Saturday, October 31, 2009

Free trip to the Caribbean island of Antigua

Yes the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism group on facebook (go join them) is offering a free trip to Antigua and Barbuda. All you have to do is make a little video no longer than two minutes saying that you love Antigua and want to be flown there for Free and presto you are on your way to being entered into the competition. On facebook twenty five people have to click the "like" button on your video to get you into the competition. Once that's done you have to try to get people commenting and "liking" your video. I can't remember how they pick the winner, but hey you can win a trip here for two so check it out!
Antiguans can enter like i did, but we will only be able to give the prize to someone coming in from abroad. I was the only entrant before the original deadline so they extended it to give others a chance. Anyway, now my video is at the bottom and not getting as many views as the ones at the top. Go have a look and enter a vid of your own. If not have a look at mine click the "like" button and comment on it too.
I need more comments and more likes. If i win this competition i am going to give the prize to the person who gives the best comment below the video as to why i should give it to you. So you need to do two things. 1) get me as many comments and likes as possible so i can be in the top five selected by the tourism gang. 2) write an interesting comment that will make me pick you as the winner of my prize if and when i win.

Thanks! If that all sounds like too much you can always check it here too:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

whale watching tourism

Interesting article:

A study produced this year by group of independent economists located in Australia confirms that whale watching has become a boon to tourism in Central America and the Caribbean over the last ten years and is set to make a bigger contribution to the industry’s earnings.

Many Caribbean countries have been the principal beneficiaries of this growth despite the support given by a few of their governments to Japan’s yen for commercial whaling.

The study entitled, “Whale Watching Worldwide”, finds that the number of whale watchers participating in tours, grew by 13% per year from 1998 to 2008 and their spending in Central American and Caribbean economies increased to US$54 million from US$11 million in 1998. In that same period, the number of countries in the region participating in whale watching grew from 19 to 23.

Caribbean countries are at the top and bottom of the league table for the whale watching industry. Dominica’s industry is the most mature, following considerable assistance over the years from a number of non-governmental organisations led by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). At the bottom of the table, but with all the potential for a leap in the future because of its already large tourist trade is Jamaica where one operator is testing the opportunities to view sperm whales off Jamaica’s coast.

In percentage growth terms, St Lucia outstripped every country in the Caribbean and Central America. From 65 whale watchers in 1998, St Lucia had 16,650 watchers in 2008 – a growth of 74.1%. In volume terms, however, Costa Rica surpassed all other regional countries moving from 1,227 in 1998 to 105,617 for a 56.1% increase.

St Lucia is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) whose members have supported Japan at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) as the government in Tokyo, in response to lobbying from a small but influential Whaling Association, has sought to extend and expand commercial whaling. In 2008, the government of Dominica – another OECS member – abandoned its support for the Japanese position acknowledging that support for whale killing is not in keeping with Dominica’s desire to promote tourism as a nature island.

The number of Dominica’s whale watchers rose from 5,000 in 1998 to 14,500 in 2008 – a growth of 11.2%. This growth was obviously far less than St Lucia’s 74.1%, and it was even behind St Vincent and the Grenadines at 13.3% but this is due to the fact that Dominica has been offering whale watching as part of its tourist attractions longer than its two neighbours, and it started at a bigger base number than they did.

In 2008, Dominica earned US$1.78 million from whale watching, while St Lucia received US$1.57 million and St Vincent and the Grenadines got only US$206,000.

Antigua and Barbuda – another OECS member and one with a relatively bigger tourism industry than the others – has not traditionally promoted whale watching as part of its tourism product and therefore it has not developed significant whale watching operations. But, in 2008, five hundred persons went whale watching there, spending just under US$1,000 a head directly and indirectly in the economy.

The lead country in the region is Costa Rica which alone earned US$21.1 million from the whale watching industry in 2006, having started it in 1994. Its closest rival is the Dominican Republic, which, in 2008, pulled in close to US$9 million.

In both these countries, whale watching has been encouraged and promoted by the government, the tourism authorities, the hotels and the calling cruise ships. They have also been strongly against whale killing and despite diplomatic and commercial relations with Japan, they have opposed that country’s whale killing stance.

This contribution by whale watching to economic growth in Central American and Caribbean countries has not been limited to this region alone. The AustraliaĆ¢€based firm, Economists at Large & Associates, that conducted the study, showed that “more than 13 million people took whale watching tours in 2008 in 119 countries worldwide, generating a whopping $2.1 billion in total expenditures during 2008”. The report also documents dramatic growth of the whale watching industry in Asia, the Pacific, South America, the Caribbean and Europe, significantly outpacing global tourism growth rates over the past decade.

As Patrick Ramage of IFAW pointed out in the Preface to the study, “growth like this means jobs: more than 3,000 whale watching operations around the world now employ an estimated 13,200 people”.

Against this background it is not surprising that many countries in South and Central America, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America strongly resist the threat to 30 years of whale conservation posed by Japan and a handful of European nations.

Iceland was roundly condemned earlier this month by 26 countries which called on the Icelandic government to reassess its current whaling operations and end commercial whaling. Among the 26 countries were Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Panama, Sweden, The United Kingdom, The United States of America and Uruguay.

