From the air, one really notices that Florida is like a lake filled sponge! This past weekend, Ed and I flew to Gainesville in Alachua County, and then to Titusville, in Brevard County. This time, I was looking at lakes more than rivers. From the air, Florida is a patchwork of ponds and lakes reflecting like mirrors in the sun, a strange and beautiful landscape, or shall I say “waterscape?”
During the flight, I started thinking that if water bodies could talk, it would be the lakes that would have the strongest lobby. According to a 2006 article by Sherry Boas of the Sun Sentinel, the state of Florida has over 30,000 lakes! Many like Lake Apopka, in Orange County, historically, were altered because shoreline wetlands supported successful agricultural endeavors, kind of a smaller version of Lake Okeechobee; and again, just like Lake Okeechobee, although a great industry arose, this led to the demise of the lake. But like the Indian River Lagoon, and Caloosahatchee, people rose up to “Save Lake Apopka” and continue to work on this today: Orlando Sentinel Article 2018, shared by Janet Alford: (https://www.clickorlando.com/water/how-lake-apopka-went-from-floridas-most-polluted-lake-to-the-promising)
Yes indeed, Florida appears to float like a sponge in a sea of water. How we could think that our agriculture fertilizers and human sewage issues would not catch up with us on a broader level was naive. Excessive nutrients coming from humans on land are polluting waterbodies throughout the state which in turn also drain to pollute more waterbodies. Whether it be ponds, lakes, estuaries, or the Everglades, we must wipe up our mess, clean out our sponge!
UNITED STATES COAST GUARD STATIONS FT PIERCE AND LAKE WORTH, THEN AND NOW…
It’s fun when a blog blossoms into more!
My recent post of the historic US Coast Guard station in Ft Piece was one such post…Thank you for the many wonderful comments and insights. Also, Dr Edie Widder is going to have the historic photos printed and hung at ORCA, located in the building itself. Talk about full circle!
As a follow-up, my brother Todd created a “time capsule flight” of the Ft Pierce USCG Station and the Lake Worth station using the historic photos shared by Tim Dring, President of the U. S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association. Mr Dring had recently shared the photos (discovered in the National Archives) with my mother as she is writing a book on the subject.
My brother’s time capsule flight will take you from the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon proper to the Ft Pierce Coast Guard Station, and then jet-off to Peanut Island’s Lake Worth USCG Station. It is wild to see the what our area looked like undeveloped. I have to say although they are invasive, I miss the tall Australian Pine Trees. I can still hear them blowing in the Trade Winds. Such a romantic time it was….Have fun. Wear your seatbelt and don’t lean too far out of the Cub!
Link to THEN AND NOW, US COAST GUARD STATION FT PIERCE AND LAKE WORTH, Todd Thurlow.
Also I am going to include a “funny story” about the “boys of the USCG” in Ft Pierce during WWII sent to me by family friend Stan Field, whose pen name is Anthony Stevens.
Hi there, Jacqui [cheery wave]
I just read your post about ORCA and the old CG station and thought I would share this tale with you. My mother, Emmy, shared this family legend many times. She was a teenager during WWII.
A true story about telephone Operations during WWII.
My mother and her friends, worked as telephone operators during most of the war. In those days, that involved a headphone and a bank of ¼” phone jacks with cables and plugs. There were no automatic dialing systems. Every call was placed manually via party lines with anywhere from four to a dozen phones on each line. Now Emmy and her fellow operators were usually pretty bored and would stay ‘on the line’ when there were military conversations. One night, a very young and very ‘cool’ fellow that everyone loved for his sense of humor, was stationed at the Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge. A call came into Emmy’s switchboard and she was asked to patch in to the House lookout station. Now all of the watchtowers along Hutchinson Island were on the same party line. When it rang, everybody picked up. The person on the other end asked for the station they wanted and that station would respond. Normally, as soon as you realized it wasn’t for you, you would hang up. This night, the caller asked for the watch on duty at the House of Refuge. The young man’s reply was loud and clear… “Gilbert’s Bar! Wine, women and song, all night long!” There was a dead silence on the line for several seconds and the caller asked in a cold voice… “Do you know who this is, son?” “No sir.” “This is the Captain of the Coast Guard Base in Fort Piece.” Without missing a beat… “Do you know who THIS is, Sir?” “No.” “THANK GOD!” And he hung up. The sound of loud laughter flowed from a dozen headsets that were listening and the Captain hung up in fury. The next day, the Captain passed the word that the person who answered had better confess or the entire post would lose liberty the following weekend. Even though everybody on watch that night knew who it was, NOBODY stepped forward and they all were restricted to barracks that weekend. Needless to say, the young man was a model sailor for the rest of the war… and he owed each of his buddies a great deal.
