MARK CATESBY: PIONEERING NATURALIST OF EARLY c18


Mark Catesby Bahama Finch (Western Spindalis, Spindalis Zena)

Mark Catesby: Bahama Finch (Western Spindalis, Spindalis zena)

MARK CATESBY: PIONEERING NATURALIST OF EARLY c18

There’s been (yet) another abrupt side-swerve away from a topic I’d intended to post about, resulting from a newspaper article I read over the weekend. This concerns what was gushingly described as “the ultimate coffee table book”, a facsimile of Mark Catesby’s renowned work, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands.

Catesby (1682 – 1749) was a pioneering English naturalist and artist who published his magnum opus based on a number of expeditions he undertook from 1712 onwards. His was the first ever published account of the flora and fauna of North America, and the 2 volumes (with a supplement) included some 220 colour plates of the creatures and plants of land and sea that he had come across.
Mark Catesby - Angelfish

Mark Catesby – Angelfish

Mark Catesby - Queen Triggerfish

Mark Catesby – Queen Triggerfish

Catesby’s growing fame as a botanist led to his undertaking expeditions on behalf of the Royal Society to collect plants and seeds in Carolina. He widened his researches both in America and to the West Indies, collecting plants and fauna as he went and sending them back to England. Among other discoveries, he was one of the very first people to observe and record the occurrence of bird migration as a twice-yearly phenomenon.

Red-legged Thrush in Gumbo Limbo Tree (HM QE2)

Red-legged Thrush in Gumbo Limbo Tree

Eventually, in 1726 Catesby also returned to base and set about writing up his findings and painting what he had seen. He learnt how to etch printing plates, and gradually the illustrations became more sophisticated, starting without backgrounds then including plants with the animals and birds. The whole project took him some 20 years; quite soon after completing it, he died.

Flamingo Head + Gorgonian Coral (HM QE2)

Flamingo Head & Gorgonian Coral

 
CATESBY: THE VIDEO INTRO
WHERE IS THE ORIGINAL WORK NOW?
 
Catesby’s original drawings were bought by King George III for £120 (a very considerable sum in 1768 – my quick attempts to discover how much suggest ± £200,000) and have remained in the Royal Family ever since. This treasure is kept in the Royal Library of Windsor Castle, the property of HM QE2, though it is occasionally exhibited elsewhere. Later facsimiles of the original were produced, of which some 50 survive today.
Mark Catesby - 'Bahama Titmous' (Bananaquit)

Mark Catesby – ‘Bahama Titmous’ (Bananaquit)

SO WHAT’S ALL THE EXCITEMENT ABOUT NOW? 
Addison Publications has printed a very limited edition facsimile of 60 in 4 lavish volumes, printed one at a time, “to mark the 300th anniversary of Catesby’s arrival in the New World”.
catesbys_natural_history_9
The cost per set? A stonking £39,500 ($61,330). Now this may sound a great deal of money for a modern copy of an old book and it undoubtedly is. But here’s the Christie’s Auction catalogue entry for one of the early facsimiles. Mmmmmm.
CATESBY AUCTION JPG
Mark Catesby - plate 139 Hawksbill Turtle

Mark Catesby – Hawksbill Turtle

“Illuminating natural history is so particularly essential to the perfect understanding of it”                 (Mark Catesby)
Mark Catesby (Black-faced Grassquit)

Mark Catesby (Black-faced Grassquit)

Delphi afficionados, especially any who have stayed in Room 1, may recognise 3 of the illustrative images I have chosen – the Spindalis, the Bananaquit and the Grassquit. No, I don’t mean the actual species, I mean that Catesby prints of them are tastefully hung on the walls. I can never decide which of the 3 is my favourite…

RELATED POSTS

CHARLES CORY & ABACO 1891

THE PIONEERS (Wilson, Audubon, et al)  

MR SWAINSON (on his 224th Birthday)

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STOP PRESS Thanks to Woody Bracey for his interesting comment. More information about the Catesby Commemorative Trust and the book The Curious Mister Catesby can be found HERE. A slightly curious promo video was also released.

For anyone tempted to look further into the importance of this ground-breaking naturalist, the CCT produced a 50 minute film that is well worth watching if you can spare the time.

