Thursday, January 29, 2009

1:00 if by Land; 2:00 if by Sea

I keep thinking that someday I will run out of stories and I will have to stop this blog. In a way this has happened. Things that last year were crazy and new have become common place. Things that would illicit wonderment then, now seem ho hum.

Today is a good example.

I had a preservation meeting today in Salt Cay. This is a small island nine miles from Grand Turk. A five minute, seventy dollar plane ride. Yesterday I bought my ticket, leaving on the 10:00am flight. This is a good time to make a flight. This is also the only flight.

Needless to say, I went in to the museum this morning, had one conversation too many, and left for the airport only 25 minutes before the flight. Now, need I remind you, this is only a five minute flight.

9:40am. There was one staff member waiting on five people in front of me, all who had nothing important to do evidently. Time clicked away in slow motion. At five till, I took my ticket and ran over to the gate to see if I could just get on the flight.

9:55am. “That's your flight right there, leaving,” (Cut to: a plane zooming off the runway five minutes early).

I had missed the flight.

I drove to Oasis Divers to see if they had a boat going to Salt Cay. No, a Royal Princess docked at 10:00. Drove to Grand Turk Diving. Smitty is out with divers. Drove to Blue Water Divers. Jesse is out with divers.

10:20am. Received phone call. “Hello, this is Candy. We noticed you are not on the plane?”

10:30am. Received phone call. “Hello, this is Candy. Smitty is at the side of the Osprey. Can you get there in five minutes?”

Now, I want you to picture this. I was going to Salt Cay today to be interviewed on camera for a video documentary on Salt Cay past, present, and future. I was dressed up. I went to the Osprey and proceeded down to the beach. Smitty was waiting in a small dive boat, a flat bottom skiff. I jumped on.

The 35 minute boat trip to Salt Cay was not bad today. Swells were only between three and four feet. This is enough, however, for the boat to become air born. Wave, crash, splash. Small spray until we reached the end of the reef and open water. Then large swells and large splashes.

By the time we got to Salt Cay I was soaked. Not regular soaked. Super soaked. This is all I'm saying. It is 7:00pm right now and my underwear is still wet.

The boat captain was wearing a wetsuit. No big deal to him. I did make one good decision. I put my good shirt and my papers into the dry box. I least I would have a shirt to wear.

Anyway, I got to Salt Cay. I sat through a preservation meeting with the director of the National Trust, the District Commissioner, the Salt Cay developer, and several stake holders, discussing the lack of national preservation standards. At 2:00pm a crew filmed my comments of why Salt Cay should be preserved. A few minutes later I had a piece of Key Lime pie at Debbie's restaurant. At ten minutes to 4:00pm I started getting nervous that my ride back to the airport did not show up. Debbie gave me a ride.

4:10pm. The plane was late, making me still more nervous about being stuck on this even smaller island.

4:25pm. Caught my five mintue flight back to Grand Turk.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Going on a Lion Hunt

This week the DECR has a marine biologist from REEF on Grand Turk to provide education and training on the lion fish invasion we are experiencing.

The lion fish is an Indo-Pacific fish that was basically dumped out of a tropical fish tank in Florida sometime around 1998. It has since reproduced and invaded the reef systems from New England to Barbados. The lion fish has no natural predators in the Atlantic, reproduces at a very young age, and is an eating machine. Though small as reef fish go, it eats juveniles of almost every specie. It eats so much, that if not controlled it is possible that a lion fish population in the Turks and Caicos could eat all of the fish off the reef within eight years.

The thing that makes the lion fish a spectacular predator is that it is covered with barbs full of a toxic venom. If you get stuck you can go into a temporary paralysis.

Very nice.

OK, now to the heart of my story. We attended a lecture on the fish on Monday. Yesterday, we went on a dive to collect the lion fish off the reef.

Dinah, who is here for six months running the after school homework program, likes to talk about how nervous she gets having to exert herself, and how she is the most comfortable just sitting and reading, and how she has lots of anxiety about things on Grand Turk... But yesterday she went on a dive to capture invasive predator fish with venomous needles all over there body where if you get stuck you can go into shock underwater. I'm just saying.

