Flip Flop Dragonflies

Deep Time

380 recycled flip flops were used by Ocean Sole Africa Project artists to create these seahorse sculptures from a 2020 exhibit hosted by McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

Adult dragonfly lifespan of a few days to 5 weeks contrasts with the wide distribution, variety with over 3,000 species and deep longevity of the infraorder, Anisoptera, especially compared to our genus, Homo: Hundreds of millions of years, compared to 2 million.

An insect, dragonflies live on every continent except Antarctica, from sea level up to the mountains.

I have experienced hundreds of dragonflies swooping and hovering around Peaked Mountain of the Adirondacks.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Flip Flop Manta Rays

“Devil Fish”

110 recycled flip flops were used by Ocean Sole Africa Project artists to create these seahorse sculptures from a 2020 exhibit hosted by McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

Manta Rays are large, flat-bodied fish having a width ranging from 18-23 feet (5-7 meters) wide. Mantas gracefully swoop during feeding, scooping up large quantities of plankton, 60 pounds (27 kilograms) per day, with the flat fins on either side of their head.

Here is the flowing movement of the manta

Mantas are known as “devilfish” because of their horn-shaped cephalic fins, which are imagined to give them an “evil” appearance. The movement of pectoral fins drive them through water, like birds flying through air.

All mantas are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Anthropogenic threats include pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, and direct harvesting of their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine. Their slow reproductive rate exacerbates these threats. They are protected in international waters by the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, but are more vulnerable closer to shore. Areas where mantas congregate are popular with tourists. Only a few public aquariums are large enough to house Mantas.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Flip Flop Seahorses

Evolutionary Success Story

Up to 150 recycled flip flops were used by Ocean Sole Africa Project artists to create these seahorse sculptures from a 2020 exhibit hosted by McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

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Seahorses are tiny fish with heads that look like…horses! Their curved flexible tail is used to grasp objects, mostly anchoring the seahorse to plants.

Their genus, Hippocampus, includes 46 species indicating evolutionary success for their body shape and adaptations. Just hatched seahorses cling together in groups, hook by their tails. Excellent at camouflage, a seahorse hides from predators while waiting to ambush dinner.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Flip Flop Manatee

Happy “Profitable Friday” 2022

Up to 400 recycled flip flops were used by Ocean Sole Africa Project artists to create this Manatee sculpture from a 2020 exhibit hosted by McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

Manatee with fans

Manatees are protected under the Endangered Species Act and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Today, the range-wide population is estimated to be at least 13,000 manatees, with more than 6,500 in the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico.

Florida has cherished the Sea Cow with the population increasing 25% from 1991, going from 1,267 to more than 6,300.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Flip Flop Crab

Eyes on stalks and an exoskeleton composed of chitin

Up to 400 recycled flip flops were used by Ocean Sole Africa Project artists to create each sea turtle sculpture from a 2019 exhibit hosted by McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

Blue land crabs inhabit McKee Gardens, only resembling these specimens, made from as many as 400 discarded flip flops, in having ten legs for which the Order Decapoda is named. The front two legs are specialized chelae (claws) for grabbing and eating whatever is in front of them (omnivorous). Two other characteristics are eyes on stalks and an exoskeleton composed of chitin. From an exhibit of creations by the Ocean Sole Africa project, McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

Blue land crabs inhabit McKee Gardens, only resembling these specimens, made from as many as 400 discarded flip flops, in having ten legs for which the Order Decapoda is named.

The front two legs are specialized chelae (claws) for grabbing and eating whatever is in front of them (omnivorous). Two other characteristics are eyes on stalks and an exoskeleton composed of chitin.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Flip Flop Sea Turtle

Light pollution from beach development is a threat to baby sea turtles; the glow from city sources can cause them to head into traffic instead of the ocean.

