Thursday, January 22, 2015
Florida Oceanographic Society - Stuart FL
I was kayaking in the intercoastal near Stuart a while back when I spotted tons of oyster shells on shore. Actually the smell reached out and got my attention first. A few months before that, I was watching volunteers place bags of similar shells in the water near downtown Stuart. Not nearly as smelly.
On my recent visit to the Florida Oceanographic Society I found out how these two observations were related. First lets talk about feeding stingrays.
I've been here before but it always fascinates me that you can feed these beautiful creatures by hand. Their mouth is underneath and works like a vacuum. Never do this in the wild as they have a pretty good sized harpoon in their tail but the ones in the tank are not too large and have their stingers removed. And they know when its time to feed. They slap the side of the pool in case the handlers forgot.
Just past the Stingray tank there are various underwater critters that you can actually touch. Of course you need to leave them in the water. Not sure why one needs to be reminded of that but it was obvious the staff needed to repeat that tid bit of information a thousand times a day.
Keep going and you will find an outdoor fish tank large enough for turtles and sharks. We were lucky to walk right up at feeding time. I went on a holiday weekend so there were plenty of people gathered around to let me know it was show time. Normally the visitors are pretty sparse so you can stand right at the action.
After that, a soggy walk in the wilderness. Our guide was very informative. I suggest going with the tour. If not it's pretty much just a bunch of green stuff and swamp. I've lived in Florida since 1978 and still learned plenty on the trail.
So now for the shells, collected from various restaurants, then left in the sun to ferment. On a hot day with no breeze I would imaging the smell will knock you out. I was there on a cool day and it had just rained a few hours before so I was able to hold down my breakfast.
What happens here is the shells slowly turn into all rock and no protein. Then they are bagged by volunteers and set in the bay. Baby oysters like oyster shells best to adhere to. Oysters are filter feeders that can clean huge volumes of water. The more you can get into the bay, the better the experience for everyone nearby.
I will have time on my hands and as an avid kayaker, I do appreciate clean water. I certainly will look into helping out in the future. Hopefully volunteering comes with gloves and a mask. The Florida Oceanographic Society is right across the street from the Elliot Museum. Make a full day adventure and visit both.