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Island Queen disappeared without a trace 75 years ago

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • 2019 marks 75th anniversary of mysterious disappearance of schooner Island Queen
  • Still is no concrete evidence to indicate what transpired that day

Today 5, August 2019 marks the 75th anniversary since the mysterious disappearance of the schooner Island Queen.

On 5 August 1944 both the Island Queen and another vessel, the Providence Mark, set sail just one year shy of the end of World War II on 2 September 1945. Aboard was Chicra Salhab, a Syrian-Lebanese captain who was quite popular at the time, along with 67 passengers and crew all headed to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Among the passengers were students from St Joseph’s Convent St George and Anglican High School. However, as fate would have it only the passengers and crew aboard the Providence Mark were able to reach safely to their destination. There were also no traces of the vessel or the bodies aboard the Island Queen. 75 years later there still is no concrete evidence to indicate what transpired that day or what tragedy struck the passengers and crew to prevent the schooner from reaching Saint Vincent.

Today not much is spoken of that incident nor is there any national recognition for those lives lost at sea.

Grenada in Wartime: The Tragic Loss of the Island Queen and Other Memories of World War II by Beverley Steele

Historian, author and retired resident tutor at the University of the West Indies, Beverley A Steele, has extensively researched the vessel’s mysterious disappearance by interviewing the relatives and friends of those lost. Her findings led her to publish her book in 2011 entitled “Grenada in Wartime: The Tragic Loss of the Island Queen and Other Memories of World War II.”

“Now there is a historical method of writing history from what people tell you and you must hear the thing at least 3 times for you to write it down as history; three separate people can’t remember the same thing exactly how it happened… but it was pretty easy to get confirmation because the experiences were similar,” said Steele.

She continued, “Now some of it is written in the narrative, but there is a section at the rear of the book where I gave a short biography of each person as much as I can find out because these people were lost at sea. There is no tombstone, no memorial nothing for them… I wrote this book mainly for the survivors and I hope that the little memorial at the back of it will stand as a sort of comfort.”

At the time when the vessel came up missing, it was declared that a fire onboard the ship may have caused the shipwreck of the Island Queen. This was further corroborated by sighting smoke on the horizon off the coast of Carriacou, but this was not accepted by the victim’s families and thereafter many theories, some outlandishly farfetched, started to emerge to explain the ship’s whereabouts.

Steele said these theories were carefully examined during her investigation. She indicated there was a faction of the population who believed that rogue waves may have been the cause, but climatic conditions at the time do not lend weight to that theory.

“Why it couldn’t have been a rogue wave because of the climatic conditions at the time were not there and also when a boat is swamped you find debris and people are able to swim. The thing about the Island Queen passengers, there were at least 5 very strong swimmers on it so if a rogue wave had taken the boat they would have been able to swim,” she said.

The second theory suggested that the vessel did not have any ballast and overturned, but that also was disproven.

Another theory suggested that Hitler was in a submarine that captured the boat, painted it over right there in the middle of the sea and sailed it down to a section of Argentina called Patagonia.

However, Steele said it was a third theory that was considered outlandishly farfetched but she understood why families clung on to that theory. “Now this was a mechanism among certain parents to make them feel that their children were still alive somewhere in the world. That theory didn’t really hold too much water, then they said that a German submarine had sunk it. Now there were no German submarines, there was one left but it wasn’t in the area.”

Steele believes the theory holding the most weight suggests that the turmoil of World War II may have played a major part in its disappearance. “We have no proof at all of what could have happened to the Island Queen, there are only guesses. It had a German engine, it was possible that somebody was tracking the sound of it and it is possible that they thought it was a supply ship for the one remaining submarine but something let go some powerful bombs on that ship because not a matchstick was found.”

As to the remanence of the ship wreckage, Steele said this will require some underwater exploration.

Part of the book sought to document the lives of those lost and the reaction from close relatives and friends but also draws the connection between what was transpiring at the time during the war and the contribution made by the military servicemen and women of the region towards the victory of Britain and its allies against German forces.

