The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Native American Mounds & Earthworks — by Dr. Greg Little
Our Little Adventure
By Kimberly J. Prachniak
When Greg and Lora came back from each of their trips to the Bahamas and described to us their latest journey, they could have never impressed upon us the true excitement, the true adventure, and the true danger that they experienced. You just have to be there.
Setting aside all of the planning, making reservations, readying the boat, shopping, packing the boat, and making the 2-day trek to Florida with the boat in tow, first thing’s first. The crossing of the Gulf Stream- the maiden voyage in their new 26-foot catamaran. Our captain Krista met us in Key Biscayne, where we loaded the final items onto the boat, got into our rain suits, fueled up, and left the dock at 11 A.M. The weather report called for southerly winds, which would have been perfect in matching the South-to-North current of the infamous Gulf Stream. We quickly realized, however, not to put all of our faith in the weather report. Stealth northeasterly winds created a nice amount of chop in the ocean, with 4 to 5-foot waves to boot. The boat was loaded down with weight from all of the food, water, scuba gear, surveying and filming equipment, and luggage to last a week, so, running smoothly across the tops of the waves was not an option. Rhythmic banging of the bow of the boat was. Kind of fierce at first, but after an hour, it can be like a wicked rocking chair, lulling you roughly to sleep. The banging did subside after a while though, and the waves calmed a bit.
Beautiful blue sky and nothing but water for miles surrounded us. A realization that we’re alone in this huge, mysterious space set in and the day dream commenced. Is this really happening? Are we really crossing the Stream in this boat? I began to feel like I’m the first person to ever do this, so proud and egotistical. But I also began to feel the danger of the situation. There’s no one else out here. What if the weather turns bad? What if we get blindsided by a rogue wave? What if someone gets really sick or hurt? Then we found out that the handy dandy satellite phone doesn’t work too well (i.e., at all) when you’re rocking back and forth in a boat in the middle of nowhere. We thought about the History Channel team sitting in Bimini and wondering where we were. (They contacted Greg about a week before we left and made last-minute plans to join us in Bimini and Andros.) A few hours passed by. No one spoke much, either because of the noise of the boat hitting the waves, or the tiring urge to hang on, or the slight fear that the weather report could have been wrong on more than one account. The constant salt spray in my face was annoying me a bit. Hunger rumbled through my stomach. And great- I had to go to the bathroom, but the head was packed to the hilt with supplies. So I learned to tie the hat of my rain suit tighter, to stumble around and balance myself long enough to find a protein bar, and to “go” off of the stern of the boat (like real boaters do, mind you). At 3:30 P.M. we arrived at Bimini, looking like a bunch of wet rats.
No sooner than we docked the boat, the History Channel team appeared, all dry and eager and smiley. They were three very nice, young guys: Ryan the producer, Jay the camera man, and Brian the boom (microphone) man. They helped us unload the boat after we were cleared by Bahamian customs, and then we had to rush to get the “hero” shot they wanted before the sun set. This is the shot of our team standing together that will be shown at the very beginning of the show. We spent at least an hour getting the hero shot, changing locations once because there were too many shadows. By this time, we were exhausted and half-starving, but there was still the business of cleaning the boat, rinsing out our rain suits, and showering to do. When we finally arrived at Captain Bob’s, a quaint little restaurant with pictures of Ernest Hemingway and his marlins on the wall, we were ready to eat! But, Captain Bob’s is not the type of place to be rushed. If you order conch, they mosey to the back and crack it before they cook it (“We’re on island time now, Kim.”). By this time we had met up with David, the underwater cameraman/shark whisperer and Dee, his beautiful assistant and partner. We sat through what felt like the slowest-served dinner on the planet and traded stories of where we were from and what had brought us all together in Bimini that night. Ryan, Greg, and Lora planned the itinerary for the next day. When our bellies were full, we crawled back to our rooms, unpacked, and slid into our beds right before our eyelids gave out. A sweet end to a 16-hour day that was novel in almost every way. Most days were just as tiring and exciting as this one.
We did not accomplish as much as we intended to on this trip because we were joined by the History Channel team. They wanted to first document many of the things they read about that Lora and Greg had previously seen or discovered. We wanted to visit dozens of unexplored spots in the ocean, but we definitely underestimated the amount of time that filming, conducting interviews, and getting second and third shots of the same thing would take. Not that the Littles’ boat is tiny by any means, but it sure felt that way with five of us, three of them, a huge news-anchor type camera, and a 10-foot long fuzzy microphone fighting for space whenever we were anchored. Remembering to whisper and squeezing past or ducking under a live-rolling camera became normal after a while. At every site, Lora and Greg and sometimes Krista were interviewed before the real action could begin. Every time anyone would bring an object out of the water, he/she was interviewed at that moment, and then the scene might need to be reenacted after the dive ended. We would be filmed by David when we were in the water, but he would also film us riding to and from the dive site while he and Dee were on the support boat alongside of our boat. None of this was viewed as a hassle; it was simply part of the daily routine. Greg and Lora were very accommodating and did not complain about any of the “re-takes” that Ryan requested. They had to be “on” almost all of the time and this can be very draining, even without considering the amount of energy that it takes orchestrating the trip to the site, scuba diving, snorkeling, taking their own photographs and video, tending to the boat, and planning the next day’s worth of adventures. I want whatever they’ve been eating for breakfast.
