A NATURAL HISTORY OF MUSTIQUE
The only place to read a Patrick O'Brian novel is lounging in the mizzen top of a brig like Astrid. Nowhere else can a landsman keep track of what the man is talking about. Running down the Windward Islands from English Harbor to Fort De France, I glanced up to spy that the nearest volcanic peak semed to be greenly shivvering. So I put down The Nutmeg Of Consolation and swung from the mainyard garnet 'neath the futtocks to the quarterdeck ratlines to go check the synthetic aperture radar--with a nightmare rig like Astrid's you want plenty of post-modern Nav gear, 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 offhand introduction to Grenadine geology that I heartily regret writing since I am now doomed to reconnoiter and map the place till get it right. Harvard's Hoffman Lab is sending streams of Mustiquean iron, lead and uranium atoms through a mass spectrometer even as I write this. I wish I had never mentioned the Virgin Islands lampropyres in this otherwise exemplary book. The present surprisingly waterproof edition is an absolute snip at forty bucks. Available at better rum shops and travel bookstores far and wide.
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.
Further disclosure where the pyrites of the Caribbean are hiding awaits the next edition- I went back in February to sample outlying islets and pinnacles. Battowia, though lacking a bar and kind of gnarly to land on , features a booby hatch of Galapagos quality, with thousands of tropic birds too.