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

Falcon 9 rocket puts satellite into orbit for Luxembourg

Here is a series of photographs of the January 31, 2018 SpaceX launch of a Falcon9 bearing a Govsat1 (aka SES-16) satellite for Luxembourg.  The re-used Falcon 9 was in expendable mode. The photographs, taken from Cocoa Beach, Florida show the rocket rising above the city and port of Cape Canaveral, through cumulous clouds and into space.

There are the unedited “jpeg” files from the series. I need to crop out the dust spots and such.

Click for complete mission details.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Cocoa Beach Kite Skating

Kiteskaters and Cruise Ships

In the early morning hours of Sunday, September 10, 2017 as Hurricane Irma approached the Florida Keys, I cannot sleep, worried about family members north of Miami and in Daytona Beach. To pass the time, I returned to the golden hours of March 4, 2017 evening.  On vacation, Pam and I walked Cocoa Beach starting from Lori Wilson Park, headed north.

The light was perfect when I decided to switch to Raw-Jpeg mode, feeling the extra space was worth it.  I don’t know why I don’t shoot Raw 100% of the time, as always, in retrospect, I regret using jpeg only. The camera was the Sony Alpha 700 dslr with a DT 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens purchased 2008 after an expedition to the Superstition Wilderness.

After capturing a wedding photo shoot and surfers there was this set of two Kite Skaters going at least 20 miles an hour. The Sony Alpha was quick enough to capture some of the action in raw mode, I am not satisfied with the sharpness of the images as the lens was not fast enough.

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Overview, Approaching Kite skater

We had never watched kite skaters before and were prepared to understand the vision from watching distant kite surfers out beyond the breakers. North winds are the best for any type of kiting on Cocoa Beach and, that day, the wind was northeast. These riders zipped by in less than a minute. The sport is low key, it does not exist on Wikipedia. Image that. These two are having a fantastic time and stayed upright, going on and on and on down the miles long beach.

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Sailskater Dreamview with Cruise Ship

1990 KiteSkate pioneers on the USA east coast experimented with four-line controllable parafoil kites powering in-line skates for exciting rides on asphalt surfaces.

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Her partner approaches

The name “Wheels of Doom” suggest the danger of going this fast over a hard, rough surface.

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He makes it look easy

These Cocoa Beach riders are outfitted for speed and safety: pads, helmets.

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He maneuvers kite overhead to slow down.

Barefeet?? Unprotected skin? They must know how to dress, though maybe not.  He has never fallen?

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Full speed ahead with the kite positioned forward.

The beach within the tide line is solid, the pebbles, broken shells and such unforgiving as asphalt.

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Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Queen Victoria Arrival

Little did they know what lay in store….

Pam and I walked from Cheri Down park this morning of February 2020 to Jetty Park where we were fortuitous witnesses to the arrival of the Cunard ship Queen Victoria on an 84-day cruise around South America.

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I used my IPhone 7 to capture the event. Understanding the context of a ship’s arrival opens a whole new world. Standing on the pier I researched the voyage.

Here is the list of ports on the itinerary. These include the Caribbean, Central America and many of the same ports visited on the 2016 Oceania cruise Pam and I enjoyed from Lima, Peru to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Hamburg, Germany
Southampton, England
Kings Wharf, Bermuda
Port Canaveral, Florida
 Fort Lauderdale, Florida
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bridgetown, Barbados
Manaus, Brazil
Santarem, Brazil
Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Montevideo, Uruguay
Buenos Aires, rgentina
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentinia
Cape Horn, Chile
Punta Arenas, Chile
Puerto Montt, Chile
San Antonio, Chile
Coquimbo, Chile
Arica, Chile
Callao (Lima), Peru
 Manta, Ecuador
 Panama City, Panama
Panama Canal, Panama
Cartagena, Columbia
Willemstad, Dutch Antiles
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Ponta Delgada, Azores
Southampton, England
Hamburg, Germany

Little did they or we know the happy voyage was destined to terminate and return.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

When is “moss” not moss?

Southern Gothic

We spotted this stuff within minutes of arriving at McKee Gardens for an afternoon visit with the grandchildren. Festooned above our heads from thick Oak branches, I could not resist pulling out the camera for this photograph to capture the flavor of Southern Gothic. Fortunately, our group included neither deeply flawed nor disturbing characters, though we can confess to a touch of eccentricity.

Spanish Moss produces inconspicuous flowers with tiny seeds. Spanish Moss also propagates from fragments of the fine leaves.

Spanish Moss is neither moss nor Spanish. Scientific name Tillandsia usneoides, this flowering plant is in the family Bