After a month of training, after many laughs, conversations, diving, analysing data, writing, presenting, eating, sleeping and even karaoke together all the students and trainers have left St. Eustatius (or Statia). All except for our two Statian participants Pardis and Reese.
The moment I flew out, an empty feeling came over me. What a characters! Each and every one of them. An unlikely group of people, now known colleagues and hopefully partners in future projects. Will they? I have good hopes. Including the Foundation Course in Jamaica more than 30 people have done the training and with the Spanish training in Campeche, Mexico it is even more!
I truly hope they will find each other. There are so many great possibilities! We will definitely support those new cooperations: the trainers, the UNESCO and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE).
Underwater archaeology and cultural heritage management organised and executed from within the region. Maybe by doing so, more emphasis will be laying on trying to unfold the mysteries of indigenous seafaring in the Caribbean. At this point, still, after so many years of (mainly foreign) research in the area hardly any archaeological evidences of boats or other crafts of indigenous origin have been found. They must be somewhere!
A challenge therefore! But of course other sites like submerged prehistoric sites and e.g. colonist ships from France, England, Spain and the Netherlands are important as well. The Caribbean has become a melting pot of different cultures. All the sites are part of the complex past that has made the region what it is today. So most important to do now, is to set up responsible management for the underwater cultural heritage in the different states in the region. This takes time, especially time, and some convincing of the need to do so. Starting small and extending to more if possible. A place to report sites, a database to register, laws to protect. Interviews with the fishermen, the sportsdivers, surveys on the beach… these are all possible even with a small budget. Even the cultural significance assessments underwater as taught at the course will not cost a lot more money than the diving itself.
I would say: go for it!
My last words are that of ‘thank you‘.
Thank you participants: Jose Miguel, Cyndy, Cimberly, Jane, Joost, Jimmy, Johan, Reece, Pardis, Darwin, Guno, Camille, Diana, Fernando, Maickel, Tara.
Thank you trainers: Chris, Hans, Ruud, Tatiana and Ryan
Thank you all that have made this training possible: Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), Leiden University, NEXUS 1492 project, UNESCO, ICUCH/ICOMOS, SECAR, Scubaqua Dive Center, the people of St Eustatius and all these other individuals that have made the month an extremely pleasant one, a month hard to forget.
A goodbye to you all
Trainer and course coordinator