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500 Leagues of Sea
Andros and the Tongue of the Ocean
This lonely feeling of abandoned isolation is not gone with daylight. Long, flat beaches mark the coast of Andros. The only sound is the sizzle of the wind. There is no mountain for reference. No towering palms to give one the feeling of paradise. Low lying scrub, raggedy casuarina trees extend for miles. They give one a soulful feeling. You feel exposed, cast off. You’re a colonist from a Bradbury space drama.
Andros Island looks like a huge flat green ink spot with a halo of pulsing bright turquoise water around it. It is the largest Bahamian island; a low sandstone plateau with sable beaches and green casuarina trees. It is so pockmarked with blue lakes, it looks like the surface of the moonwith its many craters, just green and bushy and rather forlorn.
Hundreds of islets surround the great island, making navigation for the adventurous yachter a mistake. From a distance there isn’t much that indicates civilization. At the tip of her northeast shore is the piratical sounding settlement of Morgan’s Bluff. Despite being the biggest island, it is not the most populated. If we can liken the islands of the Bahamas to the continents, Andros would be Africa, huge, dark, and still mysterious in some ways. There isn’t much in my opinion to attract one to this “bit of the moon” on Earth unless you are a fisherman or scientist . . . or secret US military project. This is not to denigrate Andros. The feeling of pending adventure that comes with stepping on an isolated lee shore is something I personally love, but for the general visitor Andros is not a vacation center. Most commercial flights bypass it and head toward Nassau. At this point the Berry Islands appear on one’s left. When the tide is out these deserted spits of land are surrounded by a sandy desert. Yet none of this really catches the eye because all attention is quickly drawn from Andros to a deep blue streak of sea, which looks like some huge blue scar in the shallow aquamarine waters. Only a few miles from the east coast of Andros
A stark white sports fisherman cruises by offshore. The sea roars and booms. The breakers crash. Shadows move about in the marled shallows. Turtles, sharks, barracudas. Danger is everywhere, yet there is peacefulness— the hallucinogen of a deserted coast. Clouds are huge, billowed and indolent things. Fowl move about in the brush. Seagulls mew. There are many legends here on Andros. As the most unexplored landmass in the Bahamas that is expected. There are the legends of the little people, the Chicarnies, but there is a more plausible, though confused, legend of the Jenny Hanaver or the “Bigfoot of the Deep.” It is not unique to the Bahamas. Director of Photography Gabriel Figaroa, a name well-known from the days of golden Hollywood, was dining with Orson Wells and others one night in the 1940s. Figaroa, a native of Brazil, became
there exists the world’s greatest geologic oddity: the Tongue of the Ocean. This underwater canyon is set apart from the turquoise hues around Andros by its deep and bottomless blue. It is about 1 miles deep but varies in width until it ends in a circular bulb. The ominous feeling inspired by the Tongue at this
adamant when his story of a man-like amphibian that walks on its hind legs was not believed. It was supposed to live deep in the unexplored headwaters of the Amazon and could come out of the water for a while. It had an ape-like face, to some extent, and claw-like webbed hands. No one believed Figaroa, of course, among the Hollywood sophisticates. But one guest was quite taken by the story. His name was William Alland. He was one of Wells’
Satellite composite of the Tongue of the Ocean and its odd bulb.
juncture and flight level is not that it is such deep water but that it starts so precipitously (a geologic sight essentially only found so often in the Bahamas) and that this depth is accentuated by the surrounding shallows which are so shallow the ripples on the sandy bottom often appear as vast sand dunes. Another satellite photo (left) highlights the drop off. The Tongue truly looks like it should be on another world. Strange geography, outback locality, nearby to exotic locales and amidst modern travel. Mix this with the legends, facts, and hearsay of the many missing ships and planes, and the mythos of the Triangle is no greater than right here. It was along this route, at night and traveling in the opposite direction that some 30 years ago pilot Chuck Wakely, flying a plane for Sunline Aviation, claimed his plane started to glow iridescent green, his compass to spin, and his controls became sluggish and unresponsive. Wakely survived. Nearing Bimini the glowing phenomenon faded away and his flight controls returned to normal, though he was now off course.
In the daytime, such a story seems fabulous. But at night it would be easy to imagine mysterious phenomena over the dark moonlit ocean and deserted shores, with only the distant twinkle of little Morgan’s Bluff. Patches of the famous “glowing waters” of the Bahamas may come into view. They were the last lights visible on the Earth to the astronauts of Apollo 12. They may be a number of things: marl stirred up by fish or an indication of stresses in the bedrock (they have a large sulfur content.) They vent up from the bottom and float on the surface not unlike wisps of clouds in the sky. They remind us of how mysterious this shallow bank is, and thus they instill in us that feeling of isolation that comes with being far from the daily routine of our life.
Mercury Players and had played the reporter in Wells’ classic Citizen Kane. He took Figaroa’s story to heart and when he became a producer in the 1950s he produced guess what?— Creature from the Black Lagoon. Does such an amphibian exist? More than one witness in the Bahamas says it has a turtle’s back, long neck, and a monkey’s face. But none have seen it walk on land. . .yet. But the geologic mysteries remain undeniable out in this lonely turquoise desert. Blue holes are provocative. They were made when the Bahama Bank was indeed a huge island. Today they remain, a testimony to an ancient past. They are alluring and frightening. They are blue reminders that an abyssal hell is all around this shallow bank. They create great whirlpools with the tides, so that these cylindrical vents must come out along the side of the Bahama Banks somewhere, deep down along the sheer cliffs that create the drop off along the Tongue of the Ocean or the outer banks in the Florida Straits. This strange outback feeling is quickly banished by the sight of New Providence Island and then modern Nassau, with its towering hotels, byways, harbor, marinas, airport and historic sights. Fort Pincastle guarded this strategic British colonial city, but now its iron cannon stand few and far between. Forts and cannons are not unusual on land, but they are not unusual on the sea bottom either, marking the resting place
of old galleons. More modern vestiges of mankind mark his passing over these waters. This wreck, I believe, is the Panther. It is near Nassau in deep enough water to enjoy a mantel of Technicolor blue but in enough light to be clearly photographed. However popular or commercial such photos become, and no matter how many thousands of divers routinely snorkel or dive over these tropical, shallow waters, not one of the many missing in the Bermuda Triangle has been photographed and publicized. It is something one ponders more when heading south along the Exuma islands. Nassau banishes the notion of mystery, but these islands form a chain, often with weak uninhabited links, that call mystery back to one’s attention. They are under an air highway; pilots use them to stay navigated; and yachters use some as halfway points. Shallow waters, exotic islands; a charming deception to the mystery of the Triangle.
The Website of Gian J. Quasar