When Chaplin (Research Associate/Academy of Natural Sciences; Dark Wind: A Survivor's Tale of Love and Loss, 1999, etc.) was invited to accompany an expedition to the Bahamas to see the coral reefs, he was overjoyed at the chance to relive boyhood memories.
In 2003, the author received a call from an associate curator at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, where his father's papers were archived, and was offered a chance to return to the idyllic scenes of his childhood. He had grown up on an island in the Bahamas that subsequently became the location of Paradise Beach and a magnet for tourists. Chaplin’s father was the author of the “771-page definitive work” Fishes of the Bahamas, and Chaplin had accompanied his father on many of his collecting trips. His memories would be invaluable for a planned 50-year retrospective on the state of the reefs and the fish they housed, she informed him. “We aim to go back to the original sites to make our own collections,” the ANS representative told him,” and you are the only person alive who knows exactly where they are.” The author, an advocate of sea conservation, put aside his own writing to join the project. During that trip and subsequent follow-ups, it was established that despite the effects of “[g]lobal warming, disease, bleaching, pollution, rampant algae, hurricanes, overfishing and overdiving,” which have caused severe coral degeneration and a reduction in the number of fish that populated them, species biodiversity is still intact. Nonetheless, he warns, unless measures are taken to reverse the degradation of the reefs, the “world's most diverse ecosystem will have been destroyed.”
A call to action leavened by Chaplin's recollections of a long-gone way of life, when his parents were part of the Duke of Windsor's social set on the Bahamas and he was a young boy sharing in his father's adventures at sea.