What would Spongebob do?

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s thought of this, and to avoid infringing on copyrights I will simply tell you about our conversation instead of going through a long plot:

I was sitting with my family around the dinner table a while back discussing the oil spill in the Gulf and all kinds of things that could have or should have been done by now.  One of us asked: “What would Spongebob do?”

We all looked at each other and broke out in laughter.  What if deep water oil drilling had been allowed in the ocean near a little imaginary community of sea critters and one land mammal threatening to destroy their lifestyle? 

We imagined that a little yellow guy, who looks more like a rectangle than a square, would offer up, in a heroic yet childish way, his life to save the town.  Since he can, he’d soak up the oil, float to the top of the ocean and wring himself out into an oil tanker waiting above, then dive down to do it all over again.  Maybe he’d recruit his relatives.  And, we decided, if he started early enough after the oil started spewing into the water, that he could keep all of it from reaching the nearby coasts, thus saving the world.

Too bad it’s just fiction.

Sponges are real, though, and live in the Gulf of Mexico right along the western Florida coast.  We had been to Tarpon Springs, FL this summer.  Named the Sponge Capital of the U.S., Tarpon Springs is a wonderful little Greek town that thrives on both fishing and the sponge harvest in the nearby waters and tourism.  I bought a large vase sponge to add to my collection of marine specimens.   Appalachiacola is another sponge harvesting community along the Gulf.   They have a sponge museum called the Sponge Exchange.

Unfortunately, if the tar balls and oil reach these communities and the sponges in the water, there isn’t a single thing these critters can do.   Sponges are not mobile and cannot, therefore, run away from the toxic goo.  They’re stuck.  They may survive; they may die.  I haven’t found a source yet that says for sure what will happen to sponges in the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s hard to tell, also, whether the oil will even make it to Florida’s west coast.  From what I’ve read, the Loop Current is too far away to pull the oil to the beaches, but it is hurricane season and tar balls were just found in Texas.

Meanwhile, keep praying for the Gulf and check out this article about how the oil is affecting the cures for cancer.  Sponges are used in cancer medicine.     http://www.takepart.com/news/2010/07/02/could-gulf-oil-spill-kill-cure-for-malaria-cancer-treatments

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Our Trip to Apalachicola

We took a long weekend and headed toward the Florida Panhandle.  We’ve been there many times.  Back in 1995 Mobile, Alabama was home and we took day trips for some good seafood and white beaches.  But we never got as far east as Apalachicola.  This time, from where we live, we went west.

We stayed at the Coombs Inn, a quaint Bed and Breakfast in town with rooms in the main building and two cottages behind the house.  A few blocks toward the waterfront was another location with still more rooms.  Our stay was nice, the beds were cozy and breakfast was really nicely done.  I’m not a breakfast person (food allergies to eggs and milk keep me away from a lot of breakfast foods), but my family helped themselves to the hot breakfasts of quiche one morning and a secret recipe egg and meat dish the next.  I had my morning coffee.  They also had a buffet table of cereals, fruit, yogurt and juices.

Across the street was a cemetery, said to be haunted, so for fun we walked through.  I had the kids look for the oldest tombstone thinking we could do a rubbing.  We discovered most were so old and worn that they were unreadable.  The ones we could read planted a bit of history in our heads: yellow fever had struck this town hard. 

We headed toward the waterfront and was pleasantly surprised by some cool shops.  I especially liked the Sponge Exchange.  The building was originally built to house the sponge harvest that was plentiful (past and present) in the area.  It is now a shop selling sponges and a few other items.  I couldn’t resist to make a purchase.  Check out their website: https://apalachspongecompany.com/ 

The Gibson Inn is famous in that town so we stopped in.  We decided to sit in the bar area and watch some football, with drinks and an appetizer.  The kids were happy, especially when we found out the place has a history of ghosts.  The boys inquired at the front desk and the ladies joined us at our table to tell us all the tales.  My youngest took notes and wrote about it on his blog: www.siestakid.wordpress.com.

We spent time on St George Island.  Since no one was around this time of year we found ample parking near some homes and took a beach walk.  The night before saw a storm pass through.  The first beach area we stopped was strewn with sea stars, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, oysters, sea squirts, and shells galore.  I also found an interesting and unidentifiable something.  So I gathered several samples.  It looked like a turtle egg.  Most had a hole in them and inside looked like, what could have been the remains of a dead, baby turtle: a center part (I guessed a carapace) with 5 things sticking out (maybe four legs and a head).  I’ll have to find out what it is.

We headed up the road a bit and once again got out.  The beach, at this spot, was being refurbished and buildings were being repaired from recent hurricanes, I suppose.  The sand was as white as the sand on Siesta Key and the beach was wide.  The kids ran around on sand.  Along the surf my husband and I collected shells: tons of lettered olives (I’ve never seen so many) and an assortment of other shells.  I noticed quickly that most of the shells that I had white samples of, were completely or mostly black.  Hummm.  I’ll look into this.

We ended up at the St George Island State Park and made a few stops.  The road along the beach was mostly covered in sand, so driving was a challenge.  I did fine, though, having years of experience driving in snow.  At each location we observed a multitude of ghost crabs.  Back on the road I had to watch out for them scurrying from one side to the other.  There’s a joke here somewhere…why did the ghost crab cross the road?  Who knows.  I did notice something about the shells on this beach (another puzzle).  Where the shells earlier that day were black, these shells looked like they were rusted.  They were mostly or all orange when they should have been white.  Ok, what’s going on?

Our last stop was at another state park.  First, we found a beach strewn with horseshoe crabs (dead) and so we took a few (as you would shells).  Two of different sizes had legs and tail attached.  All others were just the outer part.  Thankfully I had ziplock bags in my car and was able to seal in the smell of some of these dead critters until we got home.   A man and lady, who was also walking that beach, stopped us as they were going to their car and told us they had just seen a large bear.  We left, too, and headed further into the park, to the end of the road.  The beach there was just as beautiful.  Not much in terms of nature to collect but we enjoyed it. 

Aside from the R and R aspect of the trip, we were travelling to find some food spots for my husband to write about.  He owns, eats and writes for Dixiedining.com.  Please check out his website and blog: www.dixiedining.com .  He was in search of oysters and I think he ate his fill that weekend.  We also ate other things, but mostly seafood.  At one oyster store and processing location, we got a tour of the operation and the kind man showed us how the oysters are shucked (at a long table against a wall with a cutting machine), where the shells get disposed (through a hole in the wall where the shells fall to the ground and pile up), what they do with them (haul them out to the oyster beds for the bed’s foundation) and anything else you can think of regarding the oyster business.   Pretty cool.

We had a nice time.  I’d recommend the trip, and the B&B.  Apalachicola is really a remote area so if you are looking for serious R&R you’ll find it.  Just bring a good book and if your a nature freak, binoculars and lots of buckets for your nature samples.  Fishing rods would work, too.

Now I have to do some research on my shells.  Stay tuned.