Port Royal’s ‘Mani’ Blake contributes to Jamaica’s history

To Port Royal residents, Emmanuel ‘Mani’ Blake is a hero, far more than a revered head is represents over in that community. Emmanuel Blake, a Port Royal resident and fisherman for more than 50 years.
Beyond that area, Blake’s role in helping answer some critical questions on Jamaica’s history is not widely known to the people of Port Royal. In fact, Blake’s work in Port Royal is mentioned in a just a handful of history books on the area.
Little is known on how the humble fisherman, who makes his living from the sea has also helped uncover some of Jamaica’s best kept hidden secrets.

Emmanuel 'Mani' Blake stands firm at Fort Charles where the Port Royal Museum is. ANTHEA McGIBBON PHOTO
Emmanuel 'Mani' Blake stands firm at Fort Charles where the Port Royal Museum is. ANTHEA McGIBBON PHOTO

Meet Emmanuel

As a diver, Blake years ago joined an expedition to retrieve items from the bottom of the sea, that were buried there after the great earthquake of 1907 that caused a large chunk of Port Royal to sink. Much of these retrieved artefacts are now on display at local museums especially in Port Royal itself.

The expedition was the coining of Englishman, Robert ‘Bob’ Marx, an undersea archaeologist, in During the late 1960s to early 1970s. Blake assisted in pumping and retrieving anything that told tales of the history of Port Royal from their muddy burial ground. According to Blake, the 1907 earthquake, followed by several natural disasters, caused an underground shifting over time, constantly burying the pieces farther.

Undersea City

Working only for a mere $1,300 Jamaican each fortnight, Blake dived for the love of diving, and became even more fascinated with the city he and his other two diving pals Wayne and Popeye discovered.

Blake education is limited to primary-level schooling. He has however worked as a chef aboard a cement research ship he calls Karence, which is also buried at the bottom of the sea. He also did work on show boats, carrying tourists around the island. Blake also spent sometime as a researcher at the University of the West Indies, garnering information on plankton and fish roe for his employers.

Then Marx would make him an offer he couldn’t refuse. His experience and skill was sought out to recover the sunken pieces of the past buried at the bottom of the sea in Port Royal, as a diver.

Blake, more than his Jamaican partners, Wayne and Popeye, brought to shore many items such as chalk pipes, onion bottles, gold and silver coins, utensils, silver plates, swords and clay pipes. These items are found in museums worldwide.

A lover of the sea, Blake has no regrets but shares some of the challenges met by he and the team. Bleeding eardrums which burst from the pressure under sea, due to a lack of proper equipment, which was often the cause of his ear drums bursting from the pressure under sea. On other occasions the buildings under the sea caved in on him.

Marx furnished him with a scuba tank and frog mask after a couple of incidences. The air tank also enable Blake to dive from seven in the morning until one in the afternoon. Before that, he would only dive for five minutes at a time.

On and off business relationship with Marx, the Englishman

Blake remembers being fired, then rehired by Marx 21 times, when asked about his business relationship with the Englishman. Blake claims he once managed to save Marx’s life while under sea, when one of the sunken buildings caved in on him.

Blake today, is a stanch advocate for the preservation of the Port Royal area. He is concerned about the precious little being done to spread intelligence on the area, which i critical to Jamaica’s history. This along with the fact that even the youth of Port Royal seem to be negatively influenced by the changes resulting from greedy commercial businesspersons are among his pet peeves.

See full list of arts and communications services. Click for larger
See full list of arts and communications services

SEE RELATING ARTICLE IN JAMAICA GLEANER: November 15, 2009. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20091115/arts/arts2.html

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