Chaplin, Gordon - Full Fathom Five; Ocean Warming and a Father's Legacy - 2013
Arcade Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, N.Y., N.Y. 10018
A look back on the reefs he had grown up on in the Bahamas with his father and mother in the early 1950's, when he and his dad became hooked on the fish surrounding the environment they lived in, and his dad became a scientist for the work he had done and the number of new species they had found.
Lots of family tragedies here, as to be expected from a dead broke Englishman from Wales, who married a wealthy American wife who was positively butt ugly. Kind of a reversal of the days when Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill, 12 years her senior, and bore the son that would become the future PM of England.
At the age of 7, in 1952, his father had snapped up the first commercially available SCUBA gear, invented by Jaques Cousteau and Emile Gagman, and this opened up a whole new world of the silent and the deep, long before there were things such as bottom time and depth, decompression stops or anything else. You were on your own down there, but you were free to swim with the fishes wherever you wanted to go. This is how he grew up - a surf rat; he and his dad collecting specimens of fish from tidal pools at first, and when SCUBA came along, into the deep.
His father became a world class scientist in his own right, despite no formal training in the field. His 1968 book, "Fishes of the Bahamas", at some 700 pages plus, is a classic, with painted and sketched illustrations of the fish they had found.
What the book is all about is what he experienced as a child surveying the reefs, and coming back 50 years later to see how Climate Change, and people, were having on the marine environment in the Bahamas.
The end story is that things are very bad, because there are too many greedy people flooding the Island with demands for fresh water and little concern about wastewater disposal. Ever heard of Cholera?
His favorite philosopher is Aldo Leopold, the father of modern Ecology. "It is the part of wisdom never to revisit a wilderness, for the more golden the lily, the more certain that something has gilded it. To return not only spoils a trip, but tarnishes a memory. It is only in the mind that shining adventure remains forever bright." Thus, his own dilemma - to return 50 years later and see what had become of his childhood's ocean environment, and the Bahama's themselves.
There are some terrifying realities in what is coming down the road, and soon. Certain radical factions of the biodiversity community predict that, at the present rate of extinction, most species on the planet will be gone within 100 years.
The El Nino effect of 1997 -1998 destroyed 20% of the world's reefs within 2 years, and everything they contain that took 2 million years to evolve and survive.
It takes his team almost 10 years to get data that scientists today require to prove a theorem, nothing like the winging it he and his father had done, while they had discovered hundreds of new species of fish on the reefs.
The end result is that all the once magnificent coral heads that stood 50 - 75' tall, rising of the sandy. pure white bottom, were 90% destroyed from pollution, overfishing, and complete disregard for the marine environment by Bahamian Officials, who were perfectly willing to unleash South African developer Sol Kerzner to build his Atlantis, which he added onto several times. May he burn in hell, if there is such a place. The officials lined their pockets, as they do everywhere, and turned a blind eye to what was going on, because no one was looking.
The end result of the study was the complete destruction of almost the entire Bahamian Coral Reef System due to algae (sewage), and overfishing. The teams census of a reef turned up 9 species that were not in abundance as they were 45 years before, where they had easily found 13 species of fish, and all the coral was vibrant with life and color. The spiny lobsters, a critical food source for other fish, had disappeared, as well as Mutton Snappers and the Margate Fish. The barracuda's that terrified him as a child were gone, as well, along with a host of top predators who used to roam these waters.
"Ye shall reap as thee dost sow." And that is what we are left with in this world of exploitation and profit - we have over 100 conflicts existing in our planet today; the animals who inhabit the earth haven't got a chance because a tusk is worth a years salary, and there is no thought to the value of what preserving those animals or fish could do for what they call eco-tourism, and only Costa Rica can truly stand out as a leader in that movement.
To the surprise of all involved in the study, they found and catalogued a vast number of fish that were there 50 years ago, but the disappearance of the primary food sources of the predators, along with the coral decimation and algae growth, didn't bode well for the future. The squirrel fish had disappeared as well, which was rare to begin with. Their study was the longest continuing documented look of a reef system ever conducted over such a verifiable time period, a blink of an eye in geologic times, but it decisively defined how the environment had changed.
in response to this, the Government of the Bahamas has set up huge marine parks, where fishing is no longer allowed, and the good fish are making a comeback, the parrotfish in particular. Commercial fishermen have devastated the oceans since the days of whaleing, and only the discovery of the use of oil saved all of them from extinction. In this vein, John D. Rockefeller was a hero to the fish in the ocean.