Iceland's previous administration granted a huge quota of both minke and fin whales for commercial hunting, but commercial whaling is supposed to be banned and fin whales are listed as endangered species. What is more Icelanders have no great appetite for whale meat; the plan is to sell it to Japan. And whaling is no solution to Iceland’s present problems. Its economy crashed last year in the global financial crisis. Tourism is essential to its economy, and whale watching is one of the fastest growing sectors. Whale watching, not whale killing, is the industry Iceland should be strongly protecting and advocating.

That observation is equally valid for those Caribbean countries who currently support Japan’s desire for commercial killing of whales – there is nothing for them in whale killing. Whale watching brings them revenue, jobs and another string to their tourism bow. As IFAW’s Patrick Ramage aptly puts it, “whales should be seen and not hurt”.

http://www.caribbea nnetnews. com/news- 19505--6- 6--.html

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Environmental Awareness Group update

The Environmental Awareness Group had their Annual General Meeting scheduled for last Saturday night. As you may have read, this AGM was cancelled by the board a few days before without a vote, and then the members were invited to come to the meeting to vote on moving it to a date to be announced. This all seemed very strange to me. Anyway, I went to the meeting and tried to figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, several key board members were not at this meeting, and it was all quite confusing. At the meeting we were told that the AGM was cancelled because the financials were not in order. Either way, we voted against moving the meeting. This was very strange if you think about it because the meeting was already cancelled. Why bring a motion to move the AGM when the AGM had already been cancelled by the board. One would assume that when we voted against the move then the AGM would go on right? No because it had been cancelled already. See how crazy this whole thing was? Anyway, we voted again on moving it until Nov. 9th.

Since then the bylaws have been dug up and they do say that the AGM and general election have to happen on the same day that the financials are presented no later than the end of Octover. The financials got totally messed up by a software glitch, and the board doesn’t think they can be done in time for the Nov 9th date. In fact, they say that it will take another 80 hours of volunteer work to get them sorted out. This means that it will have to be postponed again, so for now the AGM is on hold and will be announced soon.

To me this all just shows how much strain the board of the EAG is under and how much help they need if we want to see more help being given to Antigua’s environment. When the AGM and general election date is announced I will blog about it. I want to be on the board because I feel that I have the time needed in order to help conserve our environment. I feel that in order for the EAG to be very productive there needs to be some managerial chances made. It needs to be run more like a company and less like a government. In fact, it is a non profit company, and I don’t know any company that would be successful if it was managed the way the EAG is at the moment. With the blogs, and various other media that a few of my friends have used recently to promote the EAG there has been a very big spike in new memberships. I am sure that there are many more people out there who would like to become involved, but the EAG has to be a more proactive and more productive organization. The projects that they are involved in are excellent and need to be encouraged and continued, but so much more needs to be done. It will only happen with more interest in the EAG and more funds in the bank to get the job done. I think this can happen. More to come when we find out the date of this new AGM.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

350 day in Antigua

This one came in from a friend yesterday. As it happens Adventure Antigua is taking a group of 20 kids from a Penticostal youth group to clean up one of the offshore islands. I think we will hit maiden island which was until recently owned by Stanford. It is also one of the places i used to make a stop at during my Eco Tour.


On Saturday, thanks to more than a year of organizing by our friends at and others, citizens have assembled more than 4000 extraordinary climate actions across nearly every country, from the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef to the summit of Mount Everest. Now, by joining actions in our own communities, we can supercharge the day and make the climate movement impossible to ignore. Click below to see the events map :

The 350 day of action is named for 350 parts per million, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere that scientists say would be the safe for the climate. (At the moment, we're at 387 parts per million and climbing fast.) Already, thanks to organizing around the world, 89 countries have now committed in principle to setting 350ppm as a worldwide goal -- and the number has become a kind of shorthand for the fair, ambitious, and binding climate treaty that we are all working for.

On October 24th, at each event -- at rallies and parties and deep-sea dives -- we'll take a photo centered around the number 350. The photos from around the world will be handed over to waiting reporters, broadcast to the world’s media on giant screens in New York’s Times Square, and delivered directly to hundreds of world leaders and politicians in the coming weeks.

Gathering to pose for a 350 photograph might seem like a small action --- but when it's being done thousands of times in thousands of cities, it grows in force, showing global leaders a snapshot of the massive, vibrant groundswell of worldwide citizens demanding solutions on climate change. Let's make this huge.


Families and friends we welcome your support and participation at Runaway Beach (next to The Lobster Shack) at 2:30 pm this Saturday 24th October to make our contribution together towards climate change. Please bring garbage bags, gloves etc for a beach clean-up and then at 3:50 pm we will take a group shot with a banner saying 350 Antigua in support of this wonderful global event. Anne Granger has kindly agreed to do the photograph.

This is a wonderful opportunity to get our children involved, and to increase their awareness of critical world issues which affect each and every one of us.

If you can, please wear colours of the Antiguan flag and if anyone has an Antiguan flag to hold for the photo, bring it along.

See you there!
(Please See

Friday, October 23, 2009

The other thing about climate change which people have just figured out...

