Archive for June, 2011
One thousand, six hundred feet, give or take a few, of boardwalk gets you to the beach.
I have only a few hours to explore the beach today at Mac Beach (the shorten name everyone uses to refer to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park (www.macarthurbeach.org ). Thus I explore the short distance from the northern dune crossover to the southern one. The air temps in the lower 90′s, overcast sky, and a nice easterly breeze, it is a perfect day for a stroll.
I love the violet color of the Railroad Vine flower. This vine stretches from the base of the sandy dune to almost the wrack line and blooms all summer. The botanist say you can make a tea from the leaves to help fight rheumatism. I’ve never seen a scientist drink the stuff. But, when the wind blows it’s nice to watch the flowers flutter in the breeze. The center always catches my eyes, reminds me of a purple sea star.
To me, this is an exciting time of year for beach walks. It is turtle nesting season, which runs from about April through the end of October. Each month brings us a different set of turtles, Leatherbacks, Loggerheads, Green, Hawksbill, and the rarest, Kemp’s Ridley. Gazing at the tracks, I’m reminded of the effort required for a female turtle to leave the ocean, drag its body up the beach, past the wrack line, to an area not effected by tides. Then to dig a pit, often three feet deep, lay over a hundred eggs, and finally gather the strength to crawl to the water. A reptile that is so graceful and agile in the sea, becomes a lumbering 300 pound living rock on land. This maternal ritual lasts three to four hours. Amazing animals.
I drop to the sand and place my hand gently in the imprint left by the flipper. The linage of this species stretches back 200 million years. The changes that have taken place. Too overwhelming for me.
I get up and move on.
The wrack line is covered with stretches of Sargassum weed. This brown algae floats on top of the water unless the wind and waves toss it up on a beach. The little sac balls captures my attentions. These air sacks, smaller than my little finger nail, keeps long stands of this plant afloat. I wonder how much of this stuff would be needed to keep me buoyant. Not that I really need it. It seems I have collect enough fat around my waist that I no longer sink upon exhaling my breath. Must stay away from second and third helpings, but my wife cooks so well.
I continue to walk along the tide line thinking of the living community that once thrived in this weed. Then before I want to quit, I’ve arrived at the southern most crossover and prior obligations must be honored. My arms and legs are sandy, a heat is felt on the back of my neck, and I considerate it a good morning.
Even though the Casey Anthony case at this time is getting headlines, there is another missing child case I wanted to highlight.
For those not familiar with the abducted Haleigh Cummings case, here is a little background:
Haleigh was five years old when her father, 25 year old Ronald Cummings, left her at his rented mobile home in Satsuma, Florida, with his then, barely turned 17 year old girlfriend, Misty Croslin.
At 3:27 am on 2/9/09, Misty made a phone call to 911, the Putnam County Sheriffs Office (PCSO) saying that she had just awakened and discovered Haleigh had disappeared. The back door (really a side door) was propped open with a cinderblock.
Only a redacted portion of the 911 tape has been released. But it in itself is revealing.
Misty doesn’t sound or act as you might think someone who just realized their 5 year old ward had been kidnapped might. No histrionics, no crying, no shouting. And this highlights the ambiguity that has plagued this entire case. Nothing is as it seems. So is it significant that Misty didn’t sound upset? Some would say yes. Others counter that different people react to situations in different ways.
Ronald, on the 911 call in my opinion, acts as a grieving father who has just lost his child.
He says, “If I find whoever has my daughter before you all do, I’m killing them. I don’t care. I will spend the rest of my life in prison. You can put that on the recording. I don’t care.”
There is not much about Ronald and his life that I can sympathize with, but I do understand that sentiment and would feel the same way had my child been abducted.
A search ensued that continues to this day. Haleigh, neither dead nor alive has been found. Fairly quickly the PCSO determined that it was not a “stranger abduction.” Who does that leave? Family members and extended family members. There are some that believe that the whole case is a child custody issue and Haleigh is alive and well, hidden somewhere in North Carolina. I’m not one of them.
I was retained by the attorney for Crystal Sheffield, Haleigh’s mother, to investigate aspects of Haleigh’s disappearance and to assist in the custody issue of Haleigh’s little brother.
In the process of working that case, and I continue to work it periodically, I think I’ve gained some insights into what happened to Haleigh. Some of these I won’t go into on this blog as they come from confidential sources. But others came about as a direct result of my investigation and I will share those with you as I have with the PCSO.
