineral.

Phosphates are a valuable constituent of gunpowder amongst as well as several other uses. Great Britain claimed the island in 1869 by planting a flag staff there for fear the Americans might do the same. Queen Victoria made the island part of the responsibility of the Governor of the Leeward Islands and a few years later in 1872, Redonda was taken in as part of the Parish of St. John's.

The Redonda Phosphate Company, an American firm, employed over a hundred Montserratians to mine the rock of guano as the material was called. The company paid the British government as represented in Antigua a royalty of 20 cents a ton. The best deposits of guano were on the northern part of the island, and indeed a horizontal shaft or cave can still be visited today. It is called Centaur's Cave.


Baskets of rock were headed the length of the island by workmen to a small plateau on the southern end where there was the head of a cableway. In its buckets the valuable guano was lowered to a stone pier, where it was taken out to steamers in barges.

At the outbreak of Word War I, quarrying stopped due to shipping problems and because the market was mainly with Britain's enemy, Germany. After the war, the company kept a skeleton crew to maintain the equipment. Technical advances made during the war rendered further mining uneconomical. The staff remained until 1929, just before which a hurricane blew most of the buildings away.

Topography & Inhabitants Of Redonda

Cable Head Redonda Redonda's rocky terrain, coarse grasses, and prickly pear cacti are home to a wide variety of wildlife including hermit crabs, lizards, twenty species of small moth, sooty terns, boobies, frigate birds and pelicans. A noteworthy resident is the burrowing owl (Speotyto cunicularia), which became extinct in Antigua after the introduction of the mongoose.


The island is devoid of trees, though two were noted in 1979. In that year a scientific expedition, including a botanist, geologist, entomologist and an archaeologist visited Redonda. Insects include a beetle (Hymporus sp.), which is attracted to Redonda by the foul-smelling stench of nitrogenous excrement of sea birds. There are many goats of fine strain on the island. Their ancestors may have been left by seafaring buccaneers as a ready food in case of emergency.

Redonda Royal Characters

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