As an aquarium nut I’ve visited over 40 aquariums around the world. Last week it was me inside the fish bowl with the fish outside looking in at me. Welcome to St. Barts and the Yellow Submarine.
Saint Barthélemy, commonly called St. Barths (or by Americans, St. Barts) was the last stop on my recent sailing cruise in the Caribbean. It was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus, who named it after his brother Bartolomeo. With a complicated history that includes slavery up until 1847, this tiny island (< 9 square miles; ~9000 people) is a haven for the unnaturally wealthy. The number of yachts bigger than my house was astounding to see.
Its long volcanic history heightens its mountainous charms and led to the rise of its encircling coral reefs. It was to these reefs I headed with the Beatles song humming in my mind…aboard a yellow submarine.
Technically it was a semi-submersible (or semi-submersed) and not a submarine, but the gimmick was an effective way to introduce people to the reef corals and fishes. Once out of the marina you move from the stylishly yellow surface deck to a long tube-like below deck. Essentially, you’re now inside the aquarium looking out at the inhabitants in their natural world.
As the submarine moves out of the harbor you start to see tons of fish. A handy fish guide helps you with identification, though the numbers of yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus for you nomenclature nuts) and Sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis). I’m sure you can figure out which is which in this photo.
There were also several species of Caranx, various grunts, the occasional pompano, angel fish, surgeon fish, parrot fish, and even a barracuda. We even saw a shipwreck. One highlight was a quick view of a hawksbill turtle:
We saw another sea turtle swimming on the surface as we took the tender back to the ship. There were also pelicans and frigate birds in numbers I usually see only for seagulls.
Somehow being inside the aquarium seemed appropriate. The trip took us to seven different islands, each of which offered its own unique character and excursions. I’ll have more on other facets of this science traveling in future posts. For now, it’s back to dry land to plan the next adventure.
David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.