Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Science Behind the Sanibel Stoop

Part 1 

It’s not every day you make it to the beach.  You have jobs, parties, long commutes, and busy nights.  Some of you reading this probably live in the Great White North where going to the beach or seeing water not covered in a sheet of ice only happens three or four months out of the year.  There are a million reasons you don’t get to go to the beach.  Even us locals don’t make it to the beach every day.  Personally, I can take a 10-minute bike ride and be at any one of a dozen beach accesses on Sanibel.  Yet, I find myself too busy to even scrape out 20 minutes of my day to go to the beach and back.
But that’s why you come here to Sanibel (or Captiva or Fort Myers Beach, etc.), to set aside that special time to go to the beach.  And what is the #1 thing to do on the beaches here in Southwest Florida?  Go shelling.  We all need to practice our Sanibel Stoop every once in a while and see what little treasures we can find.  After all, what could be more relaxing than combing miles of beach for that perfect shell? 

Now, as a scientist, I feel I owe you an explanation of WHY the shelling is so good here.  Go ahead and put on your lab coat, thinking cap, and smartest-looking pair of glasses.  Things are about to get sciencey. 

Sanibel and Captiva are barrier islands.  Essentially, they were once little sandbars running along the coast of mainland Florida and over time grew larger and larger into islands that flourished.  There are many barrier islands along the coast of Florida but Sanibel is highly unique for its exceptional shelling.  Yes, Sanibel is THE shelling capital of the world and for one simple reason: our little island here spans from east to west.  Most barrier islands run north-south paralleling the mainland.  Not Sanibel though.  Nope, we have a unique little island here.    
Photo: Google Maps
But Sarah, what does that have to do with shelling?  A shell doesn’t choose which beach becomes its final resting place.  You’re right!  But the currents do have a say in which beaches these shells land on.  The flow of water around the tip of Florida and north along the Atlantic side of the state converges into a giant river-like monster called the Gulf Stream. However, some of that flow peels off before it rounds the end of the state and curls up the west coast. Because Sanibel runs east-west, all of the goodies getting pushed north by this current land behind your condo! Thus, many of the beautiful shells that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico can also be found right here on Sanibel.  For those of you who are visual learners like I am, the picture below does a pretty good job of showing you how the oceans flow around Florida.
Photo: Florida currents
So thank you Sanibel, for being the oddball island that just had to plant itself on this earth sideways.  We all owe you one. 

Happy shelling! - Sarah

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hurricane Charley ... 10 years later - PART 2

This is a continuation of the days that followed after Hurricane Charley. To read part 1 click here. 

We ventured outside after the storm had moved away and we were stunned.  Trees down, trees uprooted, tree limbs, roofs, so much “stuff” just everywhere.  Water was up to the house! We did our best to clear as much as we could to find the driveway.

Little did I know, but my middle son ran off on his bike to take a look at the damage that was done to the rest of the island. When I realized he was gone, and how long he was gone, I really became concerned as the dangers after a storm can be unexpected and so out of the norm, that I did not believe he would realize the dangers.  I was able to get the car out of the driveway to go and look for him but because of the debris, could only drive about 2 miles before turning around to head back home. As I pulled back in the driveway, there he was with his big grin, asking, “Hey man, where have you been”?  I was so hot, so expressing my concern for his safety surely did not come off in the best fashion.  But, at least he was now aware of the dangers to look for.

We had no electric, no water, and boy was it hot.  Funny though, we did still had the telephone!  We decided to cook in the yard. We dug a big hole, put logs in it, built a fire and cooked canned ravioli.  Surprisingly enough it was delicious!   We slept that night on the cool wooden floors as the heat and mugginess was stifling anywhere else.

The next morning we woke up to find out we were luckier than our neighbors North of us in Captiva and Punta Gorda.  They were really hit hard.  Our hearts went out to them. Click here to read how Punta Gorda has rebuilt from Hurricane Charley.
I told my boys that we needed to get things back to “normal” ; get all of the debris, (and we had mountains of debris), gathered up and put in huge piles along the road.  The three of us worked and worked.  It just kept getting hotter and so very muggy.

My cell phone was still working when I received a call from my wife informing me that the local marina owner had gone to the mainland and was bringing a boat over to Sanibel. I immediately contacted him, jumped on my bike and headed for the marina.  Meeting him there, he advised me that I would never get back on the island as there were police in boats not letting anyone back on.  I decided to give it a try.  I left and went to Port Sanibel Marina on the main land to pick up supplies, meet my wife and younger son, look at the damages there, and planned to return… Well on my way back I was stopped and told that I could not re-enter the island. I explained that my sons were still on the island, that we had weathered the storm on the island, and that I had supplies, etc.  They were not interested and turned me back to the mainland. As I was giving the news to my wife, she immediately tried to call the boys, but now the phones were not working.  She was able to get a hold of a family friend at Baileys Grocery Store who jumped in his car and drove over to let the boys know their Dad would be back sometime the next day.  

Arrangements were made for a mysterious way to get back to the island the next day.  Leaving at dawn we (some other Sanibel full time residents and myself) traveled quickly to an undisclosed area where we were met with transportation to our respective areas of the island.  I felt like a criminal, maybe a little excited, but sometimes you just gotta do what you have to do!

Arriving back at the house, I walked in and announced I was back.  I thought the boys would be happy, but they knew that now we would have to get back to work!  Worked and worked.  We even cleared out our neighbor’s driveway and yard.  Part of their pool cage was down, so we pulled that to the road pile as well.  Noticing their back door was ajar, we went in to make sure everything was ok and no water was inside.  All ok there.  

The rain began.  With no roof the water was just pouring in everywhere.  We were grabbing everything we could to contain water….grabbing towels that just got soaked.  Then eureka!  I ran down and started going through the garage.   I grabbed a Hobie sail, ran back up with it.  We were moving furniture all around to try to avoid the water flowing in.  We then secured the sail along the ceiling so that it would grab the water and shoot it out the front door!  Wow, that was the best idea ever!

The following days…filled with heat, muggy, work, and fun dinners in the driveway.  Yes boys, this is like camping out….sort of!