450 recycled flip flops were used by Ocean Sole Africa Project artists to create each sea turtle sculpture from a 2019 exhibit hosted by McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

Sea turtles (superfamily Chelonioidea), sometimes called marine turtles, are reptiles of the order Testudines and of the suborder Cryptodira. Sea turtles can be found in all oceans except for the polar regions. Sea turtles are generally found in the waters over continental shelves.

During the first three to five years of life, sea turtles spend most of their time in the pelagic zone floating in seaweed mats. Once the sea turtle has reached adulthood it moves closer to the shore. Females will come ashore to lay their eggs on sandy beaches during the nesting season. Sea turtles migrate to reach their spawning beaches, which are limited in numbers. Living in the ocean therefore means they usually migrate over large distances.

All sea turtles have large body sizes, which is helpful for moving large distances. Large body sizes also offer good protection against the large predators (notably sharks) found in the ocean. Light pollution from beach development is a threat to baby sea turtles; the glow from city sources can cause them to head into traffic instead of the ocean. There has been some movement to protect these areas. On the east coast of Florida, parts of the beach known to harbor sea turtle nests are protected by fences.

This Sea Turtle sculpture graces the entrance of McKee Gardens as a permanent exhibit.

Conservationists have monitored hatchings, relocating lost baby sea turtles to the beach. Hatchlings find their way to the ocean by crawling towards the brightest horizon and can become disoriented along the coastline. Lighting restrictions can prevent lights from shining on the beach and confusing hatchlings. Sea turtle-safe lighting uses red or amber LED light, invisible to sea turtles, in place of white light.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Flip Flop Octopus

890 recycled flip flops were used in this sculpture

This common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) specimen was created by artists of Ocean Sole Africa. 890 recycled flip flops were used in this sculpture. from a 2019 exhibit hosted by McKee Botanical Gardens, Vero Beach, Indian River County, Florida.

Octopuses are adaptable and intelligent 8-limbed creatures known live in and around ocean reefs, deep ocean and intertidal zones. Invertebrate, without a skeleton an octopus can hide in tight spaces. Maneuvering and hunting, each tentacle is lined with suckers that grab rocks and prey. Existing solely on meat, these carnivores prey on crabs and shellfish, finding them with sharp binocular eyesight and devouring with a sharp parrot-like beak. Their defenses include camouflage, changing skin color to made surroundings, ejection of thick black ink to distract a predator and escape. A last line of defense is sacrificing an arm that can grow back over time. These blue-blooded aristocrats have three hearts!

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Island Romance

Happy Valentine’s Day with the original Moby Dick

Thinking about the Aran Islands for my posts, “Killeany Bouy” and “Inisheer Welcomes the 2014 Gaeltacht Irish Football champions” brought me back to Isla Mocha.

Herman Melville’s thoughts were in and around this island off the central Chilean coast when he penned “Moby Dick” in the mid-nineteenth century while sitting in the city of Boston.  He was brought Moby Dick not only by his own experiences on a whaling ship, almost certainly Melville owned a copy of Jeremiah N. Reynolds’ “Mocha Dick: Or The White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal,” an true-life account of adventures around Isla Mocha.  Sometime around 1810 Reynolds personally experienced encounters with Mocha Dick after the crew of an Antarctic expedition mutinied, stranding him at Valparaíso, Chile where he remained for two years.

Located  38°21’45.62″S,  73°55’6.91″W, around 8 miles in size north to south, 3.5 miles east to west Isla Mocha is surprisingly simple to find.  A ridge of mountains run the north south axis, just 20 miles off the coast, a ship following the coast will find it easily, as I did from the balcony of the Oceania Regatta during a “sea day” of travel between Valparaiso and Puerto Montt.

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Since waking that day I was on the lookout for Isla Mocha.  In preparation for our month-long cruise around South America every mile of our itinerary was scoured for interesting sights, experiences and information.  When I first learned of Isla Mocha (Mocha Island in English) and the connection with Melville reading about it in Boston, just as I was in Ithaca, one of my goals for that day was to catch sight of Isla Mocha as it rose from the horizon.

