Sunday, 17 May 2009 05:55
By Floree Williams
Martha Watkins Gilkes is a woman of the sea. Born in the US, she now calls Antigua her home and has been a diving instructor on the island for over 20 years. This sea loving woman is the owner of Fanta-Sea Island Divers, a scuba diving shop that provides training and certification for divers and Fanta-Sea Island Excursions, a travel company that takes small groups of divers to remote dive sites.
To share her love and knowledge of the sea, Martha has published two books about diving in the Caribbean. The premise for these books began when she was working with the US Consulate in Barbados. At that time, Martha was traveling extensively throughout the Caribbean and noticed there were no diving books on this wonderful area. She successfully pitched the idea to Macmillan Publishers in England and The Diving Guide to the Eastern Caribbean was born. This book documents the various dive sites found in 22 Eastern Caribbean islands.
While doing research for her first book, Martha came across many shipwrecks and this led to her second book, Shipwrecks of the Caribbean. She decided to write extensively about these ‘ladies of the deep’ and successfully documented many shipwrecks around the Caribbean. This project took five years to com
plete and every time she thought the book was finished, a hurricane would pass through the region and either destroy or shift some of the sites.
Ships have gone down in the waters of Antigua and Barbuda and many have yet to be found. Martha and a colleague stumbled across one off the shores of Jumby Bay that dates back to the 1800’s. Some of the artifacts from this wreck can be found at the museum and she details the story in Shipwrecks of the Caribbean.
Martha makes no apologies for being vocal about the protection of Antigua’s marine environment. “What’s good for the ocean is good for us. And what’s bad for the ocean is bad for us,” she remarks.
She is extremely concerned about the over fishing of our waters by Guadeloupean fisherman and the destruction of reefs by anchors dropped from mega yachts. She would like to see Antigua have a bigger coast guard to police the waters and also hopes that Antigua will have a mooring system to prevent the anchor problem.
Martha’s books can be found at Best of Books.