“One child home, and one to the fold” -- Camalo McCoy
His name was Sam Pedican. He was 55, a salesman, husband, brother, father and some dead mother's son. He lived in the Bluff settlement at the north end of Eleuthera, The Bahamas, and on a windy, overcast day of chilly squalls, Sam Pedican needed to get to Gregory Town, fifteen miles south on the Queen's Highway, a route that would take him over Glass Window bridge, the narrowest point on the island. It wasn't a sales trip, something he could postpone until the weather improved. He had to get to Gregory Town to arrange for a casket to carry his brother who was dying in Nassau. Had Sam Pedican seen the future he would stayed at home; or he would have ordered two caskets, for he had only hours to live.
Eleuthera, an island 110 miles long, narrows at Glass Window to an isthmus only as wide as the bridge itself. On the eastern, Atlantic side the highway is flanked by ridges leading up to cliff tops 80 feet above the ocean. The approach is thus blind on this side, until you actually reach the bridge where the deep blue Atlantic heaves into view. On the western, Caribbean side the view of the emerald-green Bight of Eleuthera is expansive. You can see for miles. Seemingly harmless, the bridge at Glass Window is deadly. Owing to the high cliffs that narrow into a recess at this pass, Glass Window is susceptible to what Bahamians call rages--enormous waves from the Atlantic side, some reaching heights of 100 feet, driven up as they enter the narrow, high concave of cliffs. Spawned by storms far out at sea, these tsunami waves explode into the bridge even on days when the sky above Eleuthera is clear and blue. The weather provides no warning of what may be happening at Glass Window.
The force of these rogue waves is tremendous. When Winslow Homer painted Glass Window in the nineteenth century, a rock ledge topped the structure, creating the impression of a natural window. It has long since been destroyed. The succession of highway bridges that replaced the ledge have fared no better. A rage on Halloween day 1991 knocked the present bridge 11 feet closer to the Bight of Eleuthera. Boulders the size of Airsteam trailers heaved up by rages litter the cliff tops near Glass Window, stark testimony to the power of rages.
Early on the morning of March 12, 1996, Pedican parked his truck at the north end of Glass Window and made his way on foot across the bridge in heavy weather, arriving barefooted in Gregory Town some time later. He took care of the casket business, made some other stops around town, and hitched a ride back to Glass Window. By this time, mid morning, the rain had stopped but the wind was higher. Small groups of people had gathered at both ends of the bridge, their progress blocked by waves 70 and 80 feet high sweeping in ranks over the bridge. No one was getting across Glass Window.