When silt particles settle upon them, the polyps of reef-building coral must work to get rid of the intruders. When the workload becomes excessive, the polyps are forced to close shop for a while—and sometimes forever.
Today, largely because of the work of the late Dr. Thomas Goreau of the University of the West Indies, scientists recognize that turbid water has still another adverse effect on reef corals. In clear, shallow water of 10 feet the coral Acropora palmata—one of the primary reef builders—is usually massive, thick-limbed, on all counts prosperous enough and strong enough to hold its own against the constant invasion of borers and the pummeling of the sea. A mere 10 feet deeper, the same species, if found at all, is much weaker in structure, and growth by actual measurement is considerably slower. When cloudy water persistently reduces the light, the coral is, in effect, thrust to a depth where it cannot build and where it may not survive.
When Astronauts return to earth, the moon dust is vacuumed from them and they are quarantined for two weeks. The moon dust is reputedly sterile, but we take no chances. The Dillingham Corporation and the Bahamian government are willing to gamble with the sterile dust of the aragonite drifts. When there are so many specialists today who can minimize the risk, why do they gamble? Primarily, it seems, because Dillingham prefers to hoard the truth and the Bahamian government is too skinflinty to pay for a proper investigation. In a day when we are all getting a trifle sadder and wiser about the environment, this view is as murky as the waters surrounding Ocean Cay.