Credits:  Sunday Times (article), HM QE2, National Geographic, Catesby Commemorative Trust, sundry open source info-&-pic-mines inc. Wiki, Addison Publs, & my Bank Manager for declining to loan me the purchase price of the new facsimile…

PINEAPPLES REVISITED: SYMBOLS OF WELCOME & WEALTH (ALSO, DELICIOUS)


PINEAPPLES REVISITED – A SHORT BUT FRUITY HISTORY

INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

I rarely recycle old posts, though I sometimes rewrite them. Occasionally a past subject returns later as a new hot topic, usually because of some related event or news item. Suddenly I get a flurry of hits for ‘do manatees have toenails?’ or ‘does one good tern deserve another?’. That kind of thing. Right now – indeed for the past 10 days – the current sporting event in London SW19 (i.e. Wimbledon) has by a side-swipe of a mis-hit tennis racket affected the smooth operations at Rolling Harbour. The fruit generally associated most with Wimbledon is of course The Strawberry. Yes, they are now so expensive at the ground that they have to be sold singly. If you want Cream with it, they offer moderate loan terms in return for a charge on your house. A small cardboard box to eat it from is extra, though eating from your hand remains free. For now. But the fruit that is rocking the blog at the moment is the PINEAPPLE. I am suddenly getting lots of ‘search’ hits daily with various combos of the question “why is there a pineapple on top of the Wimbledon Trophy?” So I am rolling out my pineapple post from a couple of years back, slightly modified, which will answer this and many other ananatic questions. 

🍍  🍍  🍍  🍍  🍍

The first image below is of the handsome locally hand-carved pineapple that surmounts the roof of the DELPHI CLUB Abaco. The fruit lost a few leaves in Hurricane Irene, which scored a direct hit on the Club. As posted on the ABACO FACTS page (under RANDOM main menu) “the precise Longitude & Latitude coordinates of the Pineapple [on] the Delphi Club roof are respectively 77.1787834167480  &  26.20450323936187 “. But why is it there? Time for a Short Voyage around the Pineapple…

PINEAPPLE FACTS TO ENLIVEN YOUR CONVERSATION

HISTORICAL & SOCIAL CONTEXT

  • Brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his return from his second voyage
  • Taken on long voyages as a protection against scurvy and because of its long life
  • By the c17 royalty & aristocracy grew them in hot-houses (or rather, their gardeners did). King Charles II tried one, an event so important it was recorded by the Court painter Hendrik Danckerts 
  • By c18 considered a great delicacy and a status symbol of wealth, often the centre-piece of a feast.
  • If you couldn’t afford to buy one, you could rent one and return it afterwards. Someone richer than you would then buy it.
  • Pineapples were grown in pits of fermenting manure. In England Queen Victoria was not amused and soon put an end to that unpleasant nonsense
  • In the c19 pineapples were one of the most significant exports from Abaco
  • The Earl of Dunmore built a huge pineapple folly in Scotland in 1761, which you can stay in (We have. It’s a lot of fun)

     110-1004_IMG

  • On ‘Unter den Linden’ in Berlin,  the cast iron posts round the huge equestrian statue of Frederick the Great are topped by pineapples.

Berlin, Unter den Linden, Reiterstandbild Friedrich II                 Reiterstandbild_-_Friedrich_der_Große Berlin Wikimedia

CULTURAL SYMBOLISM

  • Pineapples symbolise welcome and hospitality, placed at the entrance to villages or plantations. The tradition spread to Europe where they were carved as gateposts; staircase finials; and incorporated into wooden furniture (including bedposts at the Delphi Club)

  • Seafarers put pineapples outside their homes on their return to show that they were back from their travels and ‘at home’ to visitors
  • An expensive fruit to grow & to transport; remained a luxury until the arrival of steamships
  • Their costliness made them status symbols / indicators of wealth and rank. Displaying or serving pineapple showed that guests were honoured. And, coincidentally, that the hosts were loaded.
  • In the 1920s the grandest dinners apparently needed both “a pineapple and Lady Curzon” (I have been asked whether this is Interwar Period code for some sort of disreputable activity… let’s hope the answer is ‘yes’)