Today, I am going to feature “two in one.” –historic photos of the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Ft Pierce, and ORCA, the Ocean Research and Conservation Association. The now historic U.S.C.G. station building has resided along the Indian River Lagoon since the late 1930s, and today ORCA is housed at the same location.
Thank you to my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, and Tim Dring, President of the U. S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association who discovered these photos in the National Archives and recently shared them with my mother.
Last week, my husband Ed and I, as well as my parents, attended the ORCA grand opening at the Elliott Museum on Hutchinson Island, just over the bridge from Sewall’s Point.(http://www.elliottmuseum.org)
That evening, Dr Edie Widder, famous scientist and gifted communicator, was greeted by a full house. If you have not seen the exhibit, “Illuminating the Deep,” you must! It features her science fiction like deep-sea creature photographs, enhanced by fellow scientist Dr Bernstein, as well as write ups about these creatures that will truly blow your mind. The bioluminescent world under sea we do not know….The exhibit also relates the importance of the Indian River Lagoon’s health and its connection to ocean health.
It was a great evening. Ed and I had a great time at the exhibit. I was completely inspired as usual when I heard Dr Widder speak. Really amazing. That night, I thought a lot about how incredible it is that ORCA resides right here along the Treasure Coast in Ft Pierce! I even dreamt about squids.
So I wake up and go to my computer, the general format of my life these days…..And what do I see? Multiple emails from my mother. Her message read:
“Jacqui, Ironically, I am working on Coast Guard images of the ORCA facility. Maybe they will be of interest.”—-Mom
So here are the wonderful photographs my mother shared from the early days. They are priceless. I believe most are from the 1930s and 40s. Life is one big circle indeed! And here we are today—-
—-ORCA and the U.S. Coast Guard at Ft Pierce, both “ready, responsive, and resolute” for our Indian River Lagoon!
Some things never change, like the wonder of a kid catching his or her “first fish.”
I still remember mine. A puffer fish! It was 1968, and my parents took me fishing along the Indian River Lagoon…
Fishing is a powerful experience for a young person. There is no better way to teach youth how to appreciate and protect the St Lucie/Indian River Lagoon than by “taking a kid fishing.” It is well documented that hunters and fishermen/women are some of our county’s most outspoken and powerful conservationists.
In keeping with this Treasure Coast fishing legacy, on October 18th, 2014, something really remarkable is happening. Kids in our area have organized a fishing tournament for kids! The event is called “Lines in the Lagoon.” (http://www.linesinthelagoon.com/#!about/mainPage)
Vero Beach freshman high school student, Quinn Hiaasen and his friends organized the event. Quinn is obviously on his way to “stardom” himself, but it must be mentioned that his father is none other than satirist and writer Carl Hiassen, (http://www.carlhiaasen.com/bio.shtml), a well-known proponent of our rivers and Everglades. Quinn’s mother, Fenia, has also been working for the event and assisting her son for months– “spreading the word” and communicating with River Kidz momz here in Martin and St Lucie Counties. Martin, St Lucie, and Indian River counties are one, as the lagoon knows no county lines or political districts; it is a Tri-county tournament.
Early on, Mrs Hiaasen let us know that pre-fishing/fishing tournament events included:
September 6th: LAGOON CLEAN UP DAY
October 27th: INDIAN RIVER SCIENCE FAIR DAY
October 1st: CHIPOTLE IN STORE PROMOTIONS 3-7pm 50% DONATION TO ORCA AND EVERGLADES FOUNDATION
October 18th: FISHING TOURNAMENT AND AWARDS BANQUET AT THE BACKUS MUSEUM IN FT PIERCE
From what I am told by River Kidz mom, Nicole Mader, the group is also working on displaying a “responsible fishing tent” to teach children care with fishing line and hooks, as careless discarding of such is a serious threat to wildlife and of course the tournament is primarily “catch and release.”
Isn’t this a great thing?
So sign up…
Support the kids; support conservation; and support the Hiaasen family!
And remember, by taking a kid fishing, you are creating future advocates for our Indian River Lagoon.
Dr Widder is a world-renowned bioluminescence expert; she has even worked with the US Navy in the “design” of ships that would not cause bioluminescent disruption in the oceans, and thus give away their location to enemy ships.