Climate change isn't all about Global Warming. Most of the international media has been focused on that side of things because it was easier to study and easier to understand. Of course many still don't understand, but what recently has become quite obvious to scientists is that the other part of Climate Change which may be even more serious for small island states like Antigua and Barbuda is Ocean Acidification. What the heck is that right? Well Ocean Acidification is a phenomenon where the acidity levels of the ocean are rising rapidly because of the huge amount of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) that the oceans are absorbing. Scientists used to think that by absorbing the CO2 the ocean was helping Climate Change by keeping it out of the atmosphere, but recent studies showed how much higher levels of CO2 in the ocean has caused a major increase in the acidity of the ocean which in turn has had a huge impact on the ability of shell and plate making animals to thrive. These shells and plates are made out of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) which has a hard time forming with the increased acidity. Most food chains in the ocean would collapse without the animals in that chain that produce shells and or plates. The organisms that make up coral reefs have had the hardest time dealing with ocean acidification and it's my opinion that this is the main reason that our coral reefs have been so decimated. There are a huge variety of reasons that the decline in coral reef is disastrous for Antigua and Barbuda.

1- with higher sea levels and less of a barrier reef there are certain areas around the nation that have had massive coastal erosion. Spanish Point also known as "White Bay" in Barbuda was once upon a time the favorite beach in Barbuda for locals and visitors. Over the past 15 years it has slowly disappeared with most of the erosion happening over the past 24 months. This sort of dramatic coastal erosion is most common where big Atlantic swell meets barrier reefs. As those reefs degrade more wave action and current meets the shoreline. Barbuda is most susceptible to this.

2- With coral reef facing increased acidification, they are less likely to grow. With other pressures like over fishing their survival is less likely. The entire inshore shelf fishery of a small island state will collapse without proper management if the reef is allowed to perish.

3- With less coral and fewer fish there is less sand being produced by herbivore fish. As has been talked about in this blog (click here) parrot fish and other such algae eating fish produce sand every time they bite algae off the coral. With less coral and fewer fish we have less sand being produced. With more sand being mined from our beaches and less of it being produced you don't have to be that smart to imagine what happens with higher sea levels and less barrier reef protecting the shores.

The time for extreme measures on protecting the reef is now, and I hope the government here get's their act together on the NEMMA. Please have a look at this video on ocean acidification narrated by the award winning actress Sigourney Weaver and put together by The Natural Resources Defense Council. (the first video is a long one really getting into the problem but the second vid is more to the point about coral reefs)

If this topic is very interesting to you, you may want to read more about it here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

EAG chanes plans again

Hi there, on tuesday afternoon I joined my dad and uncle on another Barbuda adventure. This time it was a little fishing and some turtle watching. We didn't find Suzie but did save some little turtle hatchlings that had been left behind deep inside the nest. Turtle scientists usually dig out a nest the day after it hatches out to see if any little ones were left behind. This nest had four little buggers that would have surely perished. This is pretty normal i guess if only one in 10,000 eggs will produce a mature turtle in the end. We let them go to give them a second chance. Anyway, this blog isn't about our adventure over there. IT's about the EAG's plan to change the AGM once again. Their website first said October 17th and then the 24th and now TBA. They have to vote to move the AGM and the election of a new board, so they are asking people to still come to this saturday's meeting at 7pm. I will be there early.
We regret to inform you that Saturday’s AGM will have to be postponed for a few weeks. The Board felt the postponement necessary for 2 reasons:

- Nominations for new Board members have not been pouring in as we would have hoped and,

- Our auditors have recommended a bit more work on our financial systems before we present our financial picture to you and the world.

Nevertheless, we still need you there on Saturday! We will need your assistance to pass a resolution at a Special General Meeting authorising the Board to postpone the AGM until after the end of October, as we anticipate with Independence happenings taking place very soon that we are looking at mid-November at the earliest for the rescheduled AGM.

Also we want to say a special “Thank You” to our volunteers who worked so hard at the SCSCB meeting in July, and to make them some presentations. And we also have a Video to show you!

The Agenda items will include:

- A resolution to postpone our AGM , until a date we are currently deciding on with our auditors.
- A special thank you to our SCSCB volunteers.
- A special pre-view of an EAG video, produced by HAMA , on landscape degradation in the Nelson’s Dockyard National Park , which is currently under production. We look forward to your feedback on this effort.
Light refreshments will be served. We hope you'll make every effort to attend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This message is for you.

The reason I say that this message is for you is that I think you care for Antigua and it's natural environment and I think you can help make some changes here in Antigua without that much effort. The Environmental Awareness Group has been the main environmental group here on the island forever and still is. They have done great work to help protect the offshore islands and their wildlife, to study and protect turtles and many other extremely important projects. They continue to do great work on these projects and hopefully they will never stop their hard work. For some time now it has been suggested that not enough activist type work is done here on the island and neither is there enough education or awareness being carried out. Personally, i don't think it would be wise to set up another environmental group at this point to accomplish this. After looking into the workings of the EAG I have come to see that they would do these things if they had more support. They are a small group of mostly older core members and I think that if we got some new blood into the EAG and especially on it's board then we would get more results. Antigua's natural environment is suffering at an alarming rate and the total lack of care and sense of responsibility shown by the various political parties is astonishing. I feel that the EAG is respected by the people of Antigua and Barbuda and could be moreso is it was given the chance to speak up. Recently it's voice has been quiet mainly because it's small support group has been focused on managing the projects that it has had minimal funding for. They have no money for running the office and to tell you the truth, i am surprised they have been able to stay alive.

I am begging you to consider joining the EAG in the hope that you can help make them stronger. Roddy (who took the awesome whale shark video recently featured on the bloog) and I joined last month upstairs of the museum on Long St. It was totally easy. $50 EC gets you in or$60 for the family. The annual general meeting will be held on Saturday October 24th at 7 pm upstairs at the Museum. From the sounds of things they need some new leadership and direction. Let's help them!

