Sunday, June 29, 2008

Biggest Whelk at St. Pete Beach

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I found the biggest lightning whelk I've ever seen at St. Pete Beach. The skinny end of the shell was sticking out of the sand, and my foot came across it underwater. I grabbed it with my hand and recognized what it was. The whelk was fighting me trying to dig its way deeper into the sand. I hung onto it, dug it out, and burst out of the water with my trophy. We took some photos and then swam out to deeper water to release it back into the ocean.

Grandma Apple in the water with Alfonze.

St. Pete Beach is a friendly place for handicapped people. Parking is free if you have a handicap sign for your car. Grandma Apple is 80 years old and has bad knees. It was a short walk for her from the parking spot to the beach. The terrain at the shoreline gently slopes into the water, which made it easy for her to get in and out of the water.

Here's a another lightning whelk that Alfonze found. Later we found a live pear whelk and several olives. I don't think we've ever found so many live mollusks in one day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

We had fun visiting Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) with Abigail and Grandma Apple. It's always interesting to see animals up close that you can only get a glimpse of in a natural setting.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium has a team of first responders to marine life emergencies and specializes in giving medical treatment and rehabilitation to injured animals. The goal is to re-release the animals back to their natural homes. Those that have injuries that make them unable to be released become permanent residents here.

Here is Nicholas the dolphin waving goodbye after a dolphin show. Nicholas was stranded with his dying mother as a calf. He is a permanent resident at CMA.

The most famous CMA dolphin named Winter had injuries so severe that she lost her tail as a calf. Winter was not expected to live, but she refused to give up. She learned to swim without a tail! Today she is an inspiration to amputees and disabled children. The research and development that went into producing a prosthetic tail for Winter has improved the technology for human prosthetic limbs.

These dolphins cracked me up. They were taking turns poking their heads out of the water to look at the people. Their bodies moved straight up and down in the water like yo-yos. Dolphins are such characters.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is located just over the big white bridge on Route 60 (Clearwater Memorial Causeway) on the right side as you head west towards Clearwater Beach. There are signs along the road. You can't miss it. Drive around the building to the front entrance with the canopy. I highly recommend a visit.

Related Links:
Clearwater Marine Aquarium - Read stories about the individual animals and see release videos.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Astronaut Hall of Fame

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After watching the space shuttle land we went to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Apollo 14 command module. Three men flew to the moon and back in this spacecraft in 1971. There are scorch marks at the base from re-entry.

Inside the Apollo 14 command module. You can see the astronauts' seats and some of the controls. From this angle they would have been lying on their backs, feet up.

A tire from the Apollo moon rover.

It is amazing to think that we sent men to the moon when journalists still used manual typewriters. There were no laptops. That technology came later as a result of the space program.

A display showing the space shuttle design process.

The Hubble telescope. The space shuttle delivered and repaired the Hubble from the highest orbit ever flown.

Prototype of a Coke machine for the space shuttle.

Aviator helmets of famous astronauts.

Here I am in the shuttle landing simulater.

There are so many artifacts to see. I've been here twice and each visit I discovered something new. An admission ticket from Kennedy Space Center includes admission to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

More of my photos from the Astronaut Hall of Fame

Related links:
Astronaut Hall of Fame
Kennedy Space Center

STS-124 Shuttle Discovery Lands

We were in Titusville to see Shuttle Discovery land across the river from the landing strip at Kennedy Point Park. The large building in the distance is the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). There was a small group of people gathered. One guy had a radio tuned in to NASA's live feed. Once we heard that the shuttle was crossing the Yucatan peninsula on its way to the Gulf we all got up out of shaded picnic pavillion to look around in the sky. It was a hazy day, and we were trying to spot anything in the air. There were a lot of military aircraft like weather planes, T38 shuttle training jets, and such flying around. Suddenly a commercial jet came from a nearby airport flying really low. It made a thundering noise and my first thought was that something was terribly wrong. As the jet got louder we heard the double sonic boom from the space shuttle. The jet continued flying low and to the north. The problem was that the shuttle was also flying north to turn around and line up with the runway. The guy with the NASA radio said, "That guy is in so much trouble." The commercial jet was in the wrong place, but nothing bad happened. We finally saw the shuttle once it was over the runway. It was interesting, but not as dramatic as a launch. It looked like an airplane landing from a distance.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just Chillin' at Honeymoon Island

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It was a beautiful day at Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, Florida. People were enjoying the bench swings at the beach at the north parking lot. Further down the shoreline you can see a group of people shelling. It seemed like you could see every kind of blue imaginable in the water and the sky. The hustle and bustle of the working week was washed away by the beautiful scenery and the sound of waves breaking on the beach.

We saw rocks all over the beach so, we turned around to head to the south beach parking lot. We hoped to get away from the rocky terrain.

Here is the view to the south (from the beach at the south parking lot). You can see the white sand of Caledesi Island and the high rise hotels of Clearwater in the distance. There's a ferry to Caladesi Island from Honeymoon Island. The two islands used to be connected until a hurricane seperated them in the 1920's.

We rediscovered the rocky terrain in the water along the shore. You can see people teetering along as they try to walk over the rocks to get in the water. Once you get past the rocks the sand is smooth, and there is a sandbar nearby.

Here is a live whelk found at the sandbar.

The beach was beautiful, but the rocks made it difficult to get in and out of the water. Alfonze developed a technique of laying down and floating over the rocks using his hands to "walk" over them. I had a hard time walking on the rocks, even with beach shoes on. Despite the inconvenience of the rocks it is still a nice beach and I would come back again. The facilities are modern, clean, and well lit.

I'd like to go to Caledesi Island, which was voted #1 Beach in North America this year by Dr. Beach. It is only accessible by boat. Honeymoon Island will be a great place to explore in the winter when we are walking rather than swimming at the beach.

More photos taken at Honeymoon Island

Related Links:
Caladesi Island State Park
Honeymoon Island State Park