This was my question to Dr Widder:
Dear Edie, My parents rented kayaks to go see the bioluminescence in the IRL. It got me thinking. Is the light caused by the same creatures that cause toxic algae blooms in the lagoon? Is the bioluminescence a bad sign for the health of the lagoon? Thank you. Hope all is well.
Hi Jacqui – It’s kind of a good news bad news story. The dinoflagellate producing the light show, Pyrodinium bahamense, happens to be one that produces saxitoxin. Interestingly it’s the same dino that’s responsible for the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico and in those bays it doesn’t produce the saxitoxin. Here it does. It’s not known why although I have a theory and it has nothing to do with pollution. (It’s a long story having to do with how their bioluminescence functions to protect them from predators under different concentrations.)
Dino blooms are usually preceded by rain events that flush nutrients into the water and then a series of calm sunny days that promote photosynthesis. Blooms like the one we’re seeing now used to be routine according to some of the older fishermen I’ve talked to. They called it fire in the water. The fact is the water can’t be too polluted or the dinoflagellates won’t grow. I’ll send you an article with some pictures I took.
Here is a photo Dr Widder took of bioluminescence in the lagoon I copied and a link to a remarkable video.
In conclusion, I looked up saxitoxin and learned it is a “paralytic shellfish toxin” that is found is some shellfish and especially puffer fish. It has been found in few other places in the US as well as in the Indian River Lagoon. I guess the little dinoflagellates, the same ones that make the pretty bioluminescence light, not always, but sometimes, will produce this toxin which gets spread to some shellfish and some fish. If such a shellfish or fish is ingested, it will make a human very sick. Around 2002, 28 people got so sick here, in the Merritt Island area, and in a few other areas of the county, that now there is a permanent government ban on harvesting/eating IRL puffer fish in the entire IRL.
Since I am nowhere close to a scientist, I will just share some links below and refrain from speculating what is “good or bad. ” Nonetheless, I think I can safely say that sometimes beauty and danger walk hand in hand in this magical world of our Indian River Lagoon.
Right now there are two “Unusual Mortality Events/UMEs” occurring in the Indian River Lagoon and another along the Atlantic Coast. Hundreds of marine mammals and pelicans have died but fortunately the IRL UMEs have slowed down.
The UME for Indian River Lagoon manatees “and pelicans” started in 2012; another for Indian River Lagoon bottle-nosed dolphins that do not usually leave the lagoon began in 2013; and the third for larger Atlantic coast dwelling/migrating bottle-nosed dolphins stated around 2012/13. According to state and federal agencies, the Indian River Lagoon UMEs are “mysterious,” but thankfully “they” can say they know the Atlantic dolphin UME is “morbillavirus,” or dolphin measles.
Interesting how in the Indian River Lagoon, the UMEs coincide with the also “mysterious” loss of 60% of its seagrasses since 2009/10; this situation really “crashed” and became public in 2013, simultaneous with the dumping from Lake Okeechobee and the peoples’ River Movement in Martin and St Lucie Counties in the southern lagoon.
For every day folk, unlike our federal and state agencies, there is no “mystery,” there simply is not enough left for the animals to eat. While being so critical, I should note a commonly spread falsehood, “that the releases from Lake Okeechobee are causing the die off in the northern/central lagoon,” is untrue. Certainly they negativelyaffect and help cause disease in the souther lagoon, but Brevard and Volusia counties, over a hundred miles north, are too distant for the releases to be killing these animals directly. Particularly northern lagoon dolphins who are very territorial and generally stay in either the north.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the southern lagoon right now, especially the Ft Pierce area, is one of the few half-way healthy areas remaining, so dumping that is pushed up to Ft Pierce Inlet, from Stuart, is part of an overall death for the IRL: north and central horrid algae blooms and UMEs, and then the southern lagoon’s problems with Lake Okeechobee releases and its other canals causing seagrass loss, up to 85% according to Florida Oceanographic’s Mark Perry.
So UMEs in the IRL and seagrass loss are related and the agencies recognize this connection but still consider the UMEs a “mystery.”
To close, one of the concerns of Stephen McCulloch, former director of the marine mammal department at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, is that southwardly migrating dolphins along the Atlantic coast could enter the Indian River Lagoon, or a rare lagoon dolphin may exit an inlet and interact with oceanic dolphins then spreading morbillavirus among the already “mysteriously sick” Indian River Lagoon dolphins.
McCulloch is concerned if the virus entered the lagoon, it could “kill them all.”
There were fewer than one thousand in the lagoon loosely documented before the 2013 IRL dolphin UME and now it is accepted that over 10 percent of those have died. This, as all marine mammal health, is a very serious matter.