National Trust has transformed the historic site Nelson Island into a sustainable eco-development with the installation of a solar powered system to provide the electrical needs of the island inclusive of lighting, security systems, data communications, appliances and power outlets.
In addition, after years of depending on a boat to periodically bring freshwater to the island, a small desalination plant has been installed, driven by solar power, to produce all of the potable water required for use on the island.
Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said the project is in keeping with T&T’s commitments under the Paris Agreement as well as a national policy target to increase the total amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources by 2021.
Nelson Island is one of a cluster of six small islands called the Five Islands located in the Gulf of Paria approximately 2.5 kilometres due south of Chaguaramas and due east of the prison island of Carrera. They are, in descending order of size: Caledonia, Nelson, Lenagan, Rock, Pelican and Craig. Craig is joined to Caledonia by a human-made stone causeway. These islands are the remnants of an ancient limestone deposit which extends from the hills of Laventille to Patos Island in the west. The Five Islands are covered with centuries-old intact structures, the ruins of houses, the remains of medical facilities, defunct military equipment, and other structural objects and artefacts. These are the vestiges of concentrated and layered human activity from Trinidad’s past. Therefore, these islands are inextricably linked through geology, geography and history.
Nelson Island has had numerous functions within the history of Trinidad. Before the 15th century trans-Atlantic contact period, the island was supposedly used as a trading post by the First People groups inhabiting Trinidad and the South American mainland. In the Spanish colonial period, the island was used as a way station between Trinidad and other Spanish possessions on the South American coast. Subsequently, the British initially used Nelson as a quarantine station for vessels hailing from ports under the suspicion of infection.
Later, the Islands was used convalescent and repatriation station for newly arrived and ex-indentured Indian Immigrants. In World War Two, the Five Islands formed a part of the Chaguaramas base and served as a naval station for the United States Navy. The island also hosted an internment camp for enemy alien internees from Europe and a detention centre for labour leader Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler who was held there for the duration of the war. The island was again used as a detention centre 1970 to house 50 leaders of the Black Power Revolution.
Nelson Island is now a heritage site under the control of the National Trust of T&T. It became a listed Property of Interest in 2019.