Being Inside the Fish Bowl of St. Barts (aka, We All Live in a Yellow Submarine)

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.

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.

Yellow submarine inside

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.

Yellow Submarine fish

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.

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10 thoughts on “Being Inside the Fish Bowl of St. Barts (aka, We All Live in a Yellow Submarine)

  1. Fascinating! Kind of a cross between the Catalina Island “Glass-Bottom Boat,” and the Disneyland “submarine” ride. Funny that it wouldn’t bother me if it was an airplane, but I can feel the claustrophobia just looking at that second shot.

    • I admit it was a little claustrophobic (and queasy-inducing), but fun nonetheless. I did a glass bottomed boat off of one of the Florida Keys last year, but that was definitely more open space than this. Would have liked to see more turtles, but did see a shipwreck.

      The real claustrophobia happened a few days earlier in a semi-cave I had to swim to see a waterfall. That was in Dominica. More on that in a future post.

      • Caves, mines, crawling under the house… no bueno. You were at Kiyomizu in Kyoto. There’s a ceremonial route at one of the temples in the complex that involves feeling your way through a long, pitch-black tunnel beneath the building. Took several tries before I could make it all the way through.

        Look forward to hearing more about your trip. Waterfalls are always good.

        • I hear you. I’m not a enclosed spaces person either. I missed the pitch-black tunnel in Kyoto (well, not “missed” exactly). This submarine thing was fine enough for me. As for the waterfall, I don’t have a photo since I had to swim in to see it and didn’t have a waterproof camera. I’m a big waterfall person too.

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    • I was amazing. Bobbing around like you were down there, without actually having the bubbles of SCUBA.

      As for aquariums, I love looking for the differences and specialties of each one, like the sturgeon in Beijing and the whale sharks in Osaka and Atlanta. The first place I saw big jellyfish displays was in Monterey. And so many more to see. Which ones have you been to?

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