Sunday, February 5, 2017

Going Back A Few Months

We had been here a little over a week when Nicole completed her first local volunteer project.

The task... Bagging oyster shells at the Florida Oceanographic Society which is located over our two 'mountains' between the beach and the Intracoastal.

What is the goal of bagging up old oyster shells and putting them back in the water?

To form a 'reef', of sorts, in the Indian River Lagoon to which microscopic, zooplankton-like oyster larvae will attach and grow into living (water filtering) oysters!

Here's a short video that shows and explains the process.

Did you know that a single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day?!

That is pretty darn important considering the state of water quality these days.  Over the last 60+ years, the St. Lucie River has lost over 80% of its oyster reef habitat, primarily due to poor water quality and low salinity levels.  Fresh-water discharges into the estuary are devastating the oyster population.  Up to 300 estuarine species rely on the oysters for habitat and food.

Photo opportunities were not the name of this game so Nicole did not take any photos but we'll share some borrowed from the Oceanographic Society.

So, how was the volunteer project?

It was a well oiled machine of an incredibly awesome day with great people and one of the most killer workouts you can get while having a good time.

This is where they dump the shells to dry.  It is also where we bag them.

Only two or three folks (including Nicole) were new and the regulars... These people worked!

Step 1: Hand rake the shells into the nets. 
Step 2: Carefully pull the tube out while grabbing the top of the bag!

Step 3: Give the bag to the knot tiers and the pvc tube to the mesh bag put-er-on-ers.

Step 4:  Grab a pre-netted PVC tube and repeat... until the roaches and snakes all start running (which means you are at the bottom of the barrel).  Then repeat some more until the trailer is empty.

Step 5:  Start moving the bags!

These bags don't get themselves on the barge and the staging area for the barge is down the road.

Three solid hours of moving oyster shells around.  Around 900 bags were moved in a conveyor sort of line where each person handles the bad and passes it to the next.  With each weighing an average of 8 lbs or more.  That's about 7200 lbs Nicole lifted in three hours.  Although she was ready for a nap when it was all over, she was also energized and excited! 

Although she had signed up for it, Nicole could not make the deployment of this set.  Maybe next time!

Something else we did a few months back was tour the House of Refuge with Nicole's brother while he was visiting.

(Not our photo - we didn't bring our camera)

Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, Martin County’s oldest building and the only (of the ten that were built) house of refuge remaining.  If you have visited Florida anytime in the last few years it could be hard to imagine that the coastline was once quite desolate.  But it was.  Believe it or not, Mastodons once roamed in Florida.  We digress, however.

The ten Houses of Refuge were built as havens for shipwrecked sailors and travelers along the sparsely populated Atlantic coastline of Florida.  They were run by the United States Lifesaving Service which was started in 1848 and merged with the United States Coast Guard in 1915.  The houses were staffed by keepers and their families who lived life isolated in these locations in order to find and rescue the many shipwreck victims of the time.  Part of the keepers duties were to walk along the shore as far as possible in search of survivors.

Gilbert's House of Refuge is located on a thin strip of land between the ocean and the Intracoastal.

The historic structure has weathered many storms and provided needed shelter for shipwreck survivors, including those of the Georges Valentine, whose wreckage remains just 100 yards off the rocky shoreline and is on our list of snorkeling trips once the water warms.

The history of this last remaining House of Refuge and the land that it sits on continues to be revealed.  In 2004 hurricane damage to the nearby shoreline revealed an Indian midden attributed to the Ais Indians who inhabited the area from 2000 B.C. to the 18th century.

If you notice the rocky shoreline between the ocean and the house in the above photo you will see the reason that this house is the last of its kind.  The others did not have this natural foundation to help protect them from the results of natural erosion.  The rocky shoreline is called the Anastasia Formation.  It is a geologic formation deposited during the Late Pleistocene epoch.  Although it runs for quite a distance along the coast and has been said to be up to 30 m in depth, it is only exposed in a few locations with the House of Refuge being one.

(Not our photo)

In relation to elevation, thoughts of Florida do not often bring to mind much other than a flat line.  So, it can be hard to imagine that, at times, especially after a good storm, these formations can reach heights of 15 to 20 feet overhead as you walk along at low tide.  At high tide with a good set of waves, you can enjoy the many blow holes that have been created by erosion and watch them send water shooting 50 feet in the air. 

That is all for now...