Who took Haleigh and where is she? Next we’ll discuss in detail the 911 call and try to figure out what the PCSO was doing out on Green Lane before the 911 call was ever made.
Let’s consider the parrotfish. In the Atlantic-Caribbean area there are several species of parrotfish. You can see them swimming around the reef alone or in aggregations of a few to close to 50. They show up in many colors and many color combinations. Divers and snorklers are familiar with this reef inhabitant. They are one of my favorite genuses.
Parrotfish get their name from the shape of the fused teeth. It resembles the beak of a parrot. These fused teeth are used to scrape alga and coral polyps from the reef structure. A diver can hear this if she listens near where they are feeding. As a result of this feeding habit, they also bite off chunks of the reef. They then grind this up and excrete it as sand. Parrotfish are major sand-makers. Much of the sand on tropical beaches is created by parrotfish. In fact, each adult can excrete up to 1 ton of sand a year. So next time you are on a tropical beach, thank a parrotfish.
Their common names are as varied as they are – blue, princess, queen, rainbow, midnight, stoplight, redband, redtail, yellowtail. Identifying these guys is difficult because the juveniles and addults don’t look alike and they also go through sex changes as adults and females become terminal males with different colorations. There are actually 3 phases – juvenile, initial, and terminal. But to make matters even more complicated, not all terminal males were once females and not all juvenile females will become terminal males. Sone are born male and just stay male. Some are functional hermaphrodites and change sex from fully funtioning females to fully funtioning males. And during all this changing of sexes – or not – their body shape and coloration also changes. Identification can be and is tough for parrotfish.
Another interesting habit of some of the species is the formation of a mucus coccoon at night. A fish will find a cozy hole in the reef at sunset, snuggle in and create a mucus coccoon to hide from predators while he gets his forty winks. To a diver peeking in, the fish looks fuzzy and out of focus. But he is just hiding from predators and playing it safe.
Parrotfish can also change colors, going from bight greens, blues, and reds to a drab mottled appearance. This is another way they try to evade predators. They swim along the top of the reef using only their pectoral fins (the pair along the side just behind the gills), using their tails only when in a big hurry.
With all these variations in color, shape, and sex is it any wonder this genus is one of my favorites?
I love to snorkel and dive, and have been doing so since 1967. And today looked like a perfect day to go snorkeling, the air temperature 88F, winds SE at 13mph, and the water a relaxing 80 degrees. I need to be in the water, let the salt in the ocean embrace the salt within me.
I started to pack my gear to head off to Peanut Island when my wife reminded that today is the day for FP&L to demolish their twin red and white cooling towers. And that the island would be packed with onlookers, sun bathers, and picnickers. Snorkeling is great, watching all of the reef fish swim in and out the reef. But when hordes of people flop into the water, the fish hide. Deep into the reef, unseen, until the thrashing of feet and hands leave and the tranquility of the sea returns.
Discouraged, I fired up the lawnmower. But while chopping the flat blade leaves of St. Augustine grass, a thought formed.
“Ocean Reef Park,” I shouted to Kitty, pulling out the snorkeling gear from the closet. A wonderful spot on Singer Island.
“But dear, today is Father’s Day”, she said holding a bikini, “Will we find a parking spot.” Not likely on a holiday. I’ve learned, don’t plan to go to a public park on a holiday. No parking, no beach blanket spot, no quietness. The heat bakes sensibility out of people, and sooner or later, a person is looking for a place to have an alcohol induced accident.
With spirits dampened, I started to work on the sprinkler system. With the drought, and the water level dropping, the grass is suffering. The heads just did not seem to have any pressure behind the spray. The fresh water comes from a small canal behind my house and from time to time the intake point needs to be cleaned. A scrubbing with a stiff brush scrapes off the grasses and hyacinths that have curled their roots around the PVC pipe.
Kitty stood guard to keep our local alligator at bay and to give warning if any water moccasins became interested in the cleaning process. A largemouth bass and a few bream kept me company as I scrubbed away. The water was warm, but not very clear. The work was done by the braille method, feeling. The most unusual companion, was about a foot long koi. These orange and white guys showed up after hurricane Wilma. Some homeowner who was in their third week with no electricity, thus no water circulation in the aquariums, took pity on their pets and released them into the canal.
Though I was not in the ocean, I guess you could say I did go snorkeling today. Did see some fish, even if they did pick at the hairs on my legs. But as the saying goes, any type of snorkeling is better than no snorkeling.