People thought Dr David Wingate was cracked when he first talked about saving an almost extinct seabird and restoring cedar blight ravaged Nonsuch Island.
Fifty-two years later, no one’s laughing. Thanks to his efforts, cahow birds are back from the brink of extinction and Nonsuch Island is a protected paradise of native and endemic trees.
Dr Wingate, 78, will reflect on his pioneering life’s work tonight at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI) as part of the Lionfish Taskforce lecture series. His lecture is entitled ‘Turning the clock back on Nonsuch: The making of a sanctuary for Bermuda’s pre-colonial heritage against the onslaught of invasive species’.
“We lobbied the government to declare Nonsuch Island a nature reserve in 1961,” said Dr Wingate. “Certain people thought it was a crazy idea.”
At that time, Nonsuch Island, which had previously been a boy’s reform school, among other things, was completely without trees thanks to the cedar blight in the 1950s.
“To me it was paradise,” said Dr Wingate. “I was newly married and looking for a home. I was given the opportunity to live on the island as caretaker for the Public Works Department.
“I was employed on a grant to study the cahows. There was a Parks Department but no national parks legislation until 1986.