The magnificent Hotel Nacional
Apartments along the Malecon, Vedado
The famous Malecon beneath the Cuban Flag
The Hotel Nacional complex was a defensive location during the Cuban Missle Crisis
There is an elaborate system of tunnels beneath the Hotel grounds, built originally during the war with Spain. Here a cache of Soviet ammo cases still sits (sans ammo)
Orlando, who stood on the Malecon (sea wall) in front of Hotel Nacional during the crisis, shows the defensive posture they assumed when U.S. planes buzzed them
Orlando leads the way through the massive tunnel system
This was a periscope during the Missle Crisis
On wrong turn and you'll end up under the restaurant...or the DuPont Circle metro station
Hey that's me! Assuming my defensive posture against the imminent invasion of American tourists :)
The tunnel is now a museum
Museum (continued); This shows location of U.S. forces around Cuba
Soviet ammo cases
The canons weren't for the Missle Crisis -- they were installed during the war with Spain
Our research vessel, the Marinabella (Argentinian registry)
Captains of the R/V Loma and R/V Marinabella respectively: Rolando and Nino
R/V Loma will carry PBS camera crew. Interesting to see Delaware registration. Vessel is now Spanish-owned.
University of Havana
Statue of Alma Mater at University of Havana
Students and Statue of Alma Mater at University of Havana
Uh...TAXI, por favor! Actually, a taxi and a van to haul all of this equipment. Videographer Shane Moore (L) and Partisan Pictures Producer Doug Shulz (R) filming for the PBS series, "Nature"
The ginormous underwater housing for the Sony F900 HD video camera (aka, "Big Bertha") gets the back seat of the taxi to herself.
Now we gotta load all this #@_$@ onto the boat
Of the many inspections required before we were permitted to leave Havana's Marina Hemingway, our favorite was by "Niko," the narcotics-sniffing Springer Spaniel. Everyone who boarded our vessel wore booties to prevent soiling the deck, including Niko!
The skyline of Havana fades behind us as the R/V Loma heads west
Our able captain, Rolando, sets a line in the water to try to catch us dinner
Departing Havana's Marina Hemingway
Videographer Shane Moore, enjoying his turn at the helm
Cayo Levisa, Cuba at first light. Foreground: Ferro-cement vessel used to shuttle employees to the island
Shane and Doug navigate the boardwalk at Cayo Levisa that hopefully will lead to caffeinated beverages
Cayo Levisa native greets the morning sun
Our vessel, the R/V Loma I. Boat lives in Cuba, owner is Spanish, but the vessel curiously has a Delaware registration number.
More vessel inspections, this time by a representative of the Ministry of the Interior in Cayo Levisa.
Morning in Cayo Levisa
Heading offshore to our dive sites
Heading offshore to our dive sites. The "mogotes" along the mainland coast make for a most unusual skyline
Doug (L) and Shane (R) ease "Big Bertha" onto the dive platform before our first dive
In 2008, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike --- each Category 4 storms -- both passed through Cayo Levisa within a week of each other. The damage was significant, including denuded mangroves and toppled corals
The ferro-cement ferry at Cayo Levisa
Ferry and storm-damaged mangroves
Shane Moore preparing to dive
Doug Shulz, happy to be out of Havana and back in the field
The mysterious waters of Cuba's northwestern coast
Yeh, that's me. Already sunburned and going for the punk gray look with my hair
Looking back at the mainland coast
My three newest friends at Cayo Levisa.
My three newest friends at Cayo Levisa. Enjoying a Cristal at sunset.
Sunset at Cayo Levisa
Sunset at Cayo Levisa. Yes, it really looked like that. Incredible.
Shane prepares for a another full day of diving, filming
Doug (L) and Capt. Rolando (R) confer on the way out to the coral reefs
Doug (L) and Shane (R) trying to get conditions just right for my interview. Doug is in disbelief that the only other vessel we've encountered is making such a ridiculous amount of noise.
Doug (L) and Shane (R) looking professional
Shane on the bow. "Here, manatee."
A small fishing boat in front of Cayo Paraiso (Paradise Key), so-named by Ernest Hemingway
Doug Shulz, unable to hide his smile before aquamarine waters
A hard afternoon rain
The dock at Cayo Levisa
Doug Shulz - The Macho Shot
Doug and Shane confer before the dive
Shane Moore (L) and Doug Shulz (R) prepare to lower the Sony F900 in its underwater housing ("Big Bertha") onto the dive platform for our last dive
My turn at the helm
Yes, I'm still a geek. I'm navigating using an iPhone.
Rolando is an incredible captain, superb diver and an unbelievable cook!
The good kind of mushroom cloud. Looking southwest toward the mainland.
An ecstatic Doug, Havana in sight, video in the can.
Entering Marina Hemingway, Havana
The next morning my Mexicana flight to Cancun flew right over Cayo Levisa...and I always choose a window seat.
Shane films some incredibly healthy Acropora palmata (Elkhorn coral). I haven't seen it this big and healthy in the Caribbean since I was 15! [video capture]
There were many exceptionally healthy brain corals in this region [video capture]