           Ornamental Pineapple at Ham House - James Long @ Wikimedia

  • The future Queen Elizabeth was sent 500 cases of canned pineapple as a wedding present from Australia. She asked them the traditional Royal Question “Hev you come far?” Prince Phillip’s reaction was – apart from the word ‘pineapple’ – unprintable
  • In the play Abigail’s Party (Mike Leigh) pineapple chunks on cocktail sticks were used as a plot device to highlight the desperate social ambitions of a hellish hostess trying to impress & outclass her guests
  • A 1930s ad promised that by baking a pineapple pie a wife would make her man “smack his lips in real he-man enjoyment” (NB This may not work so well in the 2010s) 

By Appointment to HM the Queen

ARTS & CRAFTS

  • Used on Wedgwood pottery designs as early as the 1760s; others soon followed suit
  • Became widely used decoratively as a motif for gateposts, weather vanes, door lintels, wallpaper, table linen & curtains, and incorporated into furniture
  • Depicted as curiosities in early botanical engravings (Commelin 1697 Hortus Botanicus)

Commelin - Engraving - Ananas - Hortus Botanicus 1697

  • Featured in still life paintings as a crowning example of opulence (e.g. De Heem, Jan van Os)

                             Josef Schuster

  • Depicted in plant and fruit studies, for example these by Johann Christoph Volckamer, very early c18        
  • Occasionally found in Church stained glass windows (e.g. St Lawrence’s, Jersey)

Églyise_Pârouaîssiale_dé_Saint_Louothains_Jèrri Man Vyi * Wikimedia

  • Featured in music e.g. Pineapple Rag (Scott Joplin); Pineapple Head (Crowded House); Escape – The Piña Colada Song (Rupert Holmes); Pineapple Express (Huey Lewis); Pineapple (Sparks) 
  • Used as a motif on shutters in Marsh Harbour 

SPORT

  • The Men’s Singles Trophy at  Wimbledon is a silver gilt cup with a gilded pineapple on top of the lid. It used to mean “Welcome back, Roger!” Now it stands for the first British male singles win since 1937 (‘Go, Andy!’). [British women have fared rather better in the singles in that time (‘Go, Angela, Ann & Virginia!’)]

fedwin1_71759545_andy_murray_kisses_trophy_paScreen Shot 2015-07-09 at 17.21.12

MOTORING

  • Vauxhall produced the Vauxhall Astra Sport in ‘tasteful’ Pineapple Yellow. For the history of the use of the far more glamorous Bahama Yellow  in motoring history, click HERE

10 TASTY PINEAPPLE CHUNKS

  • The cocktail Afterglow is 1 part grenadine, 4 parts orange juice & 4 parts pineapple juice on ice
  • Piña Colada is rum, coconut milk & crushed pineapple. Omit the rum for a Virgin Colada
  • It is impossible, for chemical reasons, to make jelly with fresh pineapple
  • “Pineapple heat” was once a standard marking on thermometers
  • A pineapple grows as two interlocking helixes (8 one way, 13 the other – each being a Fibonacci number)
  • A pineapple will never become any riper than it was when harvested
  • Workers who cut up pineapples eventually have no fingerprints – a gift fact for crime writers
  • Pineapple stems are being tested for anti-cancer properties
  • Pine Apple, a small Alabama town full of pineapple symbols, was originally named “Friendship” but there turned out to be another town called that, so they changed it
  • Features on the Bahamian 5 cents coin…

  • …and  a $1 stamp

BAHAMAS PINEAPPLE STAMP

Read Jim Kerr’s interesting article in ABACO LIFE on Abaco’s pineapple past HERE

FRANCESCA BEAUMAN 2006 THE PINEAPPLE – KING OF FRUITS If you want to find out more about pineapples, their  history and social significance, you should be able to pick up a copy of this book on Am@z%n, Abe or ALibris for a few dollars “What?” I hear you cry, “you’ve managed a whole page about pineapples without mentioning modern advertising”. Shall I do so now? The man from Del Monte, he says YES