IF you need any more info on the EAG or this important plea for help you can call or text me on +1 268 725 7263. Here are some images to help you think about why Antigua and Barbuda needs a tiny bit of your help.

Monday, October 19, 2009

an image for your computer's background


I am using this one at the moment and it makes a good wallpaper for my computer until your next trip to Antigua or the Caribbean. IF you use the search feature in the top left hand conrer of this blog you can search for other wallpaper images too. Click on the one above to get the bigger version and then right click it.
No solid news on Suzie in barbuda yet. possibly tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Suzie the turtle was on land last night!!!!!


Yes according to the people running the turtle project in the Turks and Caicos, Suzie's satellite tracker gave long undisturbed signals last night from Barbuda. This can only mean one of two things. Either she has been caught which i doubt, or she has nested. As i mentioned in the blog from last week when we went looking for her, we had seen several green turtle nests over there. I hope that she just nested. The only thing i am worried about is the fact the signal came from directly next to the Lighthouse Hotel. Anyway, i called them and they have sent someone to go out and look for tracks. They knew nothing of any fishermen being down there last night. Fingers grossed. Check this blog for more info on this project and Suzie.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"The Passions of Eli Fuller"

When Myra Lake-Hughes emailed me saying that she wanted to interview me for an article she was writing for I thought she had me mixed up with someone else, so I replied to her and told her what it is that i did and asked her if she was sure it was me she was after. She said that she was sure she had the right person and she wanted to speak with me about my art. Now i knew she had the right person, but the wrong info about me. I had done some photos for the Woods Art Gallery a few times, but that was the extent of my art. Anyway, she sent me her interview questions and as i looked through them I still felt that calling myself an artist was a stretch. I then wiki'd "art" too get a better definition of the word. On that page
wiki says that
Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.
Reading that i came to the realization that there was no doubt that my blogs and photos met that description. Of course I endeavor to use these tools to appeal to the senses and emotions of the people reading and viewing them. Wow! I'm an artist. Wooo hooo. For years i have been saying that i have no artistic genes in me at all, and i guess i was wrong.
Myra used our interview and a few of my images and put together this article for Caribarena. Click this link.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The North East Marine Management Area - NEMMA

The World Bank and several other international aid donors through the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) set up a project called The OECS Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods Project or OPAAL, and Antigua and Barbuda was one of several countries that received aid. Today was the official launch of NEMMA which is the funded project here in Antigua. As the title of this blog explains NEMMA stands for North East Marine Management Area and it stretches from Beggar's Point off Prickly Pear Island in the North all the way up to Frier's Head at Mill Reef in the East. The United Nations Environment Program describes it as follows:
NEMMA’s vision is to be a self-financing, multiple use (yachting, fishing, tourism, conservation, recreation) protected area that maintains and enhances the natural beauty and unique biodiversity of the area, both terrestrial and marine, supported by an efficient legislative framework and ongoing awareness programs.
For more on NEMMA you can read further here. I can't tell you how happy i was when i heard about the NEMMA because it was something that i have been dreaming of for most of my adult life. In fact, I met with the former Minister of Tourism many times about exactly the same concept during my tenure as president of the Antigua and Barbuda Excursions Alliance. In 2004 the funding for NEMMA was agreed upon and I think OPAAL started sending aid to Antigua for its creation. My fiance did much of the consultant work which made up the plan for NEMMA. The Environmental Awareness Group was also very happy to hear about the project especially because they already have an offshore island project within the NEMMA. The EAG pretty much saved the Antigua Racer snake which was one of the world's rarest if not the rarest snake on planet earth. The project had funding to set up the NEMMA framework and to generally set it up to be run for a year or two on its own while the NEMMA board and the NEMMA manager organize themselves to be self sufficient. It all seemed like a good idea to me and to all involved in setting it up, but there was one problem....... Government buraucracy. The project's funding was intended to be for NEMMA's creation and implementation during the period between 2004 and 2010. We are now in late 2009 and there still isn't a board set up and there still isn't a manager hired for NEMMA. At a recent meeting between excursion operators, The Fisheries Department and the Environmental Awareness Group the Fisheries officer was drilled as to why these essential things haven't happened yet. I don't think any of us understood the answer that was given. Either way today was the official launch of NEMMA. How it was that NEMMA was launched today with no governing board and no manager is anyone's guess. I sat there listening to the speeches by the officer of the OECS Secretariat, two ministers and several other government technocrats and i wondered if they knew that NEMMA was being launched officially in front of the Prime Minister the rest of us without a board or manager. I don't think that they knew. NEMMA is totally useless at this point so why was the launch today. I guess i don't have all the facts on this one and must be missing something. The passionate speech by the Chanlah Codrington, Minister of State within the Ministry of Agriculture (and fisheries), Lands, Housing and Environment was a very good one, and i felt that he understood what this was all about. Later I took Mr. Codrington and a bunch of other people from this meeting on a shortened Eco Tour of the area within NEMMA.
What was way more interesting than all of this though was what we found when Leslie and I arrived in our boat at the Parham Fisheries Complex. As some of you may know from reading my blogs regularly Japan has spend millions and millions of dollars here in Antigua and Barbuda on fisheries complexes. Read more here. Keeping in mind that NEMMA is being funded by OPAAL or the OECS Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods Project which has an endangered turtle on their logo as seen here,

