Tuesday, February 16, 2016


    In Which Ye  Author  Most Shamelessly Plugs Both
Brig  Astrid, since sunk.
Patrick O'Brien novels are best read while messing about aloft on a tall ship. No where else can a mere lubber   keep track of the Gish Gallop of tackle and sail  names that gushes through his prose.
I've just graduated from the brig Astrid,  on which in 1994  I  put aside The Nutmeg Of Consolation to swing from the mainyard garnet 'neath the futtocks and slide down  the quarterdeck ratlines, to  check the synthetic aperture radar, to a more modern conveyance , a five master that alas rarely made full sail lest it scare the passengers. 
Satellite weather, current &  sea state integrators, like  the  animated data feed 
are smart as paint  for  navigating the Spanish Main, but what about ashore ?

From meteorology to  mineralogy, a lot of natural history is encountered cruising the Caribbean. Bequia's late great Captain Raul King used to swear " Nothing in this sea will harm you",  but you need to know enough about the local flora and fauna not to bite into manchineel fruit, pass up low-hanging pommes de Macassar, poke the lion fish, grab the fire coral  or step on the sea urchins instead of eating them. That calls for 
 A Natural History Handbook  So I helped write one.
It focuses on a tight little Grenadine island, wondrously rich in geology for its size, its rocks swarming with the Pyrites of the Caribbean , as well as the chalcopyrites, zeolites , and both epidotes and epicenes in their dotage.
Though it abounds in glitterati,  birds of bright plumage, and ants, plants and tortoises galore, the isle is paparazzi-free, with  few sycophants and  fewer elephants, as  it seemed imprudent to replace the last one after it ran amok on St. Lucia. 
As many creatures have migrated from from the Antilles to the Grenadines, readers will find this book Indispensable on all islands Leeward & Windward
Published by  by The Mustique Company, with a foreword by a surprisingly intelligent London School of Economics drop-out :
The Natural History of Mustique  includes a hopelessly  amateur introduction to Grenadine geology that I am doomed  to update by  returning every  winter  I can afford until  get it right-- 
Such is ones grim duty to science.
 A Natural History of Mustique 
includes 360 color photos covering all creatures great and small, from harmless insects the size of birds, to vinegaroons, hummingbirds the size of bees, and a snake easily mistaken for a keychain. Every reptile from St. Barts to Barbados, from the noble tortoise geochelone to lividly green lizards, is vividly depicted in this handbook.
Despite its name, Mustique is phenomenally poor in mosquitoes, but rich in Wi Fi bandwith in The Excellent Bar  of Basil Charles O.B.E.  
And a most excellently air conditioned Library where one may  read  each week's issue of Nature, for  there  my subscription is delivered. 

The spiral bound and  surprisingly waterproof  Natural History of Mustique is an absolute snip at forty bucks. Available at better rum shops & bookstores in the Spanish Main or send fifty to mnestheus@paypal, and I'll autograph one. 

While pyrite crystals may be pried from Virgin Islands lamprophyre veins, and jade from DR riverbeds,  the Grenadines offer glittering chalcopyrite  and glowing  zeolite crystals. More touristed isles, like St. Lucia are barely cooled piles of lava and  ill mineralized volcanic ash but  ancient basement rocks endow  the older Grenadines with richer and more eventful geology. Mustique  boasts glittering  botryoidal  pincushions of quartz, and wheat sheave and bow-tie sprays of zeolites like stilbite and mesolite. For a really hot diving spot, try Kickem Jenny, the underwater volcano perking its way to the surface  a long days sail southwest. A Must See for Bob Carter and other coal flacks spewing nonsense about underwater CO2 and thermal fluxes.

Newcomers  may find  St.Vincent and Bequia more welcoming than the 0utlying Grenadines,  desert islands suitable only for stranding statisticians and PR flacks. The exception is the Tobago Cays , where yachts anchoring  alee to limit eutrophication can oogle the turquise seascape seen in  Pirates of the Caribbean , while enjoying 170 proof  rum   delivered by the Jack Iron moonshiners of Petit Martinique.

Newer and more elegant editions of the handbook will report more on where  the Grenadine  pyrites are buried , but go in June,  and you will find  the outlying islets and pinnacles. like  Battowia and Baliceaux abuzz with congregations of boobies worthy of a Heartland Institute Climate Conference
Alas, the brig Astrid , shown above, passed into less vigilant  hands in 2012, and at the goodly age of 92, ran aground on the rocks of Cork. 
One always needs a bigger boat, and I've come ashore after a weeks sailing in the  Grenadines sail  aboard Mikael Krafft's modern recreation of  the  five-master  Preußen:
She's called Royal Clipper, though the passengers in the main were anything but.  So it's good to be back in Mustique, where a princely flotilla of tall  sloops  has  just arrived to refresh the  totty posh supply,  the pyrites having long since turned to rust.