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Florida’s Mermaids…

Posted by Greg on April 9, 2008

Florida Manatee. Photo by Greg Stamer

Photo Copyright Greg Stamer (Olympus SW 720. Click on image to view enlargement)

Yes, it’s hard to believe that Columbus and crew mistook the Manatee for a mermaid, but, well, it was a very long voyage…. 😕 Manatees are beautiful creatures in their own right, of course. One of the joys of living in Florida is discovering that beyond the theme parks and condos is a very rich world of wildlife. Eagles, alligators, manatees and countless dolphins are among my normal paddling companions. Although I greatly enjoyed my time in Europe last year, I saw more marine wildlife in several days in Mosquito lagoon (a large estuary East of Orlando), than in all my months overseas.

After the Sweetwater Symposium in February, I kayaked the outflow of Weeki Watchee springs with Russell Farrow, Nigel and Kristin Foster and some other good friends. The warm water is home to a number of manatees in the winter months. Donning a mask and capsizing in my kayak, the young, “sad-eyed” manatee shown in the image above eagerly approached me to investigate (yet another great reason to learn to roll — to explore the depths below with a dive mask). Perhaps, capsized in my kayak, I looked like kin. Its mother visited too, but wasn’t as interested in this strange half-man/half kayak. Up close a manatee looks much like an elephant (one of their closest relatives) with their stiff hair and thick skin. Manatees are vegetarians. They are friendly and inquisitive and can move quite fast when they want to.

It is amazing how the interaction and connection with such a creature fills you with an intense and overwhelming sense of humility, peace and wonderment. Like being a kid again.

I only wish that we were worthy of the trust shown by this young manatee. Humans are the main reason that the manatee is endangered. Many are killed each year from boat collisions. Most of the adults have deep scars cut into their back, the result of being slashed with the blades of boat propellers. Some die from infection caused by the cuts and others suffer a broken back from the collision with the lower unit of boat engines. Still others are crushed in locks.  For information on helping protect these amazing creatures please visit the Save the Manatee Club

  1. René Seindal Said,

    Well, Greg, beauty ideals might have changed a lot since the late 1400s 🙂

  2. Tom Milani Said,

    I’ve seen the manatees from shore there — they tend to bubble a lot. There are amazing bird-watching opportunities on the wildlife drive off the road to the Cape Canaveral National Seashore, which isn’t far from there.

  3. russell Said,

    Greg, it was great paddling the Weeki Wachee that day…safe travels on the upcoming circumnavigation…our thoughts and positive energy go with you my friend.