the sight of a freshly slaughtered hawksbill turtle caught my eye. OF course a slaughtered turtle would catch my eye no matter what, but seeing the bloody shell sitting there being photographed by the Japanese Fisheries delegation at the fisheries complex built for Antigua was just too much. Japan spent US $50 million dollars on Antigua and Barbuda's fishery so that we would vote alongside them when it comes to whaling and other such "fisheries" related issues. One such issue is Japan's fight for the Hawksbill turtle to be taken off the endangered species list. They would be so proud of their work here in Antigua i guess..... sadly!
Many people reading a story that told of Antiguan fishermen killing the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtles would be angry at the fishermen, but this shouldn't be the case. When i saw the turtle the fisherman called me over to chat about it.
He was ranting and said the following which i will write without the dialect; "She doesn't want me to spear fish and told me to use nets instead. I keep catching turtles and stingrays and I don't want to catch them at all. This is what happens though, and I'm not to be blamed. IT's her fault!" I asked who he was speaking about and he said "Appleton" who is the chief fisheries officer.

The Fisheries department has increasingly stepped up its fight to ban spear fishing around Antigua and has suggested gill net fishing as an alternative. Even the smartest of fisheries officers seem to think that there isn't anything wrong with gill nets contrary to the position of most other countries around the world. Read my blog on gill netting if you have the chance some day here. Like the photo on that blog, this turtle today seen here was killed in a gill net. The turtles simply can't hold their breath for as long as it takes for the fishermen to come back and check their nets. Without any regulation on the setting of these nets we see them in every cove inlet and bay around Antigua and I estimate that between 200 and 500 turtles are killed yearly on Antigua and Barbuda as a bycatch. We'll never know this for sure though because it's illegal to kill small turtles at any time of the year and illegal to kill any size turtles in the summer months up until August 31st. A fisheries officer came down while we were speaking with the fisherman and told him not to bring the turtles back to shore. The fisherman asked what he was supposed to do with the dead turtles he finds in his nets. He said he had killed 5 of them in the past month and 12 rays. This is just one guy setting his net several times a week. There are others who set them twice a day and six times a week. It is my opinion that the killing of many of these turtles shouldn't be blamed on the fishermen. The blam rests with the fisheries department and their lack of proper management. The chief fisheries officer told a reporter from the Daily Observer that she didn't think that there was anything wrong with gill nets and from the sounds of things is promoting the use of nets to fishermen. There are other very good fishing methods that they could use which are more profitable and more sustainable. Of course apart from the irony of me being part of this crazy situation, I then had to sit and listen to all these speeches about NEMMA and protection of the area. During one of the speeches the endangered turtles were passionately spoken about by the minister. Of course neither he nor the rest of the delegation (with the exception of the Japanese) had seen the freshly slaughtered turtles. While Rome burns we sat there and enjoyed the nice lunch put on by the Fisheries Department.
For the sake of the marine environment, I can only hope and pray that the ministers and the fisheries officers get to work and hire a manager ASAP to get NEMMA properly launched in a more significant way than just speeches.

Biggest Shark i have ever seen!

What was going to be just a regular dry Tuesday afternoon of office work and powerboat design dramatically changed when I received a text from Greg the helicopter pilot. Greg always gives us interesting sightings via text or phone call and keeps us up to date with turtle nests, whale spottings and other fun stuff he spots on Caribbean Helicopter tours. Yesterday it was "Whale shark 12 miles SW Cades...tuna too". I had planned on going to see my mom after lunch and then to meet up with Stevie and Gareth for some golf at the end of the day, but I knew it was still calm and the idea of getting some good shots of this thing sparked my interest. Xtreme was sitting on its boat lift with no work to do, so I called Roddy my main adventure partner. He is also on Greg's "interesting things" texting list had also received the info. Roddy is one of Antigua's main photographers and video guys and runs as well as his photo biz. His main photo and video passion is stuff in the water and like me, he wants to show people the other side of Antigua. "LETS GO", he urged. If you read the blog from a few days ago, then you know we had just been on wild goose chase looking for Suzie the turtle over in Barbuda. By the way, she has now swum around Barbuda according to the tracking software. I wasn't sure that powering off half way to Montserrat was a smart idea. That kind of run isn't cheap and we could end up only seeing blue water and a few flying fish. Greg texted me again saying he'd seen it on two Montserrat trips and that he figured the tuna were a meter long. Ok that was it. I texted a few people who I thought could possibly come with us on short notice. Of course I forgot many people who I should have texted, but within 40 minutes six of us were accelerating out of Jolly Harbour on a course 13 miles to our south-west.
It was choppier than I thought it was but the skies were sunny and clear. When we were a mile away from the GPS point that Greg had sent me I spotted some Frigate birds off to the East and made the decision to go to them instead of the position Greg had given me. As all fishermen know, frigate birds feeding in the Atlantic mean that large fish are chasing small fish out of the water. Frigates can't get wet and will swoop down and pick fish right out of the air as the larger fish chase them. These amazing birds will follow big predator fish for hours sometimes waiting for them to find a school of flying fish or other small prey. As soon as the feeding starts you see the frigates dive down to just above the surface. As we approached the birds they were swooping down which told us there was action below. When we saw the big splashes from the tuna we slowed down and Roddy got geared up to go over the side with his camera gear. Keep in mind that we are half way between Montserrat and Antigua where the water is 780 meters (2,559 feet) deep, you are part of an active food chain when you enter the water. When you enter the water in a feeding frenzy.... you are taking some chances that 99.9999999999999999999999999 % of the Antigua and Barbuda population wouldn't dream of even in their worst nightmares. They are not Roddy Grimes-Graeme though. He's done this kind of thing from my boat many times and some of the best shark footage we have seen has been when we were fishing for tuna once with him. We had hooked a shark and Roddy just jumped over with his video camera and filmed it swimming up to get released and then it slowly swimming away into the abyss.
Just as we got into the frenzied area we spotted the shark. Wow, this thing was big and looked to be about thirty feet long with the typically wide head and very tapered body.