FOUR WAYS TO CUT UP & SERVE A PINEAPPLE

Sources: Own ideas + some magpie-thieving-borrowing from a variety of sources, many of which contain identical info and / or quote from the above book. Hope everyone is comfortable with that… NB Not every fact above is strictly 100% true, so expect to be challenged if you try one out. In particular Prince Phillip is of course naturally docile and gentle-mouthed…

POST SCRIPT The first 21 Fibonacci numbers (just add 2 successive numbers to produce the next) are

F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F6 F7 F8 F9 F10 F11 F12 F13 F14 F15 F16 F17 F18 F19 F20
0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 377 610 987 1597 2584 4181 6765

ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE, ABACO: THE OLD LADY’S BIG DAY


Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco

ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE, ABACO: THE OLD LADY’S BIG DAY

There are various overwrought ‘describing’ words that have become devalued and tired through overuse. Unique. Unsurpassed. Unparalleled. Iconic. However the famous and much-loved Elbow Cay Lighthouse could plausibly lay claim to any one of those adjectives. Let’s make that ‘all’. Earlier this year, following a meticulous survey, repairs and refurbishments were made to this stately 89 foot high, 101 step light that came into operation in 1863 during the height of the American Civil War. 

You can read more about the lighthouse, its importance and its machinery in various earlier posts (use the search box), and there is other material including details of the recent repair program HERE. This post is simply to advertise the forthcoming 2nd Lighthouse Festival that takes place in Tuesday June 23rd. The flyer below tells you all you need to know about the day.

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For this event, the students of Hope Town Primary School, in conjunction with the invaluable ELBOW REEF LIGHTHOUSE SOCIETY , have produced a wonderful book celebrating the lighthouse, with proceeds of sale benefitting the school’s volunteer programs and the Society’s ongoing projects. I am sure will be a best seller – make it happen!

10986656_10153399883840815_3126863414253161396_n11140378_10153399883870815_873890178916274603_n

As last year, the events will include an auction. Among the wide variety of items to be auctioned will be a 15″ x 15″ print on canvas of my photo of a Western Spindalis, taken on the drive of the Delphi Club and included in “THE BIRDS OF ABACO” (a copy of which was auctioned last year). 

Western Spindalis, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

Maybe a few more pics of such an interesting building are called for…. And a reminder of some key words to scatter liberally into your conversation at the event. Or anywhere, really: “Fresnel Lenses”, “Mercury Bed”, “Clockwork Mechanism”, “Trinity House, London”.Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay Abaco

Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco (Lamp, Fresnel Lens) hoplit22 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit20 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit19 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit18 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit17 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco (Fresnel Lens) hoplit6 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit4 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit2 Hope Town Lighthouse, Elbow Cay, Abaco hoplit3

And finally a wonderful photo of Hope Town centred on the Lighthouse complex. Enjoy June 23rd.Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

Logo of the World Lighthouse Society

Credits: Lighthouse exteriors and Spindalis RH; all interiors Mrs RH; props to Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society (and ?David Rees for the aerial view…); Annie Potts for her inspiring book “Last Lights” about the intriguing lighthouses of the Bahamas

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, ABACO: A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE (2) PRESENT & FUTURE


Winslow Homer G W Original Brooklyn

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, ABACO: A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE (2) PRESENT & FUTURE

Following on from my post last month HOLE-IN-THE WALL: THE PAST, it’s time to take a closer look at the ‘Gap-in-the-Wall’ as it is today, viewed from the sea. I’ve called this a ‘unique perspective’, but I’m sure many people have taken photos of HITW from the sea. It just that apart from a few kayaking ones from before the collapse of the arch, I haven’t found them. So I took some, thanks to the BMMRO and their research RHIB. 

Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 01 Location photo map

The view above is taken from some way to the west of HITW, and I have marked the main features that will be shown in this post. As one approaches the promontory, the lighthouse and its outbuildings are the only sign of human intervention to be seen in the landscape. Historically there were small settlements in this remote place, and some traces of these remain.