It was fun to see all the personalities that showed up for the trip. The History Channel team was made up of three Yankees (New York and Massachusetts). I don’t think they had much experience on the ocean. Watching their faces on the first boat ride must have been like watching my own face the day before when we were crossing the Stream. There was excitement, anxiety, and a smidgen of fear. Some of this, of course, was related to keeping their livelihood (i.e., cameras and boom) protected from the salt spray. We quickly learned we needed to let them sit in the stern of the boat. They loved that Bonine too. They were eating up to four motion sickness pills a day, while the rest of us had one (the box only recommends up to two by the way). They were fun to have along and we also enjoyed hearing about their previous filming gigs. David and Dee were really interested in what Lora and Greg do, listening intently while they spoke about their findings. Dee was easy to get to know and liked to laugh a lot, so she fit right in. David wowed us with his stories of using natural horse-training techniques on sharks and all of his under water video and caving experiences. When he talked about sharks, he reminded me of the Crocodile Hunter, so enthusiastic you thought he might burst. Our captain Krista was born to be on the ocean. She lit up every time she was on the boat and was always willing to teach my husband Stan and me things like how to tie the boat, how high the seas were that day, what type of fish or plant we were observing, and about the culture of the islands. Captain Al was the laid-back guy running our support boat. When we were anchored, he was either eating or dozing off, and at times he even used his feet to steer the boat. Stan looked like a kid in a candy store the entire trip; I think he thought he was Columbus out there. He and I both were a little high from the whole experience when we returned home. Greg was at ease in front of the cameras and kept us all entertained off-camera with his many jokes and stories. It was also something to see Lora for the first time in her element. She does not get as much as attention as Greg does from all of the documentaries and other media, but that in no way reflects how hard she works or how much passion she has for exploring. She just did not seem to tire, even when I was feeling like I could fall asleep standing up (always partially due to the Bonine), she pressed on. There were a couple of times that Greg did not want to get into the 60-something degree water, and she would plunge in without hesitation. Watching all of the fervor and effort the two of them put into this, you could see why they make a good team of explorers.
There were other players too. Captain Pat, the dockmaster in Bimini seemed cold and stoic at first, but gradually revealed a kinder, soft side. Michael the “plumber” promptly fixed my toilet with a twist-tie when I arrived at the Seacrest motel. The buxom ladies who ever-so-slowly served us in Captain Bob’s, always with a smile, would change the sleep-inducing Kenny G melodies to Timbaland hip-hop if we requested. A Bahamian woman who ran the local Laundromat lovingly and quietly colored pictures with her seven-year-old son while we washed our salt-soaked clothes. A wrinkly old man driving a golf cart took our bags of clean clothes on to the motel for us when he saw us walking in the hot sun with them on our backs and head. When Ryan, Brian, Jay, and I flew from Bimini to Andros, our pilot Henny was twice as tall as the six-seater plane he flew. He looked like an NFL linebacker, wore a red t-shirt, baggy jeans, and a gold chain, and he got us to Andros safely with some filming detours on the way. The entrepreneurial cab driver, Doy, (whose wife rode along with us from the airport in Andros) wanted to know right away all the days and times we would need a ride while we were there. I can’t forget Jerry, the young dockmaster at the Lighthouse Club, who was surprised by an unexpected request to captain Greg and Lora’s boat in the shallows of Fresh Creek and help us find a plane that only local fishermen had seen. He was camera-shy but soon learned not to look directly into the camera and that repetition was necessary for documentaries. All of these people helped make our trip more colorful, more fun, and more memorable.
Have I mentioned the mesmerizing, crystal-blue water? One or two miles off of the islands, the water becomes deeper and looks dark, velvety blue. There are slight variations in the darkness of the blue, depending on the changes in depth. As you approach the island though, you can see a stark difference in the color. The dark blue abruptly ends and a brilliant teal emerges. You can see the bottom of the ocean and the marine life cutting through the teal. Even closer to the islands, the water turns baby blue and is so clear you can recognize different types of vegetation, coral, and fish. It is just like a postcard. I can’t describe the feeling of being in that beautiful water (well, besides the January frigidity of it), swimming along with schools of hundreds of fish, and looking at slices of history on the ocean floor. Sound is muted and this seems appropriate, either because of the reverence that the site demands or so that your other senses can fully absorb the details of the mystery. It is magical. When I was snorkeling along the Bimini Road, it was easy to forget about the others in the water or where the boat was anchored because I became so intrigued with the formation. It looked man-made. The stones looked like they were placed there on purpose and for a purpose. My imagination wandered into what it must have looked like years and years ago under all of that blue water.
That is better than watching any movie or reading any book about it. That is what Greg and Lora do. And what they do is not easy. It takes tremendous effort, persistence, resourcefulness, and courage. As we experienced on this trip, many times their boat is leaving the island when all of the other boats are making their way to shore. There is the payoff though, and I’m not necessarily talking about the unforgettable sunsets, the friends they make along the way, or the dolphins that periodically come to play with them. Each time they go searching, they come closer to solving some of the World’s most enigmatic mysteries that are there, just waiting to be unfolded. Stan and I were honored to have been given the chance to be a part of that.