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The Honey Wagon and the Blind Cave Fish.

This article was adapted from an article previously published in the 'Nassau Guardian' and was written as part of a series for use in British schools at KS3†with an accompanying worksheet.

The Mermaid's Pool is an inland Blue Hole off Carmichael Road on the southern side of New Providence Island
in the Bahamas.† When this was written, the Mermaid's Pool was well away from housing, but now - as can
be seen from the photos, development has encroached on to the Pine Barrens off Carmichael Road.
I am grateful to  Evangelica Francis for taking the photos and sending them to me.

A hole in the ground is always a useful place if you have something to dump. Many holes have been filled in this way; old gravel pits, quarries and even wells. In many cases both the rubbish and the hole disappear, and everyone is happy. Not always though!

There are holes where rare and unusual animals live and these can be threatened by Mankind. One of these is the Mermaidís Pool, some fifteen miles from Nassau. No one knows why itís called the Mermaidís Pool, but itís a nice romantic name! The Mermaidís Pool is a type of type of cave known as a Blue Hole, a very deep and almost vertical cave filled with water. Its edge is perfectly circular and about eighty feet across. Below the rocky edge, the cave becomes wider, forming a huge bell shaped cavern plunging down more than two hundred feet into the solid rock.

I would often go diving in the Mermaidís Pool when the sea was too rough. Here my diver friends and I would go down with our underwater torches and look for the very rare Bahamas Blind Cave Fish. This is a strange creature growing to only four or five inches, reddish brown with a big head and long tapering tail. For years the Mermaidís Pool was thought to be the only place in the world where this rare fish lived. Since that time the fish has been discovered on a number of islands - in particular on Andros during the expedition led by the late Robert Palmer, and on Grand Bahama in the Lucayan Cavern by Jill Yaeger and Dennis Williams.

This strange little fish is a survivor from ancient times; stranded in the deep freshwater caves of the islands thousands of years ago. So many years of survival can be all for nothing though - as I was soon to find out!

The telephone call came on a Monday. It was from a Mr. Joseph Rolle, and he was worried: "Attrill," he said, "you gotta see de Mermaid Pool.  He sounded elderly, with a deep voice and a strong Bahamian accent."Whatís the problem then Mr Rolle,  I replied, my heart sinking. "Stinkiní waste," he said, "datís de problem. Someone done dropped one whole Honey Wagon full Ďa sewage in de pool.

"Have you got any idea who might have done this? I asked him. "No". He paused for a moment. " I jusí come dis morniní to catch some Snapper fish, aní find de pool all stink up! I thanked him for his concern and said I would drive over there immediately and take a look. By now, I was as worried about the Mermaidís Pool as Mr. Rolle was, for a ĎHoney Wagoní is a tanker used to empty septic tanks and cess pits. The law says the toilet waste carried in these tankers must be emptied into a special well. There is a charge for this service though, and some drivers look for a way to economise.

I arrived at the Pool some forty minutes later, parking next to a battered brown pickup truck. The truck was Mr. Rolleís, and evidently he was a farmer. There was a box of Mangoes and half a dozen unhappy looking chickens lying in the back, their legs tied with strips of palm leaf. Their eyes were pleading as if they knew they were soon for the pot. 

I could smell the sewage from almost fifty yards away. It wasnít a pleasant odour and it grew stronger as I walked along the rough limestone track towards the pool. It was worse than I expected. The normally clear and sparkling water of the pool was a dull brown colour, and the smell was disgusting! The old man himself was standing on the rocky edge of the pool peering down into the murky water some six feet beneath his toes. 

He looked up as I arrived, his wrinkled brown face showing his feelings. "Dis ainít no good." He said. "God ainít meant for dis to happen.  "No, youíre right"  I replied.  Itís probably killed all the fish.

"So what you and your National Trussí ger do Ďbout it den?  He turned towards me, screwing up his eyes against the intense tropical sun. "Thereís not much I can do, I told him. "Weíll probably never find out who did this. As for the fish, I guess weíll have to dive into the pool and find out what the damage is.

"When I left a few minutes later, the old man was still looking down into the water. He was clearly saddened by the pollution and by the loss of his fishing. He had no idea though, how great the loss really was! I would soon find out when I dived the pool with members of the Bahamas Underwater Club.†

Continued  - click here

PS - I would be grateful to hear if anyone has dived this pool recently and seen the Blind Cave fish.

 

© Rod Attrill