Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Unlocking the Keys: Blue, Blue, and More Blue

The GPS added to the interest of the drive through the Florida Keys. It showed just how much water and how little road there was.

102_0815 And what beautiful water it was!


B tried his hand at shore fishing without any luck.


I passed the time enjoying the scenery and taking pictures.



I found it interesting that all of the seawall rocks were coral. I assume it was fossilized and came from a quarry instead of dredging the reefs.


Because of the full moon, the low tide was WAY out, leaving lots of wet mud that I was tempted to explore, in hopes of finding sea life that was left behind.

On the beach at Long Key, I was not expecting the mud to be so soft. I broke both flipflops taking my first steps on the wet part of the beach. Of course, they were my “cute” ones!


After sinking in half-way up my calves, I gave up. It was just a little creepy not knowing where there might be rays and not being able to do the shuffle.

So that left the sea wrack to explore: that is the seaweed, etc, that was left by the last, highest tide. That was worth a look as it contained tons of mostly small pieces of coral. I collected some for the shell picture frames that my students make for Mother’s Day. Mixed in with the coral were these mysterious turquoise and purple wings. I had to track down a ranger to find out what they were, as they were new to us. This is three of them stuck together.


They are known as By-the-Wind Sailors (Velella velella, so named by Linnaeus in 1758). They are distantly related to jellyfish. They are actually a colony of animals that float on the sea’s surface. Without a means of locomotion, they go where the wind and tides take them. Each is only a couple of inches long. There is a flat part and then there is a triangular, vertical sail. I read that they are either right-sailing or left-sailing and as a result, beaching in large numbers usually involves only one form, thus allowing the others to survive. Looking at the name, Velella velella, gives a clue as to their uniqueness: there is only the one species in this genus.


Anonymous said...

ON a returning trip on the ferry from Dry Tortugas back to Key West last month I saw armadas of these little jewels. It brought back great childhood memories of wonder when first finding just the dried sails of these in the dried weedline on FL beaches .

Once I identified them they became a favorite find. Truely an awesome sight to see them in large masses floating along in their glistening blue finery, cellophane sails moving them with the wind.

Dare I say very few folks on the boat even witnessed the miniature parade.

Ah "NATURE DEFICIT" If you don't look and wait to be shown you miss so much.

Keep engaging those students its a real service to us all!


S N B said...

What a marvelous comment, Julie! Thank you so much! Perhaps we will be able to see them at sea sometime, too.