Hole-in-the-Wall Lighthouse Abaco (sea view)

Closing in on the former ‘Hole’, fresh damage from Hurricane Sandy’s destruction of the arch is still visible. It is more conspicuous on the other side.Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 03 Collapsed arch (Hurricane Sandy)

In this photo, you can follow the features from the lighthouse to the foreshortened promontory, the new gap, the small islet that now exists, and finally a small eroded outcrop of rock – the remains of an extension of the mainland, and probably evidencing the southern tip of another arch that collapsed centuries ago.Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 04 Light, hole and outcrop

Passing the outcrop and round to the east side of the promontory, further evidence of fresh damage can be seen, with the main shear being on the north side of the arch.Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 05 Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 09Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 07Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 10

There’s a fine view of the lighthouse from the east Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 11

As we started the return journey to Sandy Point via groups of whales and dolphins, we went close to the outcrop, land’s end (next stop, Nassau). Even on a calm day, it is still thrashed by waves, as the second photo shows: no wonder it has eroded so quickly…  See how it looked in the 1803 aquatint below, from which one can see how there must have once been an even larger ‘hole in the wall’ way back in history and long since collapsed even by then. Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 12 Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 13Hole in the Wall Print 1803

Then it was time to move on, having been fortunate enough to see the location from an entirely new angleHole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 14Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco (2015-2) 15

THE FUTURE

The geological future of the Hole-in the-Wall landscape is presumably that erosion and rising sea levels will sink the outcrop below the waves; the islet left after the collapse of the arch will similarly erode over the centuries, as in time will the whole promontory. Maybe as it gets thinner, another hole will be worn through by the waves. The restoration of the lighthouse, long promised, may perhaps take place. The nautical importance of the area suggests that the historic need for a light as both landmark and warning will continue. And who knows: even now, plans for wholesale redevelopment of the area could be on a drawing board somewhere…

Hole-in-the-Wall Lighthouse Abaco (Notice) hitw9

WINSLOW HOMER

The header image is the well-known watercolour by Winslow Homer (1836 – 1910), the original of which is in the Brooklyn Museum. It was painted in 1885 and is entitled ‘Glass Windows’. This is commonly claimed to be the famous ‘Glass Window’ feature on Eleuthera. However my own theory is that it in fact depicts Hole-in-the-Wall, Abaco. There are a number of good reasons for this, but the most immediately striking is the title Homer himself gave to an engraving of the identical view, published in The Century magazine (Feb 1887). This engraving pre-dates, and was clearly the template for, the watercolour. The rock structure and even the cloud formations are identical. And the title “On Abaco Island” seems conclusive of the location.

Hole-in-the-Wall Picture

Credits: All photos, RH; Winslow Homer painting, Brooklyn Museum online archive

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, ABACO: A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE (1) THE PAST


Map of Abaco (part) - van Keulen 1728

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL, ABACO: A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE (1) THE PAST

I’ve posted several times about the desolate, unpopulated area on the southern tip of Abaco known as Hole-in-the-Wall. It’s a place of history and mystery – indeed arguably the most historically, geographically and nautically important location on the entire island. The material in this post has to an extent been combined from earlier posts a couple of years back, since when a great many more people have been showing an interest in the wildlife and history of Abaco (thanks!) and may be new to the history and significance of HITW…

Although Abaco is identifiably – though not geographically reliably – mapped from as early as 1550 (only 58 years post-Columbus), the earliest map of Abaco showing any actual named place is the van Keulen map of 1728 in the header picture. The importance of HITW (‘Hole Rok’ marked on the east side) is clear. Indeed it is the only settlement shown. Thereafter, the place is mapped variously as Hole-in-the-Rock, Trou dans la Roche and Hole-in-the-Wall, before finally settling on the last name. HITW was clearly a significant nautical landmark from at least the c16. You can read more on this topic at HITW – A SHORT HISTORY IN MAPS

Incidentally, note the early spellings including of the word ‘Cay’ as ‘Kee’ in the bottom right corner – doubtless an explanation for the pronunciation today, when one might otherwise rhyme the word with ‘Bay’.

hole-in-the-wall-print-1803

The print above, dated 1803, is the earliest depiction of HITW that I have traced. For now, note the familiar ‘Hole’ between the two ships; and the outcrop to the right showing that another, larger ‘Hole’ had, by the early c19, collapsed. Remains of the outcrop, now badly eroded, can still be seen. Read more about pictures of HITW in SHIPS, MAPS & HITW , or in HOLE TO GAP, including a more recent print by Winslow Homer (below) which I contend is the proof that his famous painting ‘Glass Window’ in the Brooklyn Museum is of Abaco and not (as claimed elsewhere) the famous Glass Window on Eleuthera. Of which more another time…

Hole-in-the-Wall Picture

The sad fact is that although the name lives on and probably always will, in October 2012 Hurricane Sandy smashed the Hole in the Wall to smithereens, leaving what one can best describe as GAP IN THE WALL.

