SANDRA L BLOOD
On March 3, 1677, Rockley Bay in Tobago became a fierce battleground when the French and Dutch engaged in a deadly war for the island.
The French were defeated, with 13 or more of their flagships and other vessels destroyed and approximately 3,000 people lost.
Ruins and artefacts remain on the seabed. Some were excavated and returned while some are safely stored. Today, research into the sunken Huis de Kreuningen battleship continues. In 2012, Associate Professor of Maritime Archaeology at the University of Connecticut and Archaeological Institute of America’s Prof Kroum Batchvarov initiated an exercise—a request to link with Tobago.
He was eventually introduced to Dr Levis Guy-Obiakor, a Tobagonian political scientist and international lawyer with a passion for and interest in maritime history, general education, worldly-thinking children, diving, and the sea.
The Rockley Bay Research Project (RBRP) began. Dr Guy-Okiabor is director of the project, which was authorised by then-Chief Secretary Hochoy Charles with a view to helping preserve the island’s rich, but otherwise endangered maritime heritage.
During the first two phases of the project, some artefacts were excavated. On November 20, Dr Guy-Obiakor officially kicked off the third phase of the project, which continues until December 8, covering exploration and education for local and international students of maritime archaeology.
UNESCO has issued a call for applications for the UNESCO Foundation in Training for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Caribbean Tobago at Rockley Bay, Scarborough, Tobago.
UNESCO is working in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, an executive body of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and ICOMOS’ International Scientific Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage.
Dr Guy-Obiakor explained, “We depend on the oceans in ways that most of us do not understand. It plays a role in climate and biodiversity, as well as carbon cycling and storage. Learning about what lies underneath the sea, and how to protect it, is worth the investment because it can make our lives better too.”