2018 Nov 28
If you ask Independent Marine Researcher Howard Martenstyn where his commitment to marine life and research comes from, the answer is simple. It runs in his blood. His father being a pioneering business man in the marine field and his brother a legend in the marine world of sports and the navy are causal factors behind the ignition of Martenstyn’s passion. “It was only natural,” he says matter-of-factly, on following the family path.
Born and raised in Sri Lanka (a Thomian at heart), he decided to venture across international waters to further his studies – but in a different field. Following a move to Canada, he spent most of his life in the corporate sector, raising a family and settling down, and his primary passion for marine life was abated. However, he had an early retirement at 50 from a successful career in telecommunications and project management and decided to return to his home country to reconnect with the natural world again. Besides harbouring an immense love for the blue seas and being an independent marine researcher, he is also currently the Director of the Research Centre for Research on Indian Ocean Marine Mammals (CRIOMM).
Speaking on what prompted the creation of his best-selling book, Out of the Blue, Martenstyn states “After some time I realized how lacking we were in knowledge about the marine world for an island nation so I decided that would be the area that I would like to do some research and education work in.”
“Out of the Blue: A Guide to the Marine Mammals of Sri Lanka, Southern India and the Maldives” was born out of comprehensive personal notes, tireless hours at sea, and countless conversations with renowned marine biologists, fishermen, whale watching tour operators etc. Dedicated to his late brother, Cedric, this book is an extensive mini-encyclopedia of sorts. Separated into 4 sections, Martenstyn first briefs readers with a general overview of marine mammals, historical sightings, research, and also attempts to answer FAQs people often have on the subject.
He next goes on to a detailed and valuable reference network of individual species, which makes up a significant portion of the book. Each species has a thorough profile and illustrations to match. Besides factual information, colour coded tables indicate the probability of sightings at various depths and locations primarily based on an extensive analysis of over 3, 700 sighting records. The third section focuses on Oceanography, stemming from Martenstyn’s own prominent fascination as well as his depth of experience. This is a feast for those readers who crave greater knowledge on the subject. He also attempts to discern the much-debated reasons for Sri Lanka’s significance as a special destination for whales.
The fourth and final section introduces readers to his personal opinions and internationally preferred ethics with regards to marine mammal watching – this is on when to go, where to go, with whom to go and most importantly, how to safely and ethically conduct yourself when you do go.
This book is a product of hard work and utmost devotion to the deep blue seas and the lives within it. It’s labeled a priceless contribution to the field of marine research in Sri Lanka and a remarkable source of learning. But Out of the Blue is not only deemed a learning experience but one that stimulates a sense of curiosity too! A definite must-have for nature-lovers, educators, students and any intellectually-driven enthusiast!
While the first edition is available for purchase right here, Martenstyn has launched the second edition of Out of the Blue on the 27th of November! Check out his website slam.lk for the revised and updated version, and more interesting information on Lankan marine life.