Here is the position of the Hole, shown before Sandy struck. Note the outcrop at the tip (bottom right corner), as seen in the old print above hole-in-the-wall-rock-abaco-location

One of very few photos taken from the sea that I have come across. There’ll be more, and much closer, in the next post Hole-in-the-Wall distance shot

The view from the lighthouse down to the ‘Land’s End’ promontory (RH)Hole-in-the-Wall Lighthouse Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

An aerial view of ‘Land’s End’ (with thanks to marinas.com for free use permission)Hole-in-the-Wall Lighthouse, Abaco annotated

The Hole, very shortly before Hurricane Sandy blasted away the bridge – the perfect place for a picnic…Hole-in-the-Wall Abaco ©Jessica Arrington

Or, as the storm approaches, maybe not…. Jack Bowers took this wonderful (and dangerous to acquire) sea-level shot – possibly the last photo ever of the intact arch427937_4820129308023_1041770732_n

Photos of the ‘Ex-Hole Now Gap’ taken within a very few days of the storm. Note the pale fresh stone HOLE-IN-THE-WALL ABACO post Sandy 1 Luc LavalleeHOLE-IN-THE-WALL ABACO post Sandy 2 Luc LavalleeHOLE-IN-THE-WALL ABACO post Sandy 3 Tara Lavallee

This post covers the history of Hole-in-the-Wall over the last 400 years or so, with links to earlier posts from a couple of years back. Then there’s a bit of a gap, I’m afraid, back to the LATE PLEISTOCENE EPOCH roughly 125,000 years ago when the landmass was formed… 

PART 2 will show how the ‘Hole’, the promontory and the lighthouse now look in 2015 from the ocean. During a recent highly successful whale-watching expedition with Charlotte & Diane from the BMMRO, we took the RHIB close to the point and took a seaward look at it from both sides, the first time I had done so. A few days before we’d been to Hole-in-the-Wall for birdwatching purposes by conventional means – the thirty mile round trip by truck along the track from the ‘Y’ of the Highway (NB no hire cars allowed). You can read an early post about this perilous adventure in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE…

HOLE-IN-THE-WALL LIGHTHOUSE: THE LANTERN ROOMHole-in-the-Wall, Abaco - Lantern Room (Keith Salvesen)

Credits: S. Wright, RH, marinas.com, Jessica Arrington, Jack Bowers, Luc Lavallee, Tara Lavallee, open source images

“THE ABACO BACKCOUNTRY – AN APPRECIATION” by JIM TODD


Click to preview The Abaco Backcountry photo book

Jim Todd has produced an attractive self-published book, available in 3 formats, showcasing some of the outstanding features of the less-frequented areas of Abaco and its waters. It contains many excellent photographs, with interesting notes and observations. There are places and facts in the book that may not be known even to locals! Below are some sample pages. 

Abaco Backcountry Grab 2 Abaco Backcountry Grab 3 Abaco Backcountry Grab 4 Abaco Backcountry Grab 5Abaco Backcountry Grab 7 Abaco Backcountry Grab 6Abaco Backcountry Grab 1

Anyone who loves Abaco, its natural surroundings, its ecology and its wildlife will love this book. If this post has whetted your appetite, here are some further details:

Available exclusively on BLURB (this is the direct link)

“The Abaco Backcountry draws on the author’s extensive exploration of the area to describe a hypothetical traverse of its length in words and pictures. It is not a guidebook but an appreciation of a unique Bahamian marine ecosystem”

56 pp, available softcover ($35), Hardcover, Dustjacket ($38.99) and Hardcover, Image Wrap ($40.99)

