Brendan put together some great projects for BVI and we discussed at length the overlap between our pet subjects, GIS, environmental management and conservation. I had done a lot of work in Africa and the Caribbean to date, and Brendan had worked in many countries tracking turtles, including Trinidad and Cyprus, but one place fascinated me…. he had seen an amazing collection of turtles on Ascension Island.
After work one tea time he had arrived back in the Conservation and Fisheries Office in Road Town and I was just tidying up the day’s work before thinking of heading home. We decided instead of heading straight up to my apartment (where I usually cooked Spag bol or scouse) we would take a pass to Cane Garden Bay, one of the most touristy of Tortola’s beach villages and have a drink at Myetts.
We sat on the stools under the grass roof, still dressed in sweat drenched work shirts and chinos – amongst the others in their surfing shorts and humourlessly themed t-shirts (American tourists thinking they were being ironic, or as many would suggest, “ionic”). Brendan was renowned for his beer – he drank two Caribs to my one and would always finish up a table of beer if someone had left some. His large hands were made to carry four bottles at a time from the bar. But something about the tropical ambience of Myett’s made him choose a strawberry daiquiri. It came in a frosted cocktail glass, the bright pink liquid specked with ice and yes, the umbrella (a bright mixture of pastel and deep tropical shades ) bobbed about on top. I went for my favourite mix; brown rum and coke. His daiquiri would have been blackmailable enough, but he drank it too quickly, his sinuses froze and he suffered the agony of an ice cream headache. He was lucky smartphones were not around just then.
Enough embarrassment to poor Brendan. He was doing his usual mixture of talking high philosophy and emotion mixed with base jokes and working class cultural references, with a smattering of logical scientific reasoning thrown in which always made him a delight to be in his company (if vaguely annoying if he decided to act all lecturer like and pull you up for tautology, non sequiturs or even getting the wrong name for some type of grammatical error you had ever suggested he might have made). And he raved about this small island in the middle of the Atlantic that he visited. He told me of the thousands of green turtles that come ashore every year and lay eggs there, kicking the few leatherbacks on Tortola into touch. He had visited for several years and monitored them on four main beaches but they were present on almost every scrap of sand on this island. Ascension also had the most amazing bird colonies, huge land crabs, and a Marsscape of recent volcanic activity.
Brendan visited my islands a couple of times while I was on BVI (and we met up once when we were at a conference in Bermuda with other overseas territory conservationists) and introduced me to more of his turtle colleagues. He would often embarrass me by introducing me as the guy that told him the disgusting joke about Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and a jar of lemon curd. I had great respect for his method of work, balancing the pragmatism of working in someone else’s country with having the integrity of your science.