PYRITES OF THE CARRIBEAN
A NATURAL HISTORY OF MUSTIQUE
Idly reading a Patrick O'Brien novel while lounging in the mizzen top as the brig Astrid ran down from English Harbor to Fort De France , I glanced up and saw the volcanic peak to windward seemed ashivver. So grabbing the mainyard garnet 'neath the futtocks , I slid down the ratlines to the quarterdeck to check the synthetic aperture radar--for Astrid, she be a post-modern brig , wired all Bristol fashion.
Sure enough, the williwaw rustling the cane fields of Martinique's Mont Pelee' was reaching across the sea-- it was time to shorten sail. From meteorology to ornithology and mineralogy, there's no avoiding natural history cruising the Caribbean. On land and under water , much of it is delightful ; but while Captain Raul King of Bequia once declared " Nothing in this sea will harm you", you do need to know enough not to grab the fire coral , poke the sea urchins , or steer afoul of its underwater volcano.
With so much to oogle, the naturally curious visitor might well need A Natural History Handbook to seek out, and sort out all the beautiful creatures, lovely corals, and sparking mineral veins. So I helped write one.
It focuses on a tight little Grenadine island, Mustique , wondrously rich in geology for its size, its hinterland swarming with the Pyrites of the Caribbean ,as well as the chalcopyrites, sundry glitterati , many birds of bright plumage, and ants, plants and tortoises galore. There are few sycophants and presently no elephants, it being deemed imprudent to replace the one Lord Glenconner seems to have misplaced on St.Lucia.
Migration having transferred all creatures great and small between the Greater and Lesser Antilles, A Natural History of Mustique is indispensable ashore on all islands Leeward and Windward
It is among the best illustrated Caribbean natural history books. Its 360 color photos cover everything from the very very big - whales ,baobab trees , and fortunately harmless insects the size of birds, to the amazingly tiny - hummingbirds the size of bees and a snake easily mistaken for a keychain. Every reptile worth oogling from St. Barts to Barbados, from charming geochelone turtles to lividly green lizardry, is vividly depicted in:
A Natural History of Mustique
It's published , naturally , by The Mustique Company, with a
foreword by a surprisingly intelligent London School of Economics
drop-out named Jagger,
ample underwater photos by an amiable Abbe' from the tiny island
of Mayreau, Pere Marc da Silva, and an all too brief introduction to
Grenadine geology that I heartily regret that I wrote since am now
doomed to import Geologists here til get it right. Harvard is sending
streams of Mustiquean iron, lead and uranium atoms through its
oracular mass spectrometers even as I write this. I wish I had never
mentioned the Virgin Islands lampropyres in this otherwise exemplary
While lubbers can fossick pyrite crystals from Virgin Islands lamprophyre veins, winning glittering chalcopyrite or glowing chacedony and zeolite crystals takes a raid on the Grenadines. More touristed isles, like St. Lucia are barely cooled piles of lava and volcanic ash largely devoid of minerals . But ancient basement rocks endow older relics of creation like Mustique with ten times the geology of most islands their size. If you're looking for a really hot diving spot, a brand new volcanic landmass is perking its way to the surface at Kickem Jenny bank, a long days sailing southwesterly.
My only regret is that further disclosure of the hiding places of the pyrites of the Caribbean will have to await the next edition- I went back in February to check out the outlying islets and pinnacles. Battowia, though lacking a bar and kind of gnarly to land on , being a rock, has been discovered to feature a booby hatch of Galapagos quality, with thousands of tropic birds too. The present surprisingly waterproof edition is an absolute snip at forty bucks. Available at better rum shops ( EG, Basil's ) and travel bookstores far and wide.
Meanwhile I must return to my onerous duties on deck as default Science Oficer- Day Four of Basil's 60th Birthday party has dawned