Someone said it had the shape of a massive tadpole. It didn't take a second for Roddy to jump in. The photo above shows one of the Frigate birds and directly below is Roddy in the bottom left side of the image. The land way in the distance is Antigua. "Holy sh%$, you have to see this", he yelled back.
The way this particular feeding frenzy was working was that at the very bottom of the visible food chain was a huge school of krill and I could see the reddish pink colour from time to time in the middle of the chaos. Feeding on the krill was the guy we all came to see. The Whale Shark is one of nature's most amazing species and the biggest fish in the ocean. Like the even bigger whales that migrate through our waters, these big animals don't eat fish at all and only feed on these tiny plankton like creatures.

Yesterday it wasn't just a 30 foot shark that was feeding on the krill, there were also huge schools of two inch long fish which would stay deep when we got close according to Roddy. Feeding on them were the wild schools of black fin tuna that were averaging about five to ten pounds. Also feeding on the small fish and on some of the black fin tuna were the much bigger yellowfin tuna which probably were up to two hundred pounds. Also feeding on both sizes of tuna were the other larger predators like blue marlin and pelagic sharks. Roddy didn't see any bill fish but did see one carnivore which he thinks was a Dusky Shark.
It swam right up to him looking at him with his left eye and then his right and he slowly waved his tail from side to side coming as close as only a few feet before slowly turning back down into the blue. When Roddy, said to come over to him I knew he had seen a "real" shark, because Roddy never needs the boat to be close. Shortly after that all went quiet.

We searched for another 45 minutes for the exciting food chain but couldn't spot a thing. Just after we gave up and started powering back to Antigua, my sister pointed behind us at the huge plume of an ash cloud erupting from Montserrat's volcano. The eruption was pretty big and as I looked back at it I saw a frigate diving out of the sky from way up. With that I made a sharp turn to go back for a second look. This time I jumped over when we luckily found the whale shark. It's two huge remora fish stuck to it's sides added to the amazing wonder that I saw below me. Unlike Roddy, I wasn't going far from the boat. In fact, Mykl said not to as there wasn't anyone else to drive the boat. lol I know why she didn't want me going far and she didn't have to worry. Roddy took some more photo and video before we finally made the trip back home. Roddy had missed some similar adventures in recent years and was so happy to have done this. It was the second time I had seen this kind of thing, but well worth the trip. We can only hope that Greg doesn't lose our numbers!

This very quickly done video was provided by Roddy of to show some of the action. Thanks Roddy for keeping the memory alive!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

tell the stories....especially the ones never heard.

You know, i have found it interesting that after nearly three years of writing this blog, i haven't found any other Antiguan bloggers who write regularly. I hope that some of the readers of this blog will point me in the direction of other Antiguan blogs because it would be nice to read them. A journalist recently asked me why i chose photography as an art form. They were interviewing me for's art section. I told them that i didn't consider myself an artist really but that if my writings and photos were combined i guess i am a sort of artist. Anyway, I told them that the main reason i write and take photos is to show a different side of Antigua. I told her that i felt that too many Antiguans and far too many people who come here only see one side of Antigua. My company, my photography, and my writing is all done with the idea of showing people a different story of Antigua and of Caribbean life.
Today my breathtakingly beautiful fiance who is way smarter than she is beautiful made me look at a TED story on the internet. Mykl is always giving me helping info and advice thankfully. This one is a good one. It's a talk about the single story and how it limits perception. Please have a look at the TED video done by novelist Chimamanda Adichie.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A barbuda trip having fun and looking for Suzie


Yesterday some family and friends took off in this amazing weather we are having at the moment on a day trip to Barbuda. Whenever it's very calm on a Sunday we usually do something like this. Leaving Jolly Harbour pretty late didn't matter that much because we could go faster than normal in the calm seas over to Barbuda. From Jolly Harbour to the spot Susie the turtle had been pinpointed by the satellite tag transmitter on her back was about 34 miles. We were there in an hour and as we got close we spotted a very large green turtle just south of Palmetto Point on the South West of Barbuda. No blue GPS transmitter like the one seen of her in this link.
We slowly cruised around the area of the last GPS fix, but we knew that this position had been received almost 24 hours earlier and the chances of seeing her were slim. When we passed close to the beach we counted a bunch of very fresh turtle nests which all appeared to be smaller hawksbill nests. We then cruised up to another spot which we knew was a favorite Green turtle feeding area. They eat a special type of grass which is quite common in the shallow beds around Antigua and Barbuda usually in about 30 feet.

