Three divers are in the water spearfishing in the sun-dappled shallows, while two wait in the canoe at the water’s surface for the catch to come in. One diver has speared a parrotfish, while another holds a conch aloft as he swims closer to the canoe. The diver on the right faces out to the viewer, reaching for the conch spotted among the turtle grass. He holds in his hand a fishing harpoon, tipped with a stingray spine. In the distance, a curious turtle surveys the scene, and a variety of fish, including grouper, snapper and grunts, circle cautiously in the periphery. Remains of these mammals, fish and shellfish have been recovered from Lucayan archaeological sites, and were consumed as part of the local diet – as grouper, snapper and conch still are today.
The Lucayans, above all other indigenous Caribbean groups, were renowned for their diving skills – a fact not lost on the Spanish who, during the very early colonial period, enslaved them for work at their pearl fisheries off the coast of Venezuela. They were forced to dive for pearls with little rest and under dangerous conditions; many died as a result. The underwater scene therefore links two threads – showing traditional life and hunting skills and touching upon how these skills were taken advantage of by the colonisers.