The St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research (SECAR) is situated in a big house with large rooms. The story goes that the building was designed in centimeters, but built in inches instead. This past mistake, makes the center perfectly capable to host a bunch of students in bunk beds for a UNESCO course on Underwater Cultural Heritage. The incredibly rich colonial history of St. Eustatius is of course also a welcome addition.
Sixteen students from Haiti, Bonaire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Curaçao, St Eustatius, Saba, Belize, Venezuela, Surinam, South Africa and the Netherlands form a diverse group. Their diverse professional backgrounds make for lively discussions on topics like the significance of underwater heritage, the way to go about in a reef and what should be done with artefacts. The first weeks are filled with 8-hour days of theory, where everybody slowly sinks into the comfortable couches at SECAR.
Luckily the occasional excursion, a little volleyball, a strenuous work-out regime, lead by our Venezuelan ‘Jean-Claude van Damme’, and the promise of a full week of archaeological diving around the sunken warehouses of St. Eustatius keep everybody quite lively.
Johan Schaeffer is one of the students participating in the course. On Saba, he is the General Manager of SABARC, the Saba Archaeological Center. SABARC has three main tasks: establishing a cultural heritage center, coordinating community and youth projects and managing archaeological activities on Saba.