Friday August 27, 2004

Invitees learn about the expedition in the last milestone before the T&C Explorer leaves Grand Turk.

By Nigel Sadler and Jackie Mulligan

9am: Today was the official launch of the search for Trouvadore – an important milestone in the project. All but Randy Davis had arrived in TCI and were happily adorned in Trouvadore T-Shirts especially created by Alexa Cooper of Grand Turk. Windward Media staying at Island House review the film they made diving in Grand Turk to test equipment and are delighted with the results.

10am: Richard, Veronica and Bryan of Windward Media are most delighted with the T-shirts because they have no other clothes. The dive bag holding them has been stuck in Miami for over 2 days…. Tensions rise as team members try to solve the mystery of the missing bag, and everyone appears to have their own theory – even the airlines.

The Team discusses possible solutions but agree that a naked camera crew wandering around the islands might cause concern. Jackie decides to persevere with the search for the dive bag. As the rest of the team prepares for the search for Trouvadore.

11am: Bryan is suffering from sinus trouble and may not be able to dive if it is not dealt with. He is quickly seen at the Grand Turk clinic and feels better within hours.

11.15am: Tim Ecott and Anders Seim check in and are warmly welcomed at the Osprey Beach Hotel.

12 noon: A slight concern is raised over a hurricane called Frances which has emerged with impeccable timing – it is still quite a distance away with a track that could change. The team agrees to watch it closely and Disaster Advisor Roger Bellers for the TCI sends some helpful advice to the team.

2pm:In the afternoon, Tim Ecott arrives following a Grand Turk tour to see the National Museum. After a history lesson about TCI from Museum Manager Cheryll Hawkins Paige, he becomes fascinated with a video about dolphins – a favourite topic.

4pm:Back at the airport, local airlines are joining the search. Marine Archaeologists James and Jason arrive at Grand Turk, so do their bags and the camera crew film the scene.

4.15pm:The bag hunt continues. Jackie begins to feel it could be more complex than the search for the shipwreck and wonders if any GPS system might help. This time the search, like the hurricane appears to be intensifying. Richard Coberly has realized that along with clothes, his contact lenses are also in the now often discussed throughout the Islands “black dive bag with blue pockets”. No contact lenses will mean distinctly unfocussed shots underwater – not an ideal scenario for the Emmy Award-winning documentary makers.

Meanwhile Cheryll and Museum staff prepare the museum for the official reception, Mookie Pookie’s Pizza Parlour – a great place for delicious local dishes begins to prepare the buffet that will be served for the occasion.

7pm:Guests arrive including Honorable Cynthia Astwood, Chief Secretary, Museum Members, Team Members, and local supporters. The place is buzzing with people. Nigel Sadler provides an overview about the project and its historical importance.

Honorable Cynthia Astwood Chief Secretary (pictured)speaks about her positive feelings about the project and the Museum’s work and expresses her certainty that the British Governor would have loved to be there.

Dr Donald Keith then introduces the team after first remembering his close friend who made such an impact on the TCI by creating the Turks and Caicos National Museum: the late museum founder Grethe Seim. He says how pleased he is that Dr Anders Seim, Grethe’s son will be joining the survey – following a trail his mother had started more than a decade earlier.

The crowd are then invited to see photos of the terrain and Donald Keith (pictured below) guides them to the locations Breezy Point, Black Rock and Jackson Cut. Pastor Swann concludes the formal reception with a prayer. He prays for not only the success of the search but also the safety of the team and the vessel.

8pm: Suddenly a breakthrough… By a process of analysis of where the bags are not and with great assistance from June Harry at Provo Customs, Smitty at SkyKing and most importantly David at Air Turks and Caicos, the bags materialize in Grand Turk. A call is made. Then another. And may be one more after that…. And then Customs Officer Howard Spencer takes care of everything – goes the extra mile and brings the bag to the reception in an act of great kindness. Howard is at once declared a hero by the whole team.

8.15pm Lavardo from the Department of Coastal and Environment Resources comes to the party to meet the team. He will be the Government representative on board the vessel. The team welcome him to the expedition.

9pm: The party to celebrate the launch continues until most of the invitees move on for more entertainment.

9.45pm: The crew leave the reception and meet the everyone once again (the kind of thing that happens in a small place) for an evening of entertainment by Mitch and his band High Tide and a special and rarely seen performance of the critically acclaimed Dubious Divas.

11pm:The production crew of Windward Media leave the reception promising that they will all be wearing a whole new set of clothes tomorrow morning. Understandably this comes as a great relief to the rest of the team.