Fort Kyk Over Al
Guyana Chronicle
May 5, 2002

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THIS may be the smallest fort ever constructed by the Dutch overseas. Kyk-Over-Al: the historic name of a small island, about 1.5 acres in size, is located at the junction of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers.

In the late 16th century, Europeans began to trade in the West Indies for salt, which was at that time a `luxury’ in Europe. European trade goods were exchanged for indigenous products such as annatto, which was used as a dye in Europe.

However, the trade was not economically viable as the quantities of items supplied by the indigenous peoples were insufficient. Thus depots were built to collect and store produce until the arrival of the ships. Two depots, one at Nibie, a small village on the Abary Creek, and one on the Pomeroon River, were established for his purpose.

The latter was soon removed during the early part of the 17th century to a small island at the junction of the three rivers, Essequibo, Cuyuni and Mazaruni. A small fort armed with a few guns was constructed. It was named Fort Ter Hoogen in honour of an influential Dutchman. However, this appellation soon gave way to the descriptive name Kyk-Over-Al (See Over All).

The British governed the island in 1666 for a short period. However, it was recaptured and fortified by the Dutch. Activities reached a peak in 1670, when a great deal of trading was done with the local tribes.

By 1716, the island became overcrowded and this resulted in the decision to construct a new house for the Commadeur at Cartabo Point. Dutch administration was relocated to Fort Island, closer to the mouth of Essequibo River. In 1748, most of the buildings were demolished and the materials were used to construct a sugar mill at Plantation Duyenenburg, which was located along the Essequibo River.

During the boundary dispute of 1897 between Venezuela and the British Guiana, excavations of the foundations of the remaining ruins and the bricks of the lower course were undertaken to clarify the builders of the fort. The samples taken were analysed in England. These examinations revealed that the bricks used in the construction of the fort were of Dutch origin. This knowledge was used to substantiate the claim that the British had inherited territories formerly occupied by the Dutch.

In June 1910, the island was thoroughly cleared of its undergrowth by an order of Governor Sir Frederick Hodgson. Many parts of the fort, including the stone ramparts and brick pavements complete with relics of Dutch occupation such as canon balls, glass bottles and several clay tobacco pipes were unearthed.

The ruins revealed that the ground floor was used as a storehouse for food and goods received from the indigenous and a magazine. There were three rooms on the top floor - one for the soldiers, one for the Commandeur and the other for the Secretary of the colony of Essequibo.

Today, all that remains of the fort is a brick arch.

On July 20, 1999, the island was declared a National monument. This site is maintained and managed by the National Trust of Guyana.