Lee Stocking Island

February 13 – February 19.

View looking south from Perry’s Peak. The Exuma chain stretches on down to Great Exuma Island.

The Perry Institute for Marine Science was established in 1970 on Lee Stocking Island. At its peak it received funding from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and several universities. It was dedicated to the studies of energy, marine conservation, lobsters and food fish, invasion of Pacific lionfish, coral reefs and global climate change. The institute built special subs for deep research dives. Some of these are still in operation. Some were used in the underwater scenes of the James Bond movie ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’.

The caretaker here says that there were always five to ten people living and working at the center. It has been closed for two years now. But he says feel free to take a look around.

Thursday and Friday we have great weather for exploring the island. Lots of things were left behind when the facility closed. The buildings are unlocked, so we can poke around in them and see how researchers lived and worked. There are trails and beaches to walk, and peaks to climb. With a light breeze coming from the south we can even snorkel comfortably on the ocean side.

The Saturday forecast calls for the wind to shift west and increase to 25-30 mph overnight. Its pretty calm in the morning, so we row westward over to Norman’s Pond Cay, thinking we’ll return in the afternoon with the wind at our backs. On the cay it starts to get cloudy while we eat lunch. I think of going back, but we’re close to the salt pond we wanted to explore, so we press on.

We finish with the salt pond. Back on the beach the wind has really whipped up a chop. We have almost a mile walk on beaches and over rocks to get back to the dink. Conditions seem to worsen as we go.

At the dinghy Duwan gets out the handheld VHF radio in case we need to call out to boats in the mooring field for help. Then we get in and start rowing the mile-and-a-half back.

It was a little tough rounding the southeast tip of Norman’s Pond Cay, but after that Fever and I enjoyed having most of the wind and current at our backs. Well, there was plenty of bouncing. And Duwan had to do a lot of bailing. In the distance I could see a newly arriving sailboat go back and forth trying to snag a mooring ball. (Someone eventually got in a dinghy and helped them.)

We made it a mile before our neighbor, Jeff (from Echo) spotted us and zoomed out in his nice inflatable. He and his wife, Mary, had been worried about us. (We were fine, but Duwan said that if he offered us a tow we should take it.) He pulled us back to the mooring field where lots of guys were standing on their bows wishing they had attached one more mooring line, just in case.

Sunday brought cold wind from the north, making it a good day to work on the boat and stay out of trouble. Monday we rowed down to see the southern end of Lee Stocking. We also took Jeff and Mary some brownies Duwan had made. Tomorrow we plan to wait for high tide, motor through the shallows, and spend the night off Rat Cay.

Off to our west are the Brigantines. To the south are Barraterre and many other small cays. But these are off limits to deep draft boats. It’s time for us to sail out though Exuma Sound to Georgetown.

Air plant on hiking trail to Perry’s Peak.

Machine shop with numerous tools and ‘Home Depot’ full of hardware.

Lobster Lagoon and lobster lab.

Seed pod.

View from side of Perry’s Peak.

The Reef Ranger, two man research sub, is just one of the many things left behind when the facility was abandoned.

A rod running through the shaft of this apparatus was used to accurately track tide levels. A ditch runs to the structure from the Exuma Bank, making sure waves don’t affect the readings. Hours before the SF earthquake of 1989, an eight inch surge was measured here.

View looking north from Perry’s Peak, the highest point in the Exumas.

View of Norman’s Pond Cay from Perry’s Peak.

Got the bends from ascending too fast from your SCUBA dive? This decompression chamber left behind at Lee Stocking could help you.

Controls on the decompression chamber. Even if you figure out how to use these you will need to bring some fuel to run the island’s generator.

Microscopes left behind in one of the labs. Also left behind were lots of office equipment, computers, lab equipment, chemicals, VHS tapes, diving equipment, tools, and hardware.

Egret at salt pond.

This crab at the salt pond says ‘Bring it!’.

Jellyfish in salt pond on Norman’s Pond Cay.

Channel leading into the salt pond.

View from south end of Lee Stocking Island. The Brigantine Isles are in the background.

6 thoughts on “Lee Stocking Island

  1. Michelle said:

    Fascinating! We’re there any lobsters in those tanks? So wierd they just left stuff…

  2. Craig Cortez said:

    Greg and Duwan,

    I haven’t commented in awhile, but I want to let you know that I DO READ your stuff. Thank you for posting it and all of the incredible photography. Both of you are becoming very good writers. Your material grabs me and brings me there in spirit. The FL Keys is the closest thing I have every come to what you all are doing. The natural beauty you guys experience on a day-to-day basis now is awe inspiring. I really get jealous when I see and read about the music jam sessions. It sure would be great to sit in and try to keep up on the chord changes. I know Eric would like to chime in with some of his steel pan improv.

    You guys take care. Be safe. Gentle winds.

    -Craig

  3. Hi. I lived and worked on Lee Stocking intermittently for several years. Such an amazing place, and such a shame that is has been left in shambles. During its peak, as many as 30 visiting scientists would be there doing truly cutting edge research. I have many fond memories of LSI, and consider it a home away from home even to this day. It was nice to see your pics.

    • Darcy said:

      I lived there back in the 80’s. It was an amazing experience. Any idea of what happened and why it was abandoned?

      • Duwan said:

        Unfortunately the research center was shut down due to lack of funding.

  4. Dave Peterson said:

    Those of you whom have spent significant time on Lee Stocking, especially if you worked there, please contact me. Dave. Davepeterson3@live.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *