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« Waterfall diving in Grenada | Main | Christmas in Aruba »
Wednesday
Dec262007

Diving in Bonaire

Last night after getting back on board after Aruba we watched Pirates of the Caribbean while drinking champagne in our cabin as the sunset over the ocean through our port window. We then had dinner with a nice couple from Puerto Rico and a family from North Carolina with solarium tans and ultra-white teeth. The couple from Puerto Rico told us that they visited Australia for the Sydney Olympics and thought that it was one of the coldest countries in the world. We also talked about whether Puerto Rico should become the 51st State of the US, or whether it should become independent. The couple actually wanted Puerto Rico to stay in the American Commonwealth, but for them to be independent in foreign affairs and trade, more similar to the position of Australia in the British Commonwealth than the status quo.

Last night was the first night where the ship noticeably rocked in the waves of the Caribbean, I guess it is more choppy here close to the South American continent.

This morning we reached our port in Bonaire. Lydia had arranged to meet a naturalist, Dee Scarr, to take us scuba diving. The diving was simply fantastic. We dove off the beach in the harbour, swimming first over the sandy bottom then to the reef. The reef was in really good condition, because anchorage in Bonaire is banned, with all the ships using moorage. There were beautiful hard corals, such as the bright orange brain coral, and finger-like pale purple soft corals. We were surrounded by different species of tropical fish in every direction. Dee's partner David went ahead of us to find the best spots for the wildlife, so we were able to feed Yellow French Grunts with some shrimp that Dee brought down and to watch Snapper Shrimp filter feed from their homes.

We saw several Goldentail Moray eels, and also a Spotted Moray Eel. This one Dee offered a shrimp to, it grabbed it in its main jaws and we saw it get racketed down into its throat using its pharyngeal secondary set of jaws. It then became irritated and swam towards me with its fanged mouth, before swimming off into a coral. We also found some sponges and Dee showed us how they filter feed by squirting a little food dye in the water near them. The sponges sucked the dye in and squirted it out of the top. We saw the touchmenot sea squirt, bonefish and held a sea cucumber. We visited a cleaning station and we watched Sergeant Majors guarding their nests of tiny purple eggs. Dee tried to show us how tidy they were by placing a small piece of coral onto the nest, the Sergeant Major just ignored it though, so she moved it onto another nest where the more diligent father immediately swept down to move the offending piece.

Finally, we also saw an octopus. She had made a nest between two pieces of coral and had gathered some bright pieces of coral and a Sprite can in it. Dee tried to remove the Sprite can but the octopus was very attached to it, suckering onto Dee's hand until she let it keep the can. It was really great to go for a dive with a naturalist who would stop and show us the animals, writing on her Magna Doodle while still under the water. After the dive we had a walk through the main shopping street of Kralendijk, before heading back to the ship.

Over lunch we had the misfortune to have to share a table with the most obnoxious couple I have ever met. When asked if they had enjoyed Bonaire they curtly replied "we don't get off the ship", and proceeded to complain that at the end of this cruise they had to get off the ship and recheck in for the next cruise, even though they were staying on the same ship.

Then unprovoked they started to talk about global warming and how environmentalists were a cult just like Marxism, and they were making it up because they wanted to keep their jobs as activists. They said that "to understand the environment you had to appreciate that God started the universe and created Man". They then started to rail against all the immigrants in the US, with a mangled complaint that the Mexicans were flooding in and going on welfare, and then their babies that were born in America were considered Americans and ended up squeezing "real Americans" out of Medical Schools, and that real Americans then had to go to foreign Medical Schools (a very specific complaint). When Lydia mentioned that we were immigrants in America, and that the work visa system was incredibly expensive costing around $1000 a year and involving huge amount of red tape (making it essentially impossible for anyone intending to work on minimum wage), they asked us where we were from.

On hearing it was Australia, they then started to say that it was just as well that all those convicts were sent to Australia, as they were able to build the country just like the American pioneers, and that the Australian Aborigines had had thousands of years there and hadn't built anything. Just to make sure that we understood how racist they were they went on to say that Africa was just the same, never developing any civilisation because the people didn't work. I'm sure that the list of close-minded topics would have been longer if we hadn't wolfed down our meals and left the table.

As a plus we just had an interesting talk about St Kitts. I thought it was odd that the cruise would organise a session talking about the history of the Caribbean, but it turned out that it was just a passenger giving the lecture.

He was a great (x7) grandson of Sir Thomas Warner, the first European to colonise the West Indies. While the Spanish had been in the area for years they weren't interested in building colonies, so it was only after the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Amada broke their grip over the New World that colonists moved in. The first was Thomas Warner in 1624. He landed at Sandy Point on St Kitts and grew a crop of tobacco. He returned to England in 1625 and gained a letter of patent from Charles I as governor over the island. Back on St Kitts the colony was swelled by a French party. This alarmed the Caribs, who realised that the Europeans were growing in number. They attacked, but Warner was warned by his Carib mistress Barbie, so he ambushed and massacred the Caribs. He slaughtered the entire population, such that he had no workers left for his plantations, and so he started the slave trade from Africa. He was known to boil alive or tear apart with horses rebellious slaves. They separated the slaves by skin colour - the darkest worked in the fields, while the lightest (the children of black women raped by their owners) were the house slaves. It is a horrible legacy that the Caribbean has to deal with.

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