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Wreck Exploration Running Aground

As the Prime Minister and minister of finance, being the minister responsible for the National Museum and the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Corporation (AMMC), continues to refuse to issue any exploration licences for historical wreck sites, one wonders what is going on at the AMMC.

At least 18 applications made in March and April 2012 for Exploration Licences have received no reply after paying their application fee of $1,000 each, and spending money on the application process.

The regulations require a reply within 90 days. Yes or No.

Bahamian jobs are at stake. Bahamian heritage is at stake. The Bahamas’s reputation as an upstanding Caribbean nation is at stake. Over 100 ancient wrecks have been known to have gone down in Bahamian waters, including many with priceless cargoes of gold and silver artifacts and coins. Modern day pirates posing as lobster fishermen may have collected items for themselves. We will never know what has been lost to thieves.

With 16 per cent and growing unemployment, and another 10,000 school leavers applying for jobs this summer, the whole heritage industry could provide employment.

A system of apprenticeship needs to be put in place at the AMMC and at other government-controlled organisations. It is not about money. It is about caring for the Bahamas, and learning a trade, it is about self-pride in who we were, who we are and where we are going. Researching the historical archives and making films that show the rest of the world we are a proud Bahamian nation, and that we are a ‘can do’ people.

To sit and do nothing is asking for trouble. Complacency breeds idleness, and idleness breeds crime. Let’s show the tourists the museums like the Pompey Museum, and museums and historic sites in all the Family Islands. Twenty-five per cent of the value of every ancient wreck belongs to the Bahamian people and needs to be preserved. The five lighthouses need to be preserved. They, too, are ancient monuments, need a guardian and can be visited as a tourist attraction. There are some very good documentary films made in the Bahamas by Bahamians, but where can the tourists see them? Why not at AMMC or the National Museum?

What is AMMC doing about it? How many Bahamain archeologists are there, and how many are AMMC training to qualify them internationally? We know where the valuable wrecks are, but are not allowed to dive on them. Does this make sense?

Anthony Howorth

Past chairman

Bahamas Association of Treasure Salvors

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