STOP PRESS In answer to a UK query, the Blurb price is shown in $$$. When you go to the checkout, the shipping is added e.g. $10.99 to ship the PB version to the UK. You can pay by CC or Paypal. The conversion to sterling (or presumably euros) happens… by magic

MAPPING ABACO: READ A NOVEL, TALK RUBBISH OR DISAPPEAR


Bahamas van Keulen Map 1728

Bahamas Map – Van Keulen – 1728

MAPPING ABACO: READ A NOVEL, TALK RUBBISH OR DISAPPEAR

I am probably the last person to twig the topological significance of Abaco’s location in the world. An email tipping me off about a TV programme led me to investigate further. There turn out to be 3 ways in which Abaco’s position in the Atlantic Ocean is of special interest. Two are geographic fact; and one is located in the grey area between myth and putative evidence-based supposition (if such a nebulous concept exists…). If everyone knew this already, sorry for being so late into the game. But you get some nice maps to look at, gratis, like the wonderful van Keulen map of 1728 above. About the only marked location on Abaco is ‘Hole Rok’ (now ‘GAP ROK’). For a history of Hole-in-the-Wall in historic maps, click HERE

1. THE DISAPPEARING TRICK?

Until the recent email, I hadn’t taken on board that Abaco is within the Bermuda Triangle. The island and its cays are contained snugly into the 60º tip of the western angle of an equilateral triangle based on Bermuda, Miami and Puerto Rico. The NOAA map below could not be clearer: Abaco is squarely within the triangle, if that is geometrically possible.

Bermuda triangle map NOAA / Google

I wrestled with whether to write an earnest discourse along the lines “Towards a Greater Understanding of Triangle Phenomenology”. Then I thought, Nah! If it’s a myth, what’s the point in examining its credibility. If it’s all true, I would’t want to worry you more than I already have by mentioning it… So you can do the hard graft if you wish by checking out the links below. Or you can just move on to section 2. Or relax in the sun, go fishing, find some nice birds, or have a Kalik or 3. 

THE WIKI ANGLE Excellent potted overview dealing with supposed position, the main ‘unexplained disappearances’, and the possible causes of these – both natural and supernatural. Frankly, this should do it for all but the most persistent, who probably are more widely informed already. 

SCIENCE CHANNEL The top ten Bermuda Triangle theories. Note: may not include your own pet theory of aliens from Planet Tharkron with their Pukotic Missile Rays

HISTORY.COM Comes complete with spooky-music video presentation. NB blurb nails its colours to the mast by using words like ‘Mythical’ and ‘Fanciful’ so if you are a believer you won’t want to go here, I suspect.

TEN WEIRD FACTS An informative video for those who want a bit more sensation.

2. WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH

great+atlantic sandiego.surfrider

Rowing through the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch (sandiego.surfrider)

Abaco also finds itself at the western edge of the Northern Atlantic Gyre. Strictly speaking the Gyre comprises a combination of  four main currents: the Gulf Stream in the west, the North Atlantic Current in the north, the Canary Current in the east, and the Atlantic North Equatorial Current in the south. It is not synonymous with the infamous North Atlantic Garbage Patch, which is contained within the geographical boundaries of the Gyre. The top image gives a broad-brush idea of  the central area of concentration of the Garbage Patch within the Gyre. Abaco looks to be well clear of trouble. But don’t be too optimistic.

North-Atlantic-Garbage-Patch-12Degreesoffreedom-300x204

North Atlantic Garbage Patch (12Degreesoffreedom)

Looking at various sources, there is some variation in the precise boundaries of the Gyre, though Abaco is plainly within it. Q: is it safely beyond the edges of the plastic peril? A: as any resident will know, the naturally pristine beaches tell a tale of constant plastic and other debris brought in on the high tide almost daily. The incidence depends to an extent on weather and wind direction, but the overall picture is of a relentless intrusion of rubbish on golden and white sand expanses. There is an extent to which what the tide giveth, the tide taketh away; and of course many beaches are scrupulously kept clean. NB I’m not trying to propagate anti-visitor publicity – many people will have experienced the same situation elsewhere. 