We saw a bunch of big adult greens there but no satellite transmitter. No doubt these turtles make huge passages to far off lands just as Suzie had done, and I imagined where these guys had been this summer. After another 30 minutes we went up more quickly to another foraging spot close to Coco Point Hotel where we could anchor for some lunch too. Here we saw more green turtles than we have seen in ages. They were popping up for air left and right. Greens seem to take only one breath before going right back down to eat more grass. The hawksbill turtles will usually stay longer on the surface before going down. It wasn't going to be easy to spot Suzie, but we had fun trying while eating our lunch. I snapped a few photos of greens as they came up for air, but i wasn't fast enough to get any good images. No suzie either.

After lunch we went to have some more productive fun beachcombing and snorkeling on the east coast. I love looking through the flotsam and jetsam out there on the windward beaches and i also counted two big green turtle nests and found some lovely shells. My bro who has hardly had a Sunday off in years was anxious to get in some snorkeling so before sunset we went out to the barrier reef and jumped in. Surprisingly we found some lobsters. I was surprised because there is so much over fishing in Barbuda that i didn't think we would see any. It isn't easy these days. Here is one saying cheese for us.

Big John and my bro were not happy to leave them, but we didn't come to catch anything but rather to take photos and explore. After managing to make it out into the Atlantic by passing through a channel in the breakers it felt like it was time to get back to the boat. On the way in we passed some rays which were feeding on the bottom. IT was some good snorkeling and a perfect end to our day on Barbuda. We had to hurry to get out of the tricky reef while i still had some light to navigate. Once outside the barrier reef the calm ride back was a dream. We hardly ever have it so calm, but September and October provide these days and we have to make the most of them. Today we received the latest GPS fix on Suzie and as you can see in this map (her track is in Blue and our track from yesterday is in Red),

she has moved up the coast towards Spanish Point. We would have crossed paths yesterday and i wish we had a more recent fix while we were over there. In the shallow waters off Spanish Point she would have been very easy to spot. Next time!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy guests with Adventure Antigua

Not much time to write the blog today but thought you would like this one (thanks tracy):

From: Tracy Porter []

Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2009 5:41 PM

To: Adventure Antigua

Subject: RE: AA-Booking Xtreme Circumnav Confirmation Oct 1st x1


I just wanted to write and let you know how much fun I had on the Xtreme Circumnav on October 1st. I went on the eco tour last year and also had a great time. Tony, one of your employees, is such an incredible guy and he actually remembered me from the previous year which was incredible. I look forward to returning to Antigua and hanging out with you all again. Thanks for making the trip so much fun!!

Tracy Porter

Friday, October 09, 2009

Amazing story of how the internationally famous "Suzie" came to Barbuda

My brother Ali, send me some links the other day from a very interesting turtle project. All of my family loves sea turtles and have worked for many years to help these endangered creatures. Anyway, this link told a story about two turtles that were rescued (purchased) from fishermen. It must still be legal there to kill them. The scientists named the adult green turtle "Suzie" and placed a satellite transmitter on her back so that they could see where she went off to.

Most people interested in turtles know that where they live and feed isn't usually the place that they mate and nest. In fact, Mykl just came back from a major turtle study in Bermuda where they have no nesting turtles at all.

Historical records showed that all of the nesting turtles were killed off many years ago. Turtles return to the place of their birth to lay eggs and if you kill them all off when they come up to nest and or take all their eggs.... nesting will stop. That's what happened in Bermuda. Interestingly though, they have thousands of young turtles feeding there which arrive on the Atlantic currents and stay until they near maturity. The study she was on was carefully catching them and taking DNA samples to figure out where they were born. This would also tell them where these turtles would go back to lay eggs. Back to Suzie. Suzie was feeding in the Turks and Caicos islands and the scientists hoped that they would learn where this turtle lived or nested without taking DNA. I'm not sure if they were sure if she had nested in Turks or if she had been living there. I have a feeling that she was living there. DNA only works if you have a common sample from another area to match it with. Many times that DNA has never been taken. Anyway, my brother all the family the link showing "suzie's" movement, and we were amazed to see her swim straight over to the Virgin Islands. My bro and I had made that trip ourselves back in June 1995, and even on a 40 foot boat it wasn't an easy one. Suzie didn't stop there. She then made the voyage up to St. Martin. From there the google tracking map showed her swimming over towards St. Kitts and last night she arrived off the pink sandy beach of Barbuda's Palmetto Point. There are no more islands in that direction, so it looks like she may start nesting very soon in Barbuda. She may lay on average 110 eggs three or four times every few weeks before returning back to the Turks and Caicos. Because of huge variety of things that kill turtles the chances that one of the hundreds of eggs will make it to maturity are not very high. In fact, some scientists say one in ten thousand eggs will reach maturity at 25 years old. That's not too good is it?

This photo below was taken on the same beach over in Barbuda several weeks ago and shows the tracks of a hawksbill turtle. They need coastal vegetation to nest comfortably. In Antigua that's called "bush" and for some reason is seen to be something that must be cut down.
Anyway, Antigua will get some good press out of this one for a change if she makes it through her nesting without being killed. Our fisheries department here on the island is run by people and a government who in my humble opinion don't care about the survival of these turtles. They drew up new laws in their Fisheries Act which would protect these amazing species, but years later it hasn't been passed. It is still legal to kill mature endangered sea turtles after august 31st. We all know that it's peak nesting season at that time. It would be so easy to pass the the act, but this government, like the last one cares little about the environment and nothing about the marine environment. To the ministers: IT’S TIME TO PASS THE FISHERIES ACT WHICH HAS BEEN SITTING FINISHED ON YOUR TABLE FOR YEARS!!!!!!

