A chain of over 700 island s in the West Indies, extending from approximately 50 mi SE of Florida approximately 650 mi SE to Haiti, forming an independent nation within the Commonwealth, with Nassau as capital. The first land fall of Christopher Columbus in the New World, on October 12, 1492, was probably on the island now called San Salvador, or Watling Island . The Bahamas were claimed for Spain but were occupied only by slave traders and pirates until the English Crown made a grant of them in 1627. Over the years they were contested by British, Spanish, and even by American forces. Finally, the excesses of the pirates and other entrepreneurs forced the British to take firm control in 1718, and although Spain enjoyed a brief period of ownership, the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 finally settled them in British hand s. Slaverunning was ended with the abolition of slavery in the United States after the Civil War. This, with the termination of wartime blockade-running, led to commercial decline. Today the Bahamas survive on international banking and on tourism, enhanced by the island s climate and natural beauties. Independence was granted on July 10, 1973, with Lynden O. Pindling of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) as the first prime minister. In 1992 elections, Pindling, accused of corruption and drug trafficking connections, was defeated by Hubert Ingraham of the Free National Movement (FNM). Ingraham ruled until 2002, when the PLP took the elections and Perry Christie became prime minister.