So much water, so little identity


Diane Phillips

By Diane Phillips

The Bahamas is defined by its waters. In Nassau, in Georgetown, Exuma, in Treasure Cay, Abaco, in Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, in almost every island, we land at an airport, hop in a car, head to town and come across our first view of the sea and our breath is taken away. We see the water and our heart races, our spirits revive. We know in an instant why we live in this land of high prices and difficulty in getting a driver’s licence renewed. We drink in that view and we just know. There is no place like this on Earth. Astronaut Scott Kelly agreed. From space with Exuma below, he declared the waters of The Bahamas the most beautiful in all the world.

We say the same thing. We call our waters stunning, breathtaking. We have a dozen descriptions for them – turquoise, aquamarine, bluer than blue, clear as gin, sparkling as diamonds. What we don’t have for them is a name. The most beautiful waters in the world are officially part of the Atlantic Ocean. Just tossed in along with the dark waters off the New England coast or New Jersey or North Carolina. Nothing against those places. They each have their charm. But lumping our waters in with the rest of the Atlantic is like saying that bottle of 1959 Dom Perignon is a dinner beverage.

The waters of The Bahamas are a national treasure. They deserve an identity of their own. Commodore Tellis Bethel, Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, historian and author, has formally proposed to government that the internal waters of The Bahamas be named the Lucayan Sea. The proposal makes all the sense in the world and I cannot imagine what is taking so long to make it happen. It will not change any of the current names of bays like Montagu or harbours like Elizabeth Harbour or Moriah Harbour in Exuma. It will only create an identity for the waters as defined or delimited by the Archipelagic Waters and Maritime Jurisdiction Act which established our internal boundaries in 2008.

Commodore Bethel has spent his life sailing the seas of his native country. From his first job as a bellboy aboard a cruise ship to his current with responsibility of overseeing the patrolling of the waters that make up 90 percent of the country’s mass, his life has centred on the sea. He is a deep sea diver as well as a pilot and holds a Master’s degree from the Royal Naval Institute in the UK. Bethel believes there are two purposes for naming the waters the Lucayan Sea. The first is to create a “distinct identity for the beautiful waters of The Bahamas which is true to the history and heritage of The Bahama Islands and the Americas, and of which all Bahamians can be proud.” The second is to act as “a tribute to the life and legacy of the original inhabitants of these islands - the festivalsful Lucayans,” a population eradicated by genocide but respected for its peaceful nature. He proposes that a foundation be created to manage and preserve the waters, much as the Bahamas National Trust does the national parks of the country. While Bethel’s idea of a foundation or trust is aimed at keeping the concept almost sacred, the reality is that the first new sea in the world and especially the most beautiful sea will explode in a thousand commercial ways. TripAdvisor, Expedia, airlines and travel agents will be all over it. Book your next vacation…Airbnb, Home Away, VRBO will all be able to boast located in the pristine Lucayan Sea.

Cruise lines will offer specials, be the first to sail the Lucayan Sea. There will be hats, belts, straw bags, t-shirts. Bethel would like to see the copyright guarantee that the use of the name contribute to a preservation fund. All that would be in the hands of lawyers and the like but the concept is a winner and only needs a champion in the Cabinet. Sources on both sides of the aisle have told me they are in favour of the name. After all, the Caribbean Sea was named for the Carib Indians. Why should the waters of The Bahamas, and, in fact, Turks and Caicos which is geographically in the same officially defined space, not be named after the peaceful inhabitants of the land that was the birthplace of the new world.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t let your child grow up without a name, why let that which gives you the greatest sense of who you are, that which sets your country apart from all others around the world, go unnamed? Naming the waters is not difficult. All the research has been done and the way has been cleared. It is simply a matter of declaring it so and advising maritime authorities so they can include the name in relevant hydrographic and nautical publications. Coordinates would also be published on the UN Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea website to specify to the international community the area of water to be named the Lucayan Sea. The publication on that website provides public notice of The Bahamas’ intentions.

The Bahamas can also advise the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office of its intention along with a request for guidance. In short, the country has full authority for naming of waters so what are we waiting for? Sorry, did I repeat myself? Let me put it this way. What ARE we waiting for? Oh I know, someone to step to the plate and take the lead.


SandyE 3 years, 4 months ago

Sandy Estabrook of AbacoEscape.com says "What a great idea" Lets hope it gets accomplished soon. He too will give it lots of exposure.

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by SandyE

(Bahamian Waters)


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