Then and Now: The Trials and Tribulations of the Tropics! . . . October 30,2009

By Elizabeth Stone, Volunteer

Day 1

Today we went out to the Cay and met our fellow adventurists…a really fascinating bunch from all over…3 Phd’s, a professional underwater photographer, a doctor, a couple of year-rounders, and, of course, us. Armed with machetes, metal detectors, saws and the like…today’s focus was on clearing brush around the remnants of a visible structure and looking for artifacts that might indicate its purpose.

We did find some shot, pottery shards, some pieces from a musket, and mapped out the original footprint of one of the buildings. My time was spent doing field photography … shooting people doing whatever they were doing as well as amateur photos of what we found. It was sunny, HOT and buggy (no surprise). There were tons of hermit crabs scuttling everywhere…probably wondering what all the commotion was about…and fire ants (yikes!), that we managed to avoid. This is going to be a LOT of fun. I love meeting new people and, of course, anyone who is interested in history. Funnily enough, the head of the project does sort of look like Indiana Jones.

The thing that amazes me is the resilience of the soldiers who were stationed here. These Cays are scrubby (not much shade) and I can only imagine their reaction, being dumped here. How did they get water? How did they spend their days? What tools did they have to construct these structures? The boredom, bugs, inhospitable environment, and unrelenting sun….just fires my imagination….and certainly elicits my sympathy. Early to bed tonight because 5:30 a.m. is going to come too quickly. I’m blessing air conditioning right now and the thought of soft sheets…I wouldn’t have made a very good colonist.

Day 4

Every day that we are out on the Cay, I compare the obstacles that we face with what the soldiers faced 200 years ago.  While we brought coolers with food and water, metal detectors and machetes, compasses and protractors, cell phones and walkie-talkies, bug spray and sunscreen, the soldiers must have carried little more than basic tools with which to construct buildings, hard tack, water collection implements, and clothing.  But, being English, they also brought dishes and even teacups, according to our finds!  While we have cold water on hand, they had to fetch it and it was never better than tepid.  There is little wildlife on island, so any food they ate, had to come from the sea, the air, or what they grew. When I compare their fortitude and dedication to ours, I feel that we come up short.  They too had to hack through the brush as we are doing…but their intent was to build living quarters and fortifications, while ours is to merely uncover those endeavors.  The brush that thwarts them also thwarts us.

Yet in my view, we don’t always come up short.  In watching Don, Neal and Toni I am amazed at their fortitude and dedication and, yes, reverence and respect, for what we are discovering.  They are patient and methodical often seeing a small artifact that is camouflaged by the overgrowth that I would have missed entirely. And when the sun goes down, when the soldiers would have been sleeping, our team is at their maps and computers: measuring, documenting, sourcing and referencing the finds.  So our modern perseverance and diligence is of a different variety and no less impressive.