Monday, July 26, 2010

Panama Paradise By Guy Harvey / Book review

Drawing from the book

Dr. Guy Harvey, conservationist at work
Offshore anglers hear that the fishing in the Eastern Pacific waters off of Panama are magical grounds for marlin and more. Guy Harvey knows this to be true since he has made at least 30 trips to the Tropic Star Lodge since 1991 and closely documented each outing with his palette of talents that include writing, photography, sketches and of course watercolors. Panama Paradise is an excellent history of one of the most storied fishing operations in the world, and it’s images bait the reader to take the hook, line and sinker.
         Guy Harvey is known as an artist but he is also a marine biologist, and before that he was a dedicated marlin angler in Jamaica where he grew up. Harvey’s family immigrated from Wales, England to Jamaica in 1644 where they were given land to farm tobacco. After ten generations of Harvey’s in Jamaica, Guy moved his family to Grand Cayman Island in August 1999, where he keeps an art gallery and studio “on the ocean’s doorstep.”
Dr. Guy Harvey at work in Panama
         By the age of 14 Harvey was selling his art during the regular marlin season events in Jamaica, and then in 1986 he was encouraged to show his art at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. Harvey said of that moment, “That was the first time I truly realized the potential of what I had to offer.” Upon seeing Harvey’s art Raleigh Working said, “It didn’t take long to realize that this art was different than anything I’d ever seen.” Over time the Guy Harvey brand of licensed products has diversified, and now includes books.
         For more information on Guy Harvey, the Guy Harvey Research Institute in Florida, and the Guy Harvey brand please visit the Internet at The power of t-shirt sales is staggering when you consider the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation recently received a $500,000 donation from the “Save Our Gulf” campaign, after participating retailers sold 50,000 t-shirts with the Guy Harvey-licensed project logo that depicts a healthy Gulf of Mexico and its inhabitants. Harvey said, “It takes cash to care, and to sponsor research work.”
         Panama Paradise begins with a history of the ‘Pioneers,’ the families that first owned the fishing operation. It literally is located where the mountainous Darien jungle meets the Pinas Reef, and is still considered quite remote. Earthquakes, political regimes, and an ever-encroaching vibrant jungle were just a few of the early pitfalls. This history is set in the first three chapters among a treasure trove of classic photos of monster marlin and other species taken over the past five decades.
         In 1998 the investor-group Pinas Bay Foundation took over ownership of the Tropic Star Lodge and the infusion of capital brought the amenities offered into a more modern state. The same rough jungle is right behind the lodge with neo-tropical birds like the violet-bellied hummingbird making regular appearances, and the same Pinas Reef which is an underwater formation leftover from an ages old volcano that juts up from the ocean floor about 160-feet, providing the all important structure to attract baitfish and pelagic predators.
         Harvey is also an accomplished diver and he refers to the Pinas Reef as a Black Marlin Classroom. Harvey said, “When a black marlin plunders the ever-present school of rainbow runners, the sight is dramatic but fleeting, and happens too quickly to capture in a photo. The color, the speed, the foam and the drama of open-ocean predator and prey interactions make the hairs on my arms stand up. I commit the event to memory and compose it on canvas when I get home to my studio.”
         The artist’s memory must be formidable because the eye-popping watercolors he depicts from these close encounters reak of realism. Harvey put his talents to work in creating an 11-foot-long painting called ‘Black Beauty’ that depicts a giant black marlin on patrol among a nervous school of black skipjack. The masterpiece now graces the dining room wall at the Tropic Star Lodge, a place Harvey calls “the ultimate fishing destination.”
         Subsequent chapters document Pacific Sailfish, Blue Marlin, Striped Marlin, Swordfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Dorado, Mackerels, Jacks, Snappers and Groupers that can all be found off Panama. These latter chapters hold a stunning visual array of photograph images and watercolor depictions of the bounty of life that Harvey has witnessed. But it’s the apex predators that receive the most attention in this book, which hits a home run in the arena of saltwater big game.

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