“Any documents to do with the Island Queen they don’t exist and if they did exist, they don’t exist anymore. So, it is not so much these days as to what happened to the Island Queen it’s a matter of remembering and that regardless of whether it was a German submarine sunk it or a friendly fire that sunk it, that it was a price that Grenada paid for being a colony of Britain during World War II.”

Steele is advocating for a memorial monument to be placed at the site on the Carenage where the vessel departed and that the day be nationally recognised as a day of remembrance of those lives lost.

“I am particularly keen that we remember the captain of the Island Queen, who was a Syrian- Lebanese called Chicra Salhab and he was much beloved… I would like to see for everybody since they have no tombstone, a monument, maybe from the point at which they left, which is just outside of the fire station, with everybody’s name on it and I would like to see us remember. August is not just for celebrating emancipation and carnival but it is definitely for remembering this tragedy that took place over the Emancipation weekend.”

A 2015 article published on Ocean71 magazine briefly mentioned the disappearance of the Island Queen and according to the article, a volcanologist from the University of West Indies (UWI) Trinidad and Tobago, Jan Lindsay stated that Kick ‘em Jenny may be responsible since at the time the submarine volcano seemed to have been letting out large amounts of gas, creating clouds of bubbles above which, according to Lindsay, caused the drop in the water’s density above the crater, reducing the buoyancy of any object floating above.

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CANQATE conference to tackle quality of tertiary education

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • UWI Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal to present on Implementing Quality Assurance Practices
  • CANQATE conference will be held on 22-24 October

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus, Dr Luz Longsworth, is slated to present at the 16th Annual Caribbean Area Network for Quality Assurance in Tertiary Education (CANQATE) conference to discuss the evaluation, accreditation, and improvement of tertiary education in the region.

Addressing the topic “Implementing Quality Assurance Practices in the Caribbean Region: Opportunities and Challenges” Dr Longsworth joins keynote speakers Dr Leon Wilson — who will speak on the topic “The Regionalisation of Discipline-Specific Quality Practices: A Feasible and Desirable objective?” — and Rob May who will present on “International Credentials, Local Regulation.”

Other presenters include Registrar at the University of Guyana, Dr C Nigel Gravesande, who once served in the same capacity at the TA Marryshow College (TAMCC).

Established in 2004, CANQATE comprises external quality assurance agencies, including government ministries, state agencies, and higher education institutions. It was established to promote the development of tertiary education and to act as a conduit to promoting regional discourses on policy and programmes geared at quality assurance and quality enhancement.

The conference was last held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2018, and will be held in Grenada this year for the first time under the theme, “Creating an enabling environment for the pursuit of quality tertiary education: Opportunities and challenges.”

Pauline Finley – Executive Director of the Grenada National Accreditation Board

Pauline Finley, Executive Director, Grenada National Accreditation Board (GNAB), said there are many barriers affecting the delivery of tertiary education in the region and these barriers must be addressed. “Usually you have faculty qualifications and capacity of faculty. There are some barriers or issues related to the curriculum used at higher education institutions. There is also the issue of governance and capacity and the willingness of institutions to change as the demands of the graduates change, and then again you have the issue of access. Some student finds it very expensive to attend institutions.”

This year’s conference, she said, will provide an open discourse on strengths, threats, and challenges surrounding tertiary education. “We have quite a number of concurrent presentations, presenters will look at policies that govern institutions, they are going to talk about technical and vocational education. They are going to present their research findings and open discourse on issues as it affects graduates, institutions, and government,” she said.

Shane Mc Quilkin, Quality Assurance Officer, GNAB, said this year a lot of discussions will be centred around the quality of online education. “We really want to appease any kind of fear or hesitance that people may have that maybe in-classroom education is higher than online education, when really and truly as long as the quality is maintained, then there is really no difference between the two.”

The 16th Annual CANQATE conference will be held on 22-24 October 2019 at the Radisson Beach Resort. The conference will also provide secondary students with the opportunity to voice their concerns with regard to issues attaining tertiary education.

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Government prepared to bring 19-seater service to Carriacou

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The Government of Grenada is willing to invest, if necessary, to help improve airlift to Carriacou.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr the Right Honorable Keith Mitchell is reassuring the people of Carriacou that government will do everything within its power to provide better options for travel between the two islands.

Providing an update on the planned operation of a 19-seater Twin-Otter aircraft which should have commenced service in mid-August, Dr Mitchell said, the engine of the aircraft has to be upgraded.

He was speaking to members of the business community and professionals at a special forum held in Hillsborough last Friday, and later reinforced the points in an interview with the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs.

Dr Mitchell said, “The investor who indicated his interest in servicing the islands, has already acquired the 19-seater aircraft. Following the assessment required for certification, he was informed that the engines had to be replaced, to meet international aviation standards. Now the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for the certification of aircraft and we must abide by their guidance; they are the experts.”

Adding further clarity on the status of the planned service, Dr Mitchell said, “We are therefore at the point where the investor must purchase new engines for the aircraft. He may have some financial challenges doing so and I have communicated to the Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, that if the need arises, government will make a contribution to help with the acquisition of new engines. Our interest is in providing a much-needed improved service for the people of Carriacou and our position demonstrates government’s commitment towards the tourism sector on the sister island.”

The Prime Minister further stated, “As a government, we believe that whatever is happening on mainland Grenada should be happening in Carriacou and Petite Martinique as well. This is why we are going to ensure that the operation of the bigger aircraft does in fact come to fruition.”

In related news, the Prime Minister has also given assurance that a new airport for Carriacou remains a long-term development plan but in the meantime, government is forging ahead with plans to extend the runway at the Lauriston Airport. This will enable the airport to accommodate 72-seater aircraft, something which is anticipated will boost travel activities to and from the island.

Dr Mitchell noted that with the operation of the Tyrell Bay Marina Project, Carriacou and Petite Martinique are already experiencing an increased number of visitors and people with resources which he believes will lead to major opportunities in the hotel and services sectors.

“With the expansion and further upgrade of the Lauriston Airport and the development of the Levera Project which will have implications in Carriacou and Petite Martinique, there will be further opportunities for the tourism sector to grow. The real task is for the people of Carriacou and Petite Martinique to be prepared appropriately for these developments,” the Prime Minister stated.

He also noted that training in the area of hospitality arts is a major priority area for Carriacou and Petite Martinique, in a bid to ensure that we improve the quality services offered on the islands.

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Grenadian marathon runner aspires to be selected for 2022 Commonwealth Games 

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Vanessa Nair’s nickname is ‘GosforthGrenadian’ 
  • Has run several marathons, including London, Edinburgh and Great North Run
  • Wants to be selected to Team Grenada for Commonwealth Games 2022

On the international stage, Grenada’s flag continues to garner more and more recognition since the exploits of son of the soil Kirani James at the 2012 London Olympics. Since then, a number of Grenadian athletes including Kurt Felix, Lindon Victor, Rondell Bartholomew, Kanika Beckles, and most recently Anderson Peters — who captured gold in men’s javelin at Doha, Qatar — have shown that great things can emerge from this island nation.

However, while many people compete for glory and fame, Grenadian athletes compete for a much more selfless cause, to represent their country on the world stage. After emerging on the scene in the UK as a competitive marathon runner, Vanessa “Bungi” Nair has received international recognition for herself and the island of her birth for doing just that,

“Being able to represent Grenada and fly the Grenadian flag is something really special to me. I feel like we need to let people know that we are here too and we are not just sun, sea and sand”. I have accumulated lots of medals from different races. Some of them are special, some were difficult to get (I had to run while it snowed/rained) For some the terrain was very hilly. I like the design of some of my medals. My best medal so far is London; it is very big and heavy,” Nair wrote.

Nair was born in Grenada and attended the Grand Anse RC School and St Joseph’s Convent St George. In North America, she attended the Canarsie High School before returning to Grenada to attend the New Life Organisation (NEWLO). She migrated to England and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Early Years and started her own childcare business. A sense of unfulfillment led her to undertake another challenge in her life with a renewed sense of purpose.

