Columbus was the first European to blunder into the Bahamas in 1492 and within twenty-five years of his arrival the Spanish had successfully wiped out all trace of the Lucayans, the peaceful native folk of this Caribbean archipelago. Paul Albury, a Bahamian dentist and amateur historian, writes with enthusiasm and diligence about the pirates, privateers, wreckers and rumrunners who smuggled, looted and scavenged so merrily, preying on Spanish and French shipping until the British sent Woodes Rogers, a ""brave and capable"" governor, to take matters in hand and put an end to the bold seamen's dreams of a ""Pirates Republic."" Rogers was the first of many royal governors; during WW II the unemployed Duke of Windsor held the post; finally, reluctantly, the Bahamians received their independence in 1973. Though ""wrecking""--recovering the cargo of ships that met with disaster--is still an avocation of the islanders, sponges, salt, tomatoes and tourists are the mainstay of the economy, though even the cheery Mr. Albury has to admit that ""poverty was the Bahamian norm."" But the natural beauty of the place apparently makes up for a lot and Albury waxes rhapsodical when evoking the ocean which is ""turquoise, but a turquoise which beggars description,"" the balmy climate or the marine life with its ""twig-like pink gorgonians; wispy, straw-coloured sea-feathers, and lacy, yellow and purple sea-fans"" in his equally iridescent, aquamarine prose.