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Bonaire

Uncommon Attraction: Snowy Salt Hills in Southern Bonaire

Uncommon Attraction: Snowy Salt Hills in Southern Bonaire

This great and gloomy photo from Bonaire harkens to the dreaded winter months creeping up right around the corner, though you shouldn’t fear that mountains of snow will be piling up anywhere in the Caribbean anytime soon. The white stuff here is actually salt. Tons and tons of salt, in fact, produced in southern Bonaire, the continuation of an industrial tradition that dates back nearly 400 years!

This history lesson starts in 16th century Portugal, which was controlled at the time by the Dutch. Salt was a major commodity back then from which the Dutch were profiting more than anyone else in Europe. They had effectively cornered the salt market through their extensive salt production operations in Portugal. Things were great for the Dutch until 1550 when the Spanish forced the Dutch from Portugal.

In an effort to regain their salt superiority, the Dutch set out to find new production areas in the Caribbean. In 1623, they arrived in Bonaire. By 1636, salt production had started, becoming Bonaire’s most enduring industry.

Today, Cargill Salt Bonaire N.V., a division of Cargill, Inc., operates the salt production in southern Bonaire employing a solar-evaporation method to extract all that salt from the sea. Bonaire’s warm, dry climate makes it an ideal spot for this type of salt production, yielding more than 400,000 tons of the white stuff each year!

This isn’t the salt you’ll find on your dinner table, however. Cargill makes big crystals here for water softening, as well as fine crystals to defrost the slick roads, walkways, and driveways you may have to maneuver across this winter.

So you see, if you live in a cold clime, these mounds will likely impact your winter in some useful way or another…

Lead photo credit: kasio69 via Flickr.

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