We were partnered as one of several teams. I took the nets to snare the beasts. Dinah took the container to put them in. Several other teams were in the water, but we had a little weight problem and could not catch up with the other teams. Not long we came across our first lion fish hiding up under a coral head. It was very small. The trick to capturing them is being slow and working two nets around the lion fish until it swims into one. The key is to go very slow. Slightly startled, the lion fish swims very quickly back into and under the coral.

In time, I was able to trap this first fish. We brought it down to the sand bottom. I put my puncture proof gloved hand over its head. Dinah opened the bag. I put the fish into the bag. Presto, just like Siegfried and Roy we had put our heads into the mouth of the lion fish and lived to tell the tell. I was thrilled, but wanted to come back to the boat with two, figuring that would make us look like we new what we were doing.

We swam for several minutes without seeing another lionfish. Finally, back near where we had started we came across a bigger one. My heart started racing. I worked up far under a large coral with many holes. The lion fish was hanging under a ledge. I worked the nets around him but could only had room in one direction. I could not stay balanced and was finding it very difficult to not drift. I made a quick grab for the lion fish with the nets. Remember the key is to go slow. The fish swam up into the rock. We stayed and tried to make another attempt. But time and air were running out.

Working dives are very different than recreational dives. But in our swimming around we came across a five foot green morray eel swimming in the open. This was the first eel I have seen here at it was spetacular. We had snuck up on it and were within two feet. Crazy cool!

The two capture attempts had taken 55 minutes. I was pleased we had captured one and felt like others would see that we had tamed the lion fish.

It would not be today. The other teams came back with four, five, and seven fish receptively. Our sad bag of fish looked very lonely in that crowd. But we will hunt again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Return to Grand Turk

My conversations with Joseph are always interesting. And I am sure that what I hear is very different than what he is saying.

“Your face always looks very good when you came back from the US,” is how our conversation began.

“But this island makes you very ugly,” this is where our conversation should have ended.

“What?” said I.

“Judette thinks you look really good when you come back from trips off the island,” Joseph backpedaled. “But this island changes you. It makes everyone look ugly.”

I have lost about 35 pounds in the last year. I have a constant tan. I have been able to work out occasionally. I swim a lot. This island has changed me. Many of these things are for the better. Ugly is not one of the adjectives I would use, but I thought my sister Linda would love this story.

I have been traveling for the last 15 days. In mid November I flew home and brought Deneen and the boys back to Grand Turk on the Carnival Destiny. We spent six weeks together here. First in a small resort apartment and by Christmas in our rebuilt house. On November 5, we left Grand Turk on the Holland America Eurodam.

“The most spoiled people in the world being spoiled,” is how someone characterized our week on the Eurodam.

The day we landed in Ft. Lauderdale, Lucas and I flew to London. We stayed at the Crown Plaza St. James. How bad could that be?

On our return to Charlotte, N.C., we rented a car and drove to Columbus. I did our taxes, saw some old friends, and on Sunday I drove through the night back to Charlotte. On Monday I met with an exhibit designer who is doing a project for the museum. On Tuesday I flew back to Provo.

I have not seen Joseph in several weeks as he has been off the island for Christmas. He went to Haiti and then in to the Dominican Republic to get his hearing checked. He has problems with his hearing.

The doctor told him that he would have to get hearing aids. They are too expensive. He said the doctor told him that if he did not come back to the Dominican Republic and get help soon he was going to loose his hearing all together.

“When he told me this I felt inside like I had died.”

Joseph and I often have a hard time understanding each other. This I understood.

Oh, he also lost all his luggage which has never made it back from Haiti.

Thousands of miles of combined travel. Two very different experiences. I don't owe Joseph anything. I have absolutely no responsibility for his health or welfare. I spend almost everyday with him. And all I can think about is that I owe him a second opinion.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Living Monty Python Sketch.

What do you think of London? "I think London is a four-hour Monty Python sketch that is never funny." Lucas has always had cute things to say. Somewhere we have a scrapbook from when he was just learning to talk and he would be soooo cute.

