THE EDEN OF SAILORS
To begin with, Oinousses is a complex of small islands: Oinoussa, Panagia, Vatos, Pontikonisos, Gaidouronisi, Archontonisos, Pontokoudiko, Laimoudiko and Prasonisia. From the cluster of these islands, only Oinoussa (Aignousa for the locals) is inhabited with a population of about 900 inhabitants and an area of only 14 sq.km. Oinousses is located in the North Aegean, just 2 km northeast of Chios and 8 km off the coast of Asia Minor. The highest point of the island is 182 meters. It is remarkable that Oinoussa got its name from the word wine (in greek oinos), as in antiquity it was famous for its good wine.
The first reference to the island seems to be made in the 6th c. B.C. by Hecataeus the Milesian and later by Thucydides. In addition, Oinoussa is referred by Herodotus, who reports that the Phocaeans asked the Chians to allow them to settle in Oinoussa, after the destruction of their city by the Persians. The Chians, however, refused to give the island because they were afraid that they would lose the privileges they had from the trade there. To date, nevertheless, few excavations have been carried out on the island, with the findings being minimal, including residential relics and mosaics. References to the island are made again in the 16th century. A.C. when shepherds and farmers from Kardamyla of Chios, who initially settled in the present-day Kastro area where they were engaged in commercial activities. Afterwards, during the destruction of Chios in 1822 by the ottomans, the inhabitants of Oinoussa fled to the Cyclades and other parts of Greece. The fact that the cultivation and processing of mastic was an important source of wealth for the Ottomans, allowed the Chians and Oinoussians to return to their areas. As a result, the inhabitants of Oinoussa are now beginning to engage professionally in transport and trade. Particularly, the people of Oinousses transport wood and coals to areas such as Mount Athos, Thassos, Samothrace and Ayvali. In 1849 the Oinoussians built their own ships for the first time in Plomari of Lesvos, since they were not available for sale in the market.
Nevertheless, the island flourished financially during the Crimean War (1853-1856), when the Oinoussian shipowners carried out transports of the Ottoman army from Smyrna to the Dardanelles. Given that, with this money the ship-owners of the island managed to acquire larger boats. In the 1860s the first large hulls were built in Syros, Chios and Ikaria with a capacity of 120 tons. The voyages extend from Egypt to the Black Sea, with the name of the Oinoussian sailor, ship owner, etc. being established in the shipping centres of the world. In the light of the above, by 1880 their fleet was traveling across the Mediterranean and beyond the Straits of Gibraltar to Sierra Leone. With the development of steam-powered shipping in the early 20th century, the decline of this great era for the island unfortunately began, while later due to adverse conditions in World War I, ship-owners were forced to sell them. In 1923, the island’s ship-owners bought used ships from London and transformed them into new ones. Notably, during World War II the island offered a significant fleet of an average capacity of 8000 tons which is “lost” in the Atlantic, with the island remaining with few ships at the end of the war. The Americans deliver to Greece 100 “liberty” type ships, in replacement of those lost in the war, of which 14 are delivered to Oinoussa. Must be remembered that in 1960 the island’s fleet reached 150 ships, a number that ranks Oinoussa at the top of world shipping. Today, as can be seen, this number has decreased significantly with the inhabitants of the island having turned to other areas of employment.
HOW TO GET THERE
From the island of Chios with daily itineraries from the port to the city of Chios and last about an hour. Your arrival on the island can be done by sea taxi from Lagadas Chios with a journey time of 20 minutes.
HOW TO GET AROUND
You can tour the island either with your vehicle, or rent a motorbike and car for the "longer distances", but also of course in the classic favourite way for many, on foot.
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