Thursday, April 29, 2010

Full Moon Tide at Fort DeSoto Park

The tide was so far out that the water was only ankle to knee deep. The water was clear and there was a lot of sea life to see. It was like snorkeling without having to swim in the water.

A spring tide happens every month at the full and new moon and has nothing to do with seasonality.  That's when the tides are at their highest and lowest levels.  This evening's tide is about the season.  It's a springtime low tide and sea creatures have gathered to mate.  Walking at Fort DeSoto Park tonight was like walking through an aquarium.

The trail of a tulip snail was easy to follow through the clear water.  Once springtime is over we'll only find remnants of their striped shells.

We found all sorts of starfish.

There were crown conchs everywhere.  At low tide the smaller animals gather to find their own kind.

At high tide the predators come out to feast. We found a small octopus clinging to a pen shell.

The octopus was in a pool of water around an old stump.  It must have been left behind when the tide waters receded, because we rarely find them at the beach.  There were a lot of other creatures around tree roots in the water such as sea urchins, fish, conchs, and tulip snails.  We nicknamed this area the habitat.  It was teeming with life.

A nearby crab was hunting for munchies.

The pink ruffles on the pen shell are tulip egg casings.  The little pink spots are embryos.

Sunset colors reflected on the water in tiny waves and ripples.  The ultraviolet light reflected as deep blues and purples.  Yellow, amber, orange, and red contrasted against the blues.  The colors flickered in the water like a psychedelic festival.

People continued shelling after sunset.  We laughed when a woman screamed when a fighting conch suddenly emerged from a shell she was carrying.  As we drove home we saw people shelling in shallow areas with blue flashlights.  It looked like blue fireflies hovering over the dark water against a sky still dimly lit with sunset colors.

More photos of April 2010 Full Moon Tides

How to Clean Sea Shells

Monday, April 05, 2010

Predawn Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery STS-131

Space Shuttle Discovery lights up a dark sky just before dawn on Monday morning at 6:22am.  The seven member crew of Mission STS-131 is set to resupply the International Space Station and complete 3 space walks.

I arrived around 4am.  The temperature was 59 degrees F, little wind, some fog in low lying areas, and not a single cloud in the sky.

Closer to launch time, people were pressing together, sort of like at a rock concert (except without the booze, drugs and foul language). They were all trying to get as close to the fence as possible, which is at the edge of the Indian River.

At about half an hour prior to launch, a technical glitch created a NO GO situation.  They were working feverishly to fix it, and had less than 30 minutes to do so.  It sounded something like, the flux capacitor wasn't communicating with the disgronificator, so the converginator was disabled.  Who knew?!

About 20 minutes prior to launch, under a totally clear, constellation filled sky complete with waning moon, something happened that has not happened in the prior five night launches.  The International Space Station passed overhead!  Oh Yeah!!!  It eclipsed the moon.  It was one of those times when you truly had to be there.

All of the people that pressed around me had never seen a Space Shuttle launch before.  Most of them had heard that there was a launch attempt this morning and they changed their plans and came over to witness the event

At nine minutes before launch the countdown clock stopped for the Nine Minute Hold.  NASA personnel at Mission Control in Houston and at Launch Control at Kennedy Space Center in Florida have one more meeting before launch to work out last minute details.  The technical glitch was resolved.  Everyone responded "GO!" during roll call, and the Flight Director wished the crew Godspeed.  The countdown continued.

Liftoff is silent from 9 miles away.  The entire area is overwhelmed by light and then the sound builds.  It was so loud that the ground shook.  Car alarms went off.  All sorts of sea creatures surfaced out of the water in surprise.  There were turtles, dolphins, and alligators, to name a few.

As the Space Shuttle sped down range, there was a separation in the contrail. I've never seen that before. There was a huge gap as if the engines had stopped for 15-20 seconds and then came back on. After the gap, there was a trail behind the Space Shuttle that looked just like a huge comet!  It looked like a picture of a comet that you would see in a schoolbook; something like the ancients would have painted.  It was phenominal!  My pictures do not do it justice. One day, perhaps I'll be cool enough to capture a moment like that!

As the dawn painted a rainbow on the horizon, the top of the contrail was brightly illuminated by the sun. We packed up our camp and headed to the car taking glances at the sky as the sun rose.

As we sat in post launch traffic, we continued to watch the remnants of the contrail change colors in the sunrise. I've never seen anything like it.