“I joined a running club (Newcastle Frontrunners) which was close to my home and started my half marathon training with them. I did my first ever half marathon in 2016. I thought that was it. I got the running bug and continued running with the club. The running club introduced me to many other running events. I continued to represent Grenada at every opportunity. The following year the Great North Run asked to do the run again (2017). By this time, I had applied for the London Marathon despite knowing that it is really hard to get into and it was a bigger challenge. I got rejected. I continued running different races. I applied the following year (2018) got rejected again and thought enough of this, I’ll just find another marathon. I secured a place on the ‘Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon’. That was my first marathon in April 2018,” Nair wrote.

She continued, “I had to increase my running miles and train for this marathon. It was like doing two Great North Runs. I never thought I could do it, but I tried and I completed it. I wore a large Grenada flag around. I ran for 26.2 miles and I only heard one person who shouted ‘Go Grenada’. Sometimes people asked ‘which country’s flag is that?’ That inspired me more to represent Grenada. With my marathon training, I entered two popular, must-do marathons in the North East of England (Kielder Marathon, October 2018 and Town Moor Marathon, November 2018).”

Despite being rejected from taking part in the London Marathon two years consecutively, a stroke of luck saw her name drawn from a hat following her participation in a raffle and Nair took part in the London Marathon.

“God somehow wanted me to do it and at my running club’s AGM they were given one London Marathon place to raffle. I put my name in the hat (just like I did the previous year). Out of 13 entries, my name was pulled out of the hat! I was over the moon! I was going to be running the London marathon 2019! I have met runners who have been trying for 10+ years to get a place to run the London Marathon and they are still unsuccessful. I felt extremely lucky and proud that I would get to represent Grenada again. I did the Virgin Money London Marathon and was super proud to have competed in one of the world’s major marathons (Berlin, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Boston).”

After receiving the nickname ‘GosforthGrenadian’ following her participation in the Great North Run, Nair was recognised by the Great North Run Company since it came as a surprise that a Grenadian was living and competing in Newcastle. The Great North Run half marathon is considered the largest half marathon in the world and it takes place every September between Newcastle and South Shields.

Vanessa “Bungi” Nair – Grenadian marathon runner in the UK

For her tenacity and drive to compete, Nair was used as a poster girl for the company and was a guest speaker at the 2017 Great North Run annual conference held in Newcastle. She was also part of the Birmingham City Council’s bid to host Commonwealth Games 2022. But her passion for long-distance running only recently manifested after being convinced to sign up to participate in The Great North Run, upon noticing an ad in the local newspaper.

“It was there, while at work one day a colleague noticed an ad in the local newspaper calling for people from all countries in the world to take part in ‘The Great North Run’. The Great North Run in an annual half marathon (13.1 miles) in the northeast of England. It was once the largest half marathon in the world, now it is the world’s favourite run based on the success they had when they launched the campaign to find someone from every UN-recognised country in the world,” Nair wrote. “My colleague suggested I sign up for it. I said, no, because I am not a runner and 13.1 miles is way too much for me to even think of running. I normally run to bed after work. I was never a runner, and I was always last in cross-country at school.”

Nair has now set her eyes on tackling her newest challenge yet, which is to compete at the upcoming Commonwealth games 2022. “I would love to represent Grenada at the Commonwealth Games 2022. It would be a dream and an honour. I would continue to do the country proud. I think I should be considered being part of the team as I was part of the bidding process. I am not sure if Pure Grenada and the Grenada Olympic Association or whoever makes the selection is aware of how proudly I represent Grenada. If I get selected to be part of Team Grenada at the Commonwealth Games 2022, it would give hope to any aspiring athlete that they can achieve big things too. Just try something new, you never know where you will end up.”

With the 2022 Commonwealth Games still a long way ahead, Nair has placed focus on competing at the Amsterdam Marathon on Sunday, 20 October.

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