Las Islas del Cisne
Swan Islands of Honduras



Location

Islas del Cisne (The Swan Islands) lie in relative isolation in the Western Caribbean Sea at latitude 17 deg. N. and longitude 83 deg. W. off the coast of Honduras. (Approximately ninety-five miles north of the coast of Honduras and three hundred twenty miles west of Jamaica.) The islands are 400 miles from Key West, Florida, and 500 miles from New Orleans.

Maps

Swan Islands - Islas del Cisne
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Large Map of Swan Islands in Detail
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Three islands constitute the Swan Island chain. Great Swan, Little Swan, and Booby Cay. Fringing reefs are developed around the perimeter of the islands with the most extensive reef growth occurring along the northern shores providing for some of the most and spectacular Scuba Diving in Honduras. Great Swan is nearly two miles in length with a maximum elevation of 68 feet. Little Swan is about 1.5 miles in length by 0.3 miles wide with a maximum elevation of 78 feet. Booby Cay is a small cay off the southwestern tip of Great Swan only about 100 yards long. One can easily walk to the cay from Great Swan at low tide.

Weather

Current Weather in Swan Islands (Islas del Cisne), Honduras

Table of Weather Patterns

Notable People of Islas del Cisne

Brief History of the Islands

In 1863 the area was certified as islands appertaining to the United States under the Guano Islands Act of August 18, 1856 (Title 48, U.S. Code, sections 1411-19), and guano operations were carried on there for many years.

The United States' later interests in the Swan Islands involved agricultural production in coconut plantations and aids to navigation and communications, resulting in continued United States occupation and use of the islands. In San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on November 22, 1971, American and Honduran representatives signed a treaty by which the United States recognized Honduras' long-standing claim to sovereignty over the Swan Islands. The treaty entered into force on September 1, 1972. In 1982, the Swan Islands were named as a territory of Honduras in the Honduran Constitution.

Detailed History

There are many conflicting and fascinating stories on the history of this remote area. Until further research confirms any of the following, we have listed sites with various accounts here, for your interest:

Swan Islands, Honduras  Written by a PHD who researched the history of the Swan Islands, and visited himself. Great photos.

Swan Islands of Honduras  Latest online encyclopedia version of the history of the Swan Islands.

Radio Swan  This website has an interesting timeline, and claims that in 1850, a Cayman islander named Samuel Parsons attempted to claim the islands by placing upon them a number of goats which, over time, multiplied and eventually formed quite a large heard. When Parsons returned to the islands several years later, however, he found them occupied by an American phosphate Co. and all of his goats eaten by the miners.

Recent Information

Isla Del Cisne Appeal

Dr. Sylvia Earle has shot amazing footage in the waters surrounding Isla Del Cisne. In this video, coral structures off the island serve as home for a variety of fish species, and give the doctor a reason to appeal to President Pepe Lobo to protect the Swan Islands. Dr. Sylvia Earle is the most respected reef conservationist in the world and the next Cousteau. Her brief, intelligent, diplomatic and authoritative message to our President, promoting the protection and conservation of our reefs and Swan Island is beautifully portrayed in a humble and forceful delivery. International collaboration on conservation is based on long term mutual respect and understanding. Ocean explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle delivers a special message to President Lobo of Honduras

Swan Islands Expedition

Dr. Sylvia Earle, world-renowned oceanographer, National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence, founder of Mission Blue and 2009 TED Prize Winner, completed her first dive in the Mesoamerican Reef off the coast of the Swan Islands. Located 90 miles off the coast of Honduras, this region of the ocean, called a "hope spot" by Dr. Earle, is critical to the overall health of the ocean system due to its incredible biodiversity. Earle and her team are working in close collaboration this week with local scientists and government officials from Honduras to help save this area from further destruction by advocating for its official declaration as a marine protected area (MPA).

Yesterday, the expedition team enjoyed a hike through the Swan Islands where they captured photos of the native wildlife found in the area. In addition to exploration on land, the team completed a series of dives in the reefs surrounding the islands, where they documented the health of marine life, specifically looking at fish count and diversity and reef conditions.

Dr. Earle shares her experience and findings from yesterday's dive . . . continue Swan Island article here.

Information for Yachters

We stopped at Swan Island (Honduras) on our way from Key West, FL, USA to Colon, Panama. There isn't a lot of info out there on Swan Island for yachts, so here's what we found...

The island was occupied by seven young members of the Honduran Navy (in our case, 16-26) who do a 45-day rotation at "Islas del Cisne", so the reception you receive will be somewhat dependent on the commander and group that is currently stationed there. They did a reasonable and lengthy but polite search, and seemed to be mostly interested in undeclared guns although they did ask about drugs as well and had lots of questions I didn't quite understand regarding Cuba. The detachment on the island didn't appear to speak any English and will meet you well-armed, so be prepared with a bit of Spanish, patience, and friendliness. This particular detachment spent the mornings working and then went hiking, beach-combing, and swimming/diving in the afternoons. It's a miracle they were all able to show up on the dock in uniforms with low-cost M-16s as quickly as they did. They didn't have any sort of customs/immigration capacity (they wrote down our passport numbers, names, etc. in child's school notebook that seemed to be the official commander's logbook) so don't expect a zarpe, passport stamp, etc.

The dock itself is very rough concrete and will wear through lines quickly. The guys on the island don't have a boat, so you have to tie up there for them to board and search the boat. We anchored elsewhere afterwards because of the motion of the boat and damage to the lines. In general, the anchorage at the southwest end of the island had good holding, although it doesn't have a tremendous amount of swell protection.

We stayed a couple of days and enjoyed several social interactions with the Navy guys. We swam and dove with them, beach-combed, enjoyed an island tour, and played volleyball. I speak enough Spanish that we could have decent conversations and this group of guys was fairly friendly. As the rotation changes every 45 days, it's hard to say what you'll find, but it appears they're likely to be young, bored, and responsive to friendly, low-key overtures.

Keep in mind there are no supplies to be had. -- May 2009



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