My goal was made easier for the cloud formation from the island mountains.  Here is my first photograph, taken from our balcony on the port side.  I chose the port side just for the landward view as the ship progressed southward on the western coast of South America.  The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III was tripod mounted with an EF 70-300 f4-5.6L variable lens set to 70 mm.  We are northwest of the island with the coast just visible.

Isla Mocha First Sighting

Another view with 188 mm focal length.  The ship must have turned eastward, as the view progressed the island came closer.  It was a fantastic thought to cruise above the subduction zone where the Nazca plate dives beneath the South American Plate.  In the distance, on a clear day, the volcanic cones Villarrea and Quertrupillan are visible.

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With the island due east, only a few miles away, the lens at 221 mm focal length.  A fisherman is having an easier day in a calm sea.  The indigenous people told stories of the souls of the dead travelling west to Isla Mocha.  Pirates used the island as a resupply base.  The fishing boat was the only sign of life.

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That was February 14th Valentine’s Day.  With Isla Mocha passing into the distance I changed for an evening with Pam.  Here we are headed to dinner, somewhere off the coast of Chile’s Lakes (and volcano) region.

Valentines Day 2016

Valparaiso Separation

Learn about funiculars

To begin with an epilogue to my last post, “Our Fifteen Minutes of Fame on Conception Hill” , our meeting with the El Mercurio reporter never appeared.  Inquiries to the newspaper were promptly and courteously replied to, there was nothing.  They suggested a search of the online archive and only a January 2014 fashion show, the article featured a photo from the same terrace.  After our pleasant time we walked off some calories on Gervasoni Promenade, a showcase of city harbor and hillside views.

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Most city visits on this cruise we traded independence and flexibility for the convenience of the guided tour.  Ricardo, our guide, was a knowledgeable, good humored companion to our small group.  After we left the promenade for Calle Conception Ricardo was most helpful.

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It was here I entered a photographic fugue, losing touch with my surroundings through concentration on capturing the moment.

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I walked ahead of Pam, expecting her to follow, and caught the view of the arriving care of the Conception funicular.

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Wow, that’s the Regatta at dock.  Other elements of this vista are the harbor, of course, then the famous Turri clock tower.  Hmmm, almost 1:30 pm.

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I was fascinated by the view of a drydock the Regatta passed while docking early that  morning.  It is the red structure with the letters “Sociber”, it even has a Facebook page!!!

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Once at street level the experience of the crowd on the alley opening onto Calle Prat, waiting for the ride up, brought back reality.  “Where’s Pam?”  I could not go back up because of the crowd, the views from the car fell from my mind.

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I was on the street, disoriented and alone.

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I fell back on photography to pass the time.  Nowhere near the charm of Cerro Conception, typical downtown urban environment.

Ascensor Concepcion

A man approached the family across Prat, “What is going on?” I wondered when the tour bus arrived.  Still no Pam.

Ascensor Concepcion

Oh, it is an ice cream vendor.  Delicious.  “Where’s Pam?”  Ricardo not around, either.  Back on the bus, waiting, a younger member of the tour was an Irish wag who declaimed on the benefits of freedom, even temporary.

Ascensor Concepcion

Finally, Ricardo arrived followed by a few other tour members and Pam.  Whew!!  I’ll never live down “deserting” her.  She was not able to find the entrance to the Conception funicular.  Along with a few others they kept each other company until Ricardo rounded them up.   That was a long 20 minutes (reading from the photograph metadata), I was worried.  As I mentioned, at the time I was clueless about my whereabouts.  Reviewing the numerous photographs, I found the “Servicio Nacional de Aduanas” (National Customs) building across the where Calle Esmeralda joins with Cochrane and pieced it together from there.

About the Conception funicular, that morning while the Regata docked I caught this view of Valparaiso hillside.  It is a microcosm of the Andean topography, ravines cut through the heights.  This is when I noted the Sociber drydock, it is on the lower left…look down into it — the business is to sell that dry space in the middle of the harbor for ship repair.  The space and be flooded, opened to allow entry of a ship, then drained for work on the hull or whatever.

