Since his celebrated sinking on April 12, more that 750 divers, both visitors and locals, have visited Cayman’s newest dive attraction, the Guardian of the Reef. The bronze sculpture sits on a sandy flat in 60 feet of water just offshore from the Divetech dive shop at Lighthouse Point on Grand Cayman’s Northwest Point, and watches over the reef of this popular dive site.
“Swimming out from shore to see him, it is as if he is greeting you when you arrive in his realm − welcoming you and sort of saying ‘look at the wonders of my realm’,” says Everett Turner, a part-time Lighthouse Point resident and long-time Divetech customer, who was present for the sinking celebrations.
Local underwater cinematographer Frans De Backer recalls his first dive at the site. “As soon as you discover the Guardian in the deep beside the mini-wall at Lighthouse Point, a feeling of mystery overwhelms you. The mystery continues as you approach the 13-foot bronze statue, half Seahorse, half Mythological Warrior and it’s becoming even stronger as you start diving closely around this morphed creature and look him in the eyes. Sculptor Simon Morris created the eyes in a way that wherever you are, the statue is looking at you and keeping an eye on you, like a true Guardian should.”
“Although the guardian was very impressive on land he’s even more magnificent underwater,” says photographer Ellen Cuylaerts, who first met him in Orlando at the Dive Equipment and Manufacturers Association’s (DEMA) annual convention. “The eye contact with him gives you chills in a good way, makes you humble and inspires you to help him with his task to protect and guard the reefs!”
Divetech owners Jay and Nancy Easterbrook purchased the sculpture as part of the company’s 20th anniversary, and they say this is the Guardian’s primary purpose – to inspire ocean conservation. The popularity of the new dive star is good news for the environment because one dollar from every dive made at the site will be used for ocean conservation education in the local schools. The Easterbrooks are hoping to raise $20,000 the first year, and the money will help support the West Bay Eco Warriors after-school swim/dive programme run by Emma Nicholsby and potentially buy classroom material from Annie Crawley, also known as “Ocean Annie” who has created several conservation programs for kids.
“The Guardian is symbolic for the task that we humans have neglected for decades: we have to take care of our reefs and our oceans. Therefore, I think it’s a great idea that a portion of the dive fee is going to conservation education,” remarks Frans De Backer.
“The Guardian of the Reef is a uniquely wonderful and appropriate figure, aptly named for his purpose of promoting awareness of our fragile oceans,” agrees Everett Turner. “To me, he represents a powerful creature who at the same time is also fragile just like the oceans. They are a very powerful force filled with life forms yet those life forms are fragile and we are in danger of losing them if we don’t take action.”
Divetech began offering dive services on Grand Cayman in 1994 and has always been a champion for Cayman’s underwater world. Nancy and Jay Easterbrook say the Guardian of the Reef and this conservation program allows them to give back to the community.
“It’s been 20 wonderful years, wonderful ocean, wonderful people and we wanted to give back to the community. Seeing him out there now with divers enjoying and being inspired by him, it’s more than we expected, more than we could have hoped for” commented Jay Easterbrook.
As the Guardian of the Reef makes himself at home on the reef, his neighbors, the sea creatures that live there, are also getting to know him. Several days after he was placed on the site, divers found a sea horse not too far from the sculpture. Everett Turner, who as an underwater photographer scours the reef there, looks forward to seeing what creatures and fish he attracts.
“He is resting not too far from some of our favourite areas for finding dwarf frog fish, pipe horses and a multitude of other macro creatures,” he says. “I am hoping he might attract some schools of grunts and jacks and some of the other reef fish that are found just around the corner from him.”
Just getting to know the new kid on the block is fun for Divetech customers, as well as staff members.
“It is awesome to drop down and be face to face with the Guardian of the Reef!” says Emma Nicholsby, who frequently free dives the site with friends.
On a night dive Kara Owens was impressed. “It’s almost eerie coming along this huge lone statue in the pitch of night, Goosebumps!”
“The Guardian is the perfect addition to one of Grand Cayman’s best reefs, yet when you see him you get the sense he’s been there a long time, and will be there a long time, watching over the reef,” says Nina Baxa.
Divetech is a IANTD Platinum Facility / TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer Facility / PADI 5-Star Resort / PADI TecRec Facility / PADI Project Aware Center / SSI Resort / IANTD & SSI Free Diving Center / BSAC Resort / National Geographic Center/ Scuba Rangers Club / Universal Training Facility / PADI Swim School / DAN Technical Field Research Station full service dive operator with facilities at Cobalt Coast Dive Resort on the tranquil Northwest shore of Boatswain’s Bay, and Lighthouse Point on Northwest Point Road, both located in West Bay just a few miles north of the hustle and bustle of Seven Mile Beach.
Considered one of Grand Cayman’s leading dive operations, Divetech has been providing quality dive services since 1994, and it has earned a reputation as the place to go in Grand Cayman for quality training from kids to trimix with 18 Instructors on staff. Divetech is Green Globe Certified and is a recipient of the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2014 and the PADI Green Star Award. Divetech offers great dive and room packages with its resort partner Cobalt Coast Dive Resort, which has established a reputation for laid back luxury and friendly West Indian hospitality, offering 20 suites and villas, full restaurant and bar, pool and award winning customer service.
For more information
Call: +1 (345) 946-5658
The life of a Great White Shark
The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.
Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.
As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.
Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.
Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.
Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.
However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.
Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.
Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website: www.sharktrust.org
Book Review: Sea Mammals
This is a book packed with information about some of the most iconic and charismatic marine species. I have a particular soft spot for the pinnipeds, seals and sea lions, due to some incredible diving encounters over the years. So these were the pages I first turned to.
Once picked up this book is hard to put down. Polar Bears, Narwhal, Sea Otters, manatees, whales and dolphins adorn the pages with beautiful photographs and illustrations. Each turn of the page lures you in to discover more about a species you love, one you want to learn more about, some you have never heard of and even includes the details of fascinating animals that are sadly now extinct.
I think what I love most about this book is how it is organised. Rather than simply lump the animals into taxonomic groupings, they are put into chapters that tell you a story about them. Whether it is the story of their evolution, how they were discovered, their biology, behaviour or need for conservation. Once you have decided on an animal to delve deeper into, each species has its own story, as well as key information about size, diet, distribution, habitat and conservation status.
There is plenty to enjoy in this delightful book. Plenty to learn too. As the cold dark nights draw in, I can see myself delving into this book time and time again. This is a perfect gift for anyone that loves the ocean and its inhabitants. Or just treat yourself.
What the publisher says:
From the gregarious sea otter and playful dolphins to the sociable narwhal and iconic polar bear, sea mammals are a large, diverse, and increasingly precious group. In this book, Annalisa Berta, a leading expert on sea mammals and their evolution, presents an engaging and richly illustrated introduction to past and present species of these remarkable creatures, from the blue whale and the northern fur seal to the extinct giant sperm whale, aquatic sloth, and walking sea cow.
The book features more than 50 individual species profiles, themed chapters, stunning photographs, and specially commissioned paleo-illustrations of extinct species. It presents detailed accounts of these mammals’ evolutionary path, anatomy, behavior, habitats, and conservation. And because these are key species that complete many food chains and have the widest influence of all sea life, the book also offers insights into a broad variety of marine worlds today and in the future.
About the Author:
Annalisa Berta is professor emerita of biology at San Diego State University. A specialist in the anatomy and evolutionary biology of marine mammals, especially baleen whales, she formally described a skeleton of the early pinniped Enaliarctos. She is the author of Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals and the editor of the award-winning Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide.
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 26th September, 2023
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