National Geographic : 1952 Feb
Man-of-War Fleet Attacks Bimini observation that the fish itself is highly susceptible to the poison. One sea dweller that does apparently pos sess a natural protection or immunity is the loggerhead turtle. A skipper with years of experience in Gulf Stream waters tells me he has seen such turtles prey upon men-of-war. A turtle will close its eyes, he declares, and gulp the man-of-war whole. Still swallowing, according to the captain, the turtle swims off with man-of-war tentacles streaming out of its mouth like weird holiday bunting. Problems of the Parasite Once having accepted a particular man-of war as its food provider, does a Nomeus re main faithful to that individual? This struck me as an especially intriguing problem in natural history. When one large specimen in my dip net escaped overboard, I thought I saw it make a beeline for the organism from whose under side it had just been snatched. I doubt the significance of this observation, however, for that particular man-of-war also happened to be the closest at hand. Consider in this regard, too, the thousands of these satellite fishes left safely behind in the surf when their masters are tossed ashore during a blow. Do these thereafter live in dependent lives? Or do they seek out other men-of-war with which to join up? I believe the latter, although there is still no strong evidence to support my opinion. The fascinating biological problem of para sitism and animal cooperation, in all its multi tudinous forms, is these days a major field of experimental biology. New facts of interest and usefulness are daily being uncovered by people trained in science working at such marine laboratories as the Lerner station on Bimini, where bizarre sea organisms conveni ently throw themselves at the island or oblig ingly live almost at the laboratory door. Happy Hunting Grounds for Scientists A mere 55 air miles east of Miami Beach, Florida, Bimini is a tiny cluster of low-lying palm-studded islands enclosing a shallow bay through whose lucite-clear waters one may see quilled sea urchins, pearly-lipped conchs, and gaily colored starfish lazing on the white sand bottom. The only populated isle is a splinter of land five miles long and but a few hundred yards in width. To the west, Bimini faces that great aorta of Western seas, the wondrous Gulf Stream.* To the east stretches the generally more quiet and shallow area known as the Great Bahama Bank. In 1513 Ponce de Le6n landed on one of the Bimini Islands and, so local legend says, bathed prayerfully in a fresh-water spring. It was a good test, for Ponce de Le6n was already a middle-aged man. He stepped out of the pool with lined face and stooped shoulders unchanged and, disappointed, sailed off to search elsewhere for the fabled Fountain of Youth! From then until the modern advent of the sportsman's yacht and speedy fishing cruiser now abounding in Bahamian waters, Bimini had a humble history, save in the era of pro hibition in the United States; its inhabitants were victims of a not overrich soil and an isolation from primary trading areas. Today its citizenry consists mainly of about 700 Bahamian Negroes living in the quaint village settlements of Alice Town and Bailey Town. From the British Government office at Alice Town, a Nassau-appointed and most coopera tive white Commissioner directs the civil ad ministration. In recent years a group of American and Canadian families have erected spacious modern tropical homes on the tiny island, and several small hotels afford visitors comfortable accommodations. During winter, spring, and early summer, sports fishermen from many parts of the United States, seeking sun and prize catches, dock their yachts at one of the wharves, anchor on the bay side of Alice Town, or fly over from south Florida resorts. Gathering on the docks of Bimini and along the King's Highway, they swap tall sea tales and con jecture on the probable location of big marlin and tuna schools. Sea Creatures Aid Cancer Research Conspicuous to the Bimini visitor is the sustaining and valued influence of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Lerner, internationally known big-game fishermen.t In 1948, in collabora tion with Dr. Charles M. Breder, Jr., dis tinguished biologist and marine authority of the American Museum of Natural History, they designed, had built, and equipped a modern marine laboratory on Bimini and pre sented it as a field operation station to the American Museum. Here to the Lerner Marine Laboratory come scientists from many parts of the world to carry on their researches in basic biology. More and more the technical facilities of the laboratory have been devoted to cancer re search. Nearly half of all the investigations * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Grandest and Most Mighty Terrestrial Phenomenon: The Gulf Stream," by Rear Adm. John Elliott Pills bury, August. 1912; "Treasure-House of the Gulf Stream," by John Oliver La Gorce, and "Interesting Citizens of the Gulf Stream," by Dr. John T. Nichols, both January, 1921. t See "Fighting Giants of the Humboldt," by David D. Duncan, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, March, 1941.