The city pioneers adapted to this terrain.  As a entrepreneurial endeavor, in 1882 Mr. Liberio E. Brieba Pacheco founded the Mechanical Elevators Company of Valparaíso.  Conception funicular opened the following year to facilitate the urbanization of Alegre and Concepción hills.  Conception funicular is closed for repairs currently, from 1883 until recently this, the oldest and first funicular of Valparaiso lifted people from the downtown Plan (plain) to the hilltop for a small fee.

Funicular is derived from latin “funis” for rope.  It is an elevator that runs two counter balanced cars on a rails on a steep, less than vertical, slope.  As one car rises the other lowers.

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Here are some views of the Conception funicular and environs as seen from the upper Regatta deck.  First, a 24 mm wide angle view.  Look to the center for the rails and one car at the top.  Above are the buildings of Cerro Conception (Conception Hill).

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The funicular emerges from downtown on the right in the following view. The prominent church is Parroquia Perpetuo Socorro, just above the midpoint.  It rises from Cerro Cordillera, above Cerro Conception.  A Catholic church founded by the Redemptionist Fathers, the first stone was laid down 1905.  Learning from the devastating earthquake of 1906, the engineer Juan Tonkin chose construction of Oregon pine and concrete to stand tall today.  What a view (I’ve seen photographs).

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A view a bit to the right, many of the colorful exteriors are zinc panels brought from early sailing ships, repurposed as siding.

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After the wide angle shot I used the variable “zoom” lens for the rest.  Here is a close view of the Conception funicular.  The business of building and running these services thrived, over the years up to 29 funiculars and one elevator, served the city portenos (people of the port).  In 2018 seven are in operation, nine are under a process of restoration and modernization, including Conception.

Our Fifteen Minutes of Fame on Conception Hill

A modest dose of history with wine and empanada

Posting about our departure from Valparaiso, Chile (see Valparaiso Departure III “The Sunset”) brings us to the time spent wandering this World Heritage Site, added to the UNESCO list in 2003.  Within the amphitheater of hills is Cerro Conception (Conception Hill), historically settled by English and German immigrants.  The façade of the Hotel Brighton, a building from the 19th century heyday of Valparaiso when it was a stopping point for shipping through the Straits of Magellan, reveals why so many of the buildings are alike: all are constructed from materials dropped off from sailing ships.

Hotel BrightonThe theme of the Hotel Brighton evokes thoughts of immigrants remembering their origins, emigres claiming a spot of real estate to mold a sense of place for themselves.  This goes both ways, Valparaiso, Indiana was formerly Porterville of Porter County.  The motive force behind the renaming were the memories of the retired Captain David Porter, the sole survivor of an attack on his ship USS Essex by the British frigates Phoebe and Cherub in the War of 1812, within sight of Valparaiso. Fifty eight (58) United States Marines lost their lives in that sea battle.  To point out the obvious, Captain Porter is the namesake of Porter County.  

Pam corrects me when I say we “stopped for lunch” at the Hotel Brighton, pointing out we “only” had a glass of red wine and an empanada.  Both were tasty, even more so with this marvelous view looking north into the other hills of the city.  The yellow umbrella is on the hotel restaurant terrace.  

Hotel Brighton

I missed capturing the signature wrought iron gate forming the word “Brighton” among decorative scrolls.  Built on the edge of Conception Hill it overlooks the coastal plain almost all of which is man-made.

Hotel Brighton

During our refreshment, this young lady (see photograph below) introduced herself as a reporter for El Mercurio.  Accompanied by a photographer, she interviewed us and we had our photograph taken, I returned the favor with the following photograph saying the story might appear in the next edition.  Standing next to her, with a puzzled look, is our waitress who was from the States.

Hotel Brighton

El Mercurio de Valparaiso is the oldest continuously published Spanish language newspaper in the world.  In my research for these photographs I discovered the newpaper officers were a short walk from the landing of the Ascensor Conception.