The last four days have been a whirlwind. We have authenticated, wire transferred, and packaged. Today, I took possession of the earliest known image of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is a water color image of Grand Turk. It is a view of the west side of town from the ocean. It is a very significant acquisition and it is wonderful.

Aside from that we have been to the National Gallery, had tea ina crypt, seen a brass quintet at St. Martin in the Fields, been to the Natural History Museum, been to the Victoria and Albert Museum, met with a silver curator, transcribed a historic ship's log, went to the National Maritime Museum, and went on a pub crawl. Today, we had lunch with William Palin, who is almost single handedly trying to SAVE Historic Britain. Then, we went back to the Natural History Museum.

When we were at the Natural History Museum a couple days ago, Lucas read an exhibit on recent discoveries which included the skeleton of Lucy and the discussions of Australopithecus and Homo Habilis. The scales fell from his eyes. Today, he wanted to go back to go through the Darwin Exhibit.

Through all of this we nearly had fun. The pictures should show this. Here is Lucas nearly meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. And Lucas nearly on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory. And Lucas at Leicester Square nearly next to Will Smith at the premiere of Seven Pounds. And Lucas eating Chinese carry out nearly at China Town. Oh, and Lucas eating Chinese food in front of Will Smith, who is much bigger than he looks in the photo.

I have to go, there's a penguin on the tele.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


This past week we have been sailing on the Holland America cruise ship Eurodam. Last Monday the Eurodam called at Grand Turk with my entire family aboard. Almost a year ago we made arrangements to all go on this cruise, which was a Judson College alumni cruise. it was also a pseudo family reunion since we got to see my brother Bryan who is living in California.

Deneen and I decided that since the whole family was aboard we would join them in lieu of going home for Christmas. That was many, many months before Ike. Now, as it has worked out. The Eurodam was the way off Grand Turk for Deneen and the boys, since coming to visit over the holidays.

They came down the week before Thanksgiving on the Carnival Destiny. During this six weeks they evaluated life, opportunities, and options. We have made the decision that they will be living back in Columbus for most of 2009. Grand Turk is not the same as it was in many ways. Life is still pretty tough and there are lots of uncertainties about many things.

Seeing the family for the week was fantastic. I miss my brother Jamie more than I realize. It was good to spend time with him. I also enjoyed seeing everyone's kids. They are growing and changing.

We all lived near one another for years. At one time there were eighteen of us who lived with a few houses on each other. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, births, and we sang. In the past decade or so my oldest sister wound up in Wisconsin, then my brother moved to California, then we moved to the Caribbean. This was a great week of reliving memories.

We docked today in Ft. Lauderdale. Deneen, Martin, and Davis are on their way driving back to Columbus. Lucas and I are sitting in the airport in Charlotte waiting for our next big adventure.

Silhouetted Against a Deep Blue Sea

One of the memories that I will keep with me happened last week while diving on Grand Turk. Martin, Lucas, and I did a father son dive together at about 4:00pm. We were on Tunnels, which is characterized by a few really great swim throughs, large tunnels through the coral heads where you swim down and through until you are off the wall and the 1,000 foot drop that characterizes the Turks and Caicos bank.

Martin went through the first tunnel ahead of me. As I came through the tunnel Martin was just floating silhouetted against the deepest blue color I ever seen. At the last light of the afternoon. Looking into the abyss. He was suspended. Motionless. Martin and Lucas have left Grand Turk now. This was perhaps Martin's last dive there.

This past Wednesday Martin, Lucas, and I dove in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands out next to Buck Island. Just a standard cruise ship excursion, but we dove on the Cartansor Senior, a WWII era cargo ship sunk there in 1979 to attract divers and snorkelers. Evidently it worked. I counted over 110 snorkelers in the water right before we dove in.

Diving on wrecked vessels is cool. There is something surreal about the twisted metal. The Cartansor Senior was nice. The first shipwreck dive for Martin and Lucas. I have been on several in the past year. Though most sites don't really look like intact ships. This ship looked much like the Harold, which lays about 200 yards of the northwest beach of Grand Turk. I snorkeled the site in August with Justin. After this last dive in St. Thomas, I would like to get some video images of the Harold. Maybe a new project?