North Atlantic Gyre Garbage Patch wired_com

North Atlantic Gyre Garbage Patch (wired.com)

The research map above shows that, although the garbage hotspots and warmspots are well away from Abaco, the ever-widening circulating soup of plastic, rubber and metal has reached the island. Abaco is in the pale blue zone. Yellow is not that far off. Imagine what the orange or red areas must be like. This sort of thing:

garbage patch mail.colonial.nte

In some places the junk stacks up to form islands with hills

rubbish_telgraph.co.uk

Texas has become a standard ‘unit’ for large area comparisons. I notice that several sources describe the main area of the NA Garbage Patch in terms of Texas. But how big is that (BIG!)? To get an idea, I created a map overlaying Texas on an area centred on the Bahamas. So, Texas is this big… 

Texas / Bahamas size comparison

I’ve got more about some very specific rubbish to discuss another time, so I’ll leave you with the most interesting piece of marine debris to wash up on the Delphi Beach, a 12 ft ROCKET FAIRING from the Mars ‘Curiosity’ launch! Click link for more details. Rocket Fairing - Mars -Curiosity Launch - Beach Debris - Delphi Club Abaco

 3. A NOVEL PLACE TO BE?

The Sargasso Sea is named for the SARGASSUM seaweed found in large concentrations in the area. Columbus was the first person to sail right across the Sea, in 1492 (well, he and the crews of his 3 ships Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria). He noted the large areas of seaweed that his expedition’s ships had to plough through. Eventually he made landfall on San Salvador, Bahamas.

This fine Krümmel map from 1891 shows the extent of the sea, and you’ll see that its western fringes reach the ocean side of Abaco. Have you seen the seaweed pictured below the map? That’s Sargassum.

1891 Sargasso See - Krummel

Sargasso See Map – Krummel -1891

 A close-up of Sargassum – maybe it washes up on a beach near you…Sargassum_on_the_beach,_Cuba Bogdan Giușcă
EIGHT FACTS ABOUT THE SARGASSO SEA TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS
  • Jean Rhys’s famous 1966 novel ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ is actually set in Jamaica (nb the Sea is mentioned!)
  • The Sargasso is the only ‘Sea’ to have no land boundary, being entirely in the Atlantic Ocean
  • It is vital to mass migrations of eels, where they lay their eggs
  • Young loggerhead turtles are believed to head for the Sea for seaweed protection while they grow
  • Much of the debris trapped in the NA Garbage Patch is in the Sargasso, and is non-biodegradable plastic
  • The Sea is protected by Commission established in 2014 involving at present 5 countries, including (unbelievably) Monaco, the second smallest country in the world at 0.75 sq miles. Green Turtle Cay is about twice the area!
  • Cultural references include the track “Wide Sargasso Sea” on Stevie Nick’s “In Your Dreams” (2011)
  • There are loads of other literary & musical references but I lost the will to pursue them when I saw the inclusion of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’

If you want to find out more about Jean Rhys’s novel, read it or click HERE

JeanRhys_WideSargassoSea

 MUSICAL DIGRESSION

While writing this post I have had a song thrumming annoyingly inside my head. It’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’, with its coyly rhyming ‘look at it from my angle’. Now it’ll be inside your head too! I couldn’t remember who it sang it. Rupert Holmes? No, that was the egregious “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” (1979). Ah yes. Barry Manilow. Bazza Mazza. The Bazzman. As you’ve finished with the maps etc, here’s a musical memory with a counterbalance of the Stevie Nicks song mentioned earlier…

Those cover the Triangle and the Sargasso; what of the Garbage? Try some Fresh Garbage from Spirit…

OPTIONAL MUSICAL NOTES Randy California’s fingerpicked intro to ‘TAURUS‘ is remarkably similar to the later, far more famous guitar work of Jimmy Page’s intro to ‘STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN‘. And Spirit happened to tour with the early Led Zep. Legal action was commenced last year for copyright infringement, as yet unresolved… You be the Judge!

Credits: As credited above; open source; NOAA; mail.colonial; telegraph.co.uk; Sandy Walker; Bogdan Giușcă, Youtube self-credited; Wiki; Random Researches and Magpie Map & Fact pickings