Nature seems to know things before we do, even appearing to laugh in our faces sometimes at the things we disregard or fail to notice. It is always telling a story or hiding some sort of secret waiting to be uncovered. It’s just waiting for us to listen. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to subjects without a straightforward path or answer. Each layer of the earth holds the fossils of creatures who roamed the planet and understand it in a way that we could never comprehend. Outer space has so much poetry and purpose hidden in each individual star. And then there’s the ocean, our planet’s heartbeat, which without it there would be no stories to share.
I’ve been living in Bimini for a little over 2 years now, and I still discover my new favourite thing every day. Since the day I arrived, I’ve not only known the treasured history that this island has, but I’ve also felt it. There are shipwrecks run aground from hurricanes or sunken beneath the surface that served various purposes in their once busy lives. If I look hard enough, I can almost see them moving, with the rebar reforming to its original shape and the walls reversing from rusty to shiny metal to make an operational and functional ship. The Bimini Road is rumoured to have been part of the Lost City of Atlantis. Swimming among it, I can picture resourceful Atlanteans making a natural seawall with the land to buffer them from storms. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Bimini to write some of his most famous speeches, such as his Nobel Prize speech. When traveling through the red mangroves, I can imagine the overwhelming sense of calm and peace that he felt that inspired the words in his eulogy. Perhaps the thing that reminds me most of the beautiful history of this island, though, is the marine life.
[Sapona shipwreck. Images by Baylie Fadool.]
The ocean gave us life and continues to provide for us. Bimini and the Bahamas as a whole are largely dependent on the ocean as a source of food and for livelihoods. Without it and without its many creatures, the Bahamas would be a much different place. The incredible sport fishing in Bimini has attracted anglers from all over the world for years, such as Ernest Hemingway, to come and chase that big catch and the euphoria associated with it. The marine life around the island has also inspired multiple researchers to ask questions and understand more about our magnificent underwater world. Recent development around the island of Bimini, however, threatens the continuation of Bimini as a healthy marine sanctuary. After speaking with local Biminites, dredging and building has demolished the habitat of creatures that once thrived off of the lush mangroves and seagrass beds. They have noticed that alongside the development, shrimp and fish have been less plentiful. These changes among many others threaten the very thing that makes this island so unique and special. Whether people forget it or not, the land will never.
[Satellite imagery of Bimini in 2002 compared to present. Mangrove removal can be seen all along North Bimini due to development. Images from Google Earth.]
Off the east side of Bimini, an incredible discovery was made in 1989. Aerial surveys were conducted to better understand the geography of the island as part of the Quest for Atlantis I project. Multiple sand mounds were identified and named after what they most closely resembled: a seahorse, a dolphin, and inevitably, a shark. Shark mound spans a 500 foot area and has a tail closely resembling a lemon shark. The researchers spoke to Dr. Samuel Gruber, the Shark Lab’s founder, after their discovery, and he told them that the area surrounding the mound harbours mangroves that serve as an important nursery habitat for juvenile lemon sharks. Sharks and the marine life have been so crucial to the island of Bimini since the very beginning that the land had to pay homage to its treasured creatures by creating sand mounds resembling them.
[Aerial image of Shark Mound. Image from Ancient Apocalypse “Ghosts of a Drowned World: Ep. 4.”]
There’s something beautifully poetic about it, about how nature is holding and telling stories without using any words. We can find all the answers lying around us every day. It’s all right there. But, it’s up to us whether we choose to listen or not.