Down the Cayman Wall

Bookshelf: Down the Cayman Wall

Down the Cayman Wall – Gary Montemayor

Down the Cayman Wall
Down the Cayman Wall

Down the Cayman Wall is the self-published account of submersible pilot Gary Montemayor’s time spent on the Cayman Islands. While the blurb and subtitle of the book indicate that it concerns the hunt for an improbably large shark, in reality the book meanders through various subjects all held together by the presence of the author.

Montemayor spent several years on Grand Cayman piloting a research submersible that also escorted tourists into 1,000 metres of water down the almost vertical undersea wall surrounding Grand Cayman (he may have worked for this company; this one and this one also operate tourist submarines). The Cayman Islands are situated in the Carribbean and boast spectacular visiblity, making such deep water trips a viable possiblity. In addition to the visibility, the Cayman Islands are surrounded by jagged reefs which hold countless shipwrecks, making them a divers’ paradise. Montemayor’s description of island life, history and culture made me want to pack my dive gear immediately.

Montemayor is a Richard Ellis fan, and cites Ellis’s books Sea Monsters, Great White Shark and The Search for the Giant Squid as inspiration and research material in his quest to figure out what giant undersea creature struck his submersible – with considerable force – during a dive. His account of the search begins with great promise, but Montemayor is distracted by the death of his free diving buddy Mauricio Solis, and describes their friendship, the events leading to Mauricio’s death, and the search for his body – first by divers, and then using the submarine that he pilots.

Rather abruptly, the subject of the book returns to the search for the creature that struck the author’s submarine, now presumed to be a sixgill shark. Montemayor escorts a camera man and researcher from the BBC Blue Planet series down the Cayman Wall one night, during which time they set a large tuna fish as bait to attract a six gill shark as it rises from incredible depths during the night in order to feed. Once the shark is sighted and captured on camera, the book ends quite suddenly. Here’s the footage of the shark in question:

This is a tremendously engaging and entertaining read, despite a lack of flow and the occasional feeling that the book was written by two different people. One of the apparent authors writes clearly and correctly – the other uses no punctuation or capitalisation, writes at the level of a 10 year old, and produces phrases like “caverness hallow” instead of “cavernous hollow”. There is also a curious note in the first chapter, addressed to the author and inserted into the text, along the lines of “Gary, don’t you think we should provide the pronunciation of Architeuthis in a footnote?” Perhaps this indicates the presence of an editor, and the curious sections of unpunctuated text are sections that he missed!

Despite the fragmentary nature of my impressions of this book, I’d recommend it as a quick, light read with no scientific pretensions. Here’s a short video promo:

You can buy the book here if you are in South Africa, and here if you’re not. If you want to read it on your Kindle, go here.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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