Digging for the Past to Preserve the Future . . . November 2, 2009

By Will Allen, Volunteer

As a professional photographer I often travel to remote destinations photographing or filming whatever I can, usually sharks or some sort of underwater life. Just before I head out on a new expedition I get comments from friends back in Montreal along the lines of … “Poor you, working in an island paradise” or” Wow, it sure sucks to be you.” So when one of my best friends tells me he’s going to his place in the Turks and Caicos to do an archaeological dig on a tiny island called Fort St. George Cay and it happens to coincide with my vacation time, I jump on the chance to tag along and help out.

After a little back and forth and logistics we settle on some dates that work and the next thing I know I’m standing on Fort St. George Cay with a machete in one hand and a metal detector in the other hacking down poisonwood trees and shrubs attempting to find anything that gives us clues into the past. The people I met and the experiences I had on this trip will stay with me for a lifetime. I now have a personal attachment to this little island because my close friend is living a stones throw away from the old fort and he introduced me to it on my first visit years ago. So helping out on this, despite the threat of poisonwood and whatever else may lie hidden under the brush of Fort George, is a real opportunity. We have since found a multitude of cannon balls, shot, buttons and many more objects that give us a glimpse into the past of what life may have been like on the island.

Unfortunately I only had one week to help, but will remember it for the rest of my life. I learned more than I ever thought I would from the great team of archaeologists. From photographing a couple of huge cannons that lie just off shore in a few feet of water, to digging holes in the sand to find a tiny piece of metal that could have been a nail, or perhaps a piece of a barrel loop, there have been endless adventures on Fort St George. I’m convinced that this team will make a huge difference to the island’s future and well being.