Arts, Culture & Media

Nicaragua: Uncovering a Ghost Town and the Dreams it Buried


Peter Stevenson found family ties in Greytown's old cemeteries. (Photo: Peter Stevenson)

For Tuesday's Geo Quiz, we journey to an abandoned town on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. We're looking for signs of its former inhabitants, who had hoped to build the hemisphere's first trans-oceanic canal.

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British citizen Peter Stevenson traveled to this former British protectorate to find the graves of relatives who lived in the town. They'd gone there in the 1800s, to work with US industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt who was using the trading post as a base to ship American travelers to gold-rush California.

The town with the big canal dreams was Greytown, Nicaragua. It's the answer to the quiz. That the English name of the town. Locals call it San Juan de Nicaragua.

"People would sail down to Greytown, get a steamboat up the San Juan river and then cross a narrow peninsula to the Pacific Ocean, and then sail up to California," Stevenson says. "At the same time that was the route that Vanderbilt was favoring for the inter-oceanic canal, which is now, as you know located in Panama. It's now in the news again here in Nicaragua because the government is looking for partners to develop the canal."