Chris Abbott said his research in San Salvador has been a highlight of his academic career. Abbott studied the spatial characteristics and land ownership history of San Salvador between 1760 and 1919.
Abbott spent much of his time at the Watling Castle Plantation region on the east side of the island. He examined land ownership boundaries, plantation ruins, period roads and agriculture plots to determine changes in parcel size over the years and learned more about land-ownership trends during the slavery and post-colonial period.
“I spent three days hacking, crawling, bleeding and pushing GPS buttons,” he said. “I cut a trail to the newly discovered slave quarters, delineated many more plantation boundaries and uncovered the original driveway to the oldest port on the island – and got poisonwood on my arms and feet.”
When he returned to campus, Abbott created maps of the island based on his findings, collaborating with Jack Livingston, SRU professor of geography, geology and the environment.
“The colonial period was such a dynamic era in world history,” Abbott said. “San Salvador’s island history is survived by a one-year journal, and many present-day Bahamians still bear the last names of their ancestral masters.
Abbott said he conceived the project for SRU’s “Field Studies” and “Oceanography” classes, which require independent, original and extensive research. When Livingston told him that large parts of the island were void of comprehensive stonewall mapping data he was off and chopping.