"The Daily Observer", Antigua, Wednesday February 05, 2003
A Review by Karen Walwyn
Macmillan Caribbean has
recently published a wonderful book, "Shipwrecks of the Caribbean, a Divers
Guide". This is a beautifully and simply written book, enhanced by wonderful
photography of underwater life and shipwrecks.
This is not a book I
would normally pick up and read, for I am not a diver. I have an unholy fear of this
sport. I figure I was made to breathe out of water not in it or under it. The author
disagrees, but this is a discussion that I believe she and I will continue at a later
date. The delight in this work, for me, however, was discovering not just about the
mysteries of the beautiful Caribbean Sea, but about an interesting woman named Martha
We are used to hearing
her American accent on radio expounding on the rights of dolphins and other animals in
Antigua. We are used to hearing her urge Antiguans and Barbudans to clean up the islands
and have pride in the islands surroundings.
We listen and we wonder
who is this woman, who seems to work so tirelessly to make us (Antiguans and Barbudans)
more conscious of the rights of animals and mammals on land, and in the ocean? And, who is
this woman who desperately wants us to realise what a beautiful country we are privileged
to live in? Martha sits in front of me, thanks me graciously for showing an interest in
her book, offers me a copy of her first book on diving, "Diving Guide to the
Eastern Caribbean", and promptly begins to speak of her great love, dolphins.
"I am a
conservationist," she says on a bio sheet she hands to me, "and I believe with
every breath I take that to imprison dolphins in captive dolphin facilities, like we have
here in Antigua, is morally wrong and I will oppose this as long as I breathe."
"I am especially
against the capture of Antiguan wild dolphins. Most must know of the license granted to
Dolphin Fantaseas for the capture of 12 wild dolphins annually in Antiguan waters and a
number of groups will and are apposing this. I am fighting this to the end."
I blink at this most
auspicious start to our interview. This is, however, the same approach she takes to
shipwreck diving. Her latest book, "Shipwrecks of the Caribbean, A Divers
Guide", traces, documents and delves into the remarkable history and tales
surrounding the shipwrecks throughout the Caribbean. Each tale is unique and captivating.
Marthas book has
taken her seven years to complete after she has dealt with several hurricanes and various
other obstacles that seemed determined to move the shipwrecks to different sites, break
them up, hide them and a host of other handicaps all seemingly predestined to keep her
from writing about the hidden mysteries behind shipwrecks littering the ocean floor.
Each site is special,
says Martha, "and they should be treated with respect."
"This is not about
going down for a dive and finding gold coins and taking souvenirs back home. This about
understanding the stories of hard-working people, some of whom lost their livelihoods and
lives to the sea. The stories are not all wonderful and romantic."
Martha does not give the
coordinates of the sites, and says that preserving the grounds is a priority and one has
to be sensitive to diving companies and their territories once they decide to educate
visiting divers about shipwrecks in the area. Conservation, she insists, is what serious
and professional divers are all about.
She speaks of the famed "Christina"
also with much respect and reverence. "You notice that I dont mention that
site. That is because it is sacred ground to a lot of families and people who died in that
awful accident and they deserve to have their final resting place honored."
As I said before, I am
not a diver, but Marthas book was not difficult for me to read at all. I enjoyed the
history behind wrecks in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Kitts and many other sister
islands. Some stories were amusing and some illustrated the dangers involved in such a
sport. The photography is amazing and I would love to be able to take such pictures and
experience such colour and remarkable beauty.
What has impressed me
most about this book however, is that in spite of some technical points regarding diving,
which I was not familiar with, it is an easy and interesting read. It also gave me great
insight into a woman who has been in the diving business for nearly 30 years and now
regards the Caribbean as her home.
Through her work it is
clear that her admiration and respect for these Caribbean waters is a life long love
affair, which, I hope, will be continuing for many years to come.
Has she convinced me to
go diving? No. Has she piqued my interest in conservationist activities? Most definitely!