Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sea Cows

You already know my affinity for Vinoy Park.  About the only discernible landmark when you gaze across the Bay is the power plant and its smokestacks spewing clouds of whatever EPA-mandated clean stuff it spews.  I have been waiting for ages to use the word "spew" and now I have used it twice in one sentence.  Good for me.  

From the St. Pete side the power plant looks like this:  it is clear to the left and if you look closely you can see the smoke billowing out of the stacks.  This is Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station, at Apollo Beach.   

Warm water from the station is dumped into the Bay here and manatees, or sea cows have been using it to keep warm in the cool winter water of the Bay.  In 1986, Tampa Electric built an observation area and walkway in the vicinity so that people can come to see the manatees.  As excitement goes, manatees aren't really a bowl of laughs.  They don't do tricks and they don't do amazing manatee things. They just float.  But down here that passes for family entertainment so, "When In Rome…" 

This is how the plant looks up close and in full billow.  

This, then, is the site 100's of us have come to see this cloudy Saturday morning (Jan. 4).  The parking is difficult - cars, trucks and motorcycles are lined all along the road and the  site parking is full with cars slowly scavenging in circles waiting for someone to leave.  We lucked out, found something in the parking lot next to the exit.  But, my Lord, the crowd gives me cold fuzzies.  Isn't there anything this throng can come up with other than seeing lumbering backs of manatees wallowing in water?  

You arrive at the observation deck and this is basically what you see.  

And this.  

And this.  

You get the idea.

I suppose for environmentalists, marine mammal biologists, kids and liberals this would be an awesome site.  Frankly I thought it was a bit of a bore, but man, they sure pack them in.  I mean the place was so crowded I really got a touch of agoraphobia, demo-phobia, enochlophobia, and ochlophobia.  By the way, those are all recognized phobias relating to the fear of crowds.  I don't know if I had all of them but I'm sure I had a touch of at least one. 

I don't mean to be tough on the poor lumbering manatees.  They are marvelous creatures who add to the diversity of aquatic life.  And I didn't really think they'd put on a Rockettes type show like at Sea World, but navigating the crazy traffic and dodging all the people, it would have been nice to have a better payoff.  

A steam punks wet dream.  An old rusting generation of power spitting clouds of supposedly non-toxic waste.  Wow. 

A sea cow coming up for air.

A sea cow flipping its flapper.

This is one of the walkways through a mangrove.  

A blue heron walking by looking for morsels.  

Saw quite a few fish jumping out of the water.  Not sure what they were but perhaps mullet.  

Mullet is big down here and you can see trucks parked along the side of the road selling it from their morning catch.  

Never had it, but might try it if given the chance.  Saw a few sand sharks swimming around, too.

This is a sign that was posted showing the various fish in and around the waters at the plant.

The following YouTube film is NOT mine.  It is one I found but shows you what things look like here on a good day.  Apparently today was not a good day.  Maybe later in the season.

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