If you would like to see if Suzie makes it safely back to the Turks and Caicos after nesting please keep checking this website link.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The True Story of six americans arrested in Antigua

Since this story broke there has been a non stop flow of bad publicity towards Antigua which I suppose is expected if the facts are not brought to light. Why the facts are not being put into the public and more important the internet's watchful eye is simply because Antigua is not very good at PR. The Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Department should have a proper PR department which is set up to out little fires before they get out of control. IT seems as though we here in Antigua always have some smoke on the ground!
The facts I will write here have been gathered from and The Antigua Sun newspaper, The Daily Observer newspaper and several people who were saw what went down. Most of the stuff that is written in the International press is coming from the people who have been charged.

The guys seen in the above photo which was featured today in the New York Daily News got on the Carnival Victory for a seven day cruise which stopped in Antigua back in early September. When they got off the ship here in St. Johns they were approached by a taxi driver on the boardwalk next to the ship. He asked them if they wanted to go to the beach and told them the rate was US $6 per person to go to Jolly Harbour's Castaway Beach. A few of them told him that he was ripping them off and that there was no way they'd pay that. The cab driver walked away as did the group of eleven young men and women from New York. Three of the eleven stopped and asked another cab driver what the price was to take the group of eleven to Castaways. He also told them that it was US $6 per person each way or $132 round trip in total. The tourists complained and said the same thing as told the last cab driver using words like "ripping us off".
The driver seen here in a photo taken from The Antigua Sun
Said that things were slow and he'd do it for US $5 instead of the US $6. One of the group said they wouldn't pay more than US $50 each way. The driver told them that the rate sheet says US $6 per person and even at $5 per person it was more than they were paying. Finally he gave in and said he'd take them.
According to court reports he took the eleven of them and even made a stop to a local shop for one of the girls to buy a phone card. She came back to the cab complaining how the card was a rip off.
He said he arrived at Castaways and wasn't paid anything. He had to wait there for them so that he could get paid. The stayed at Castaways. For the record Castaways is a beach bar and rest. which was closed at the time. One of the Taxi Association people was organizing a beach party for cruise passengers each week there where people could drink and relax on the beach. After spending time there the eleven tourists came back to the same cab driver and asked to be taken back to town. He says that when they got outside Big Banana Pizzas on Redcliffe Street just a few minutes walk from the ship which was in plain view as in this photo from the same spot, one of the eleven asked how much they had to pay. The cab driver told them it was US $100. Remember three of the eleven had negotiated with the driver. It was another of the eleven who asked how much they owed. Immedeately there was noise and cussing. Some yelled that there was no way they were paying more than US $50 and that they were being robbed. The taxi driver told them that he had already given them a $32 discount on the stated rate sheet charge and that he'd take them to the police if they didn't pay. One of the tourists yelled out "take us to the police". They slowly drove about a US "block" to the police station as there was plenty of traffic and people walking on the streets. When they arrived at the St. Johns Police Station a uniformed police officer was just walking in and asked the cab driver what was going on. He said he could clearly see that there was a problem and told the cab driver to drive into the station's yard. As the cab stopped one of the tourists jumped out and said something like "that fu$%ing nigger is trying to rip us off". With that the officer said he was placing him under arrest for the use of foul language in a police station. With that two others in the gang of eleven jumped between the officer and the guy he was arresting pushing and shoving. A female officer came in to help and was beaten to the ground by several of the eleven. From testimony in court a huge fight played out with five of the eleven INCLUDING THE ONES WHO FIRST MADE THE DEAL WITH THE TAXI DRIVER not getting involved. In fact, they paid their taxi bill and went back to the ship without getting into any trouble with the cops.
The other six have been accused of several charges including assault on a police officer.
They spent a night or two in jail before being bailed out facing their trial. Despite many reports the the contrary THEY HAVE NOT BEEN HELD SINCE THEIR ARREST! Their trial has been rushed through with them even operating on Saturdays. Many Jamaican and other non nationals have been saying that the tourists have been receiving special treatment with this speedy trial. I agree with them but that's just my opinion. I was attacked along with several other employees at the late night bar that i was working at by several thugs from London. These guys didn't want to pay a US $18 bar tab and became ultra aggressive when they were asked to pay up at the end of the night. They ended up throwing bar stools, beer bottles, glasses and glass ash trays at us. We couldn't believe that they could erupt into so much violence over less than US $20. Some people are saying that this isn't possible, but I have seen it first hand. Some are also saying that Antiguan taxi drivers are often trying to over charge people. In this case he undercharged them.
Carnival has pulled its ship out of Antigua leaving millions of dollars in revenue. Why have they done this? I think they have done this because most people on the net don't have the facts and are commenting negatively on the case. Bad reporting by the US media on this thing coupled with all the forum comments has fueled the negative vibe towards Antigua. Then you have the stupid Cruise Association and ALP here locally supporting the six tourists and the US representative too. There is no wonder Carnival pulled out. They were forced to by all the media hype against Antigua. In my opinion, this is one time (one of the few) when Antigua has gotten the bum rap. I keep thinking what would have happened had Antiguan's messed with American cops or if the 6 had beaten up some other cruise shippers here while on the island. If we had let them go without dealing with them imagine the bad press? The whole thing stinks IMHO.

5/10/09 Since i wrote this, 5 of the 6 changed their plea to guilty and saying that they were sorry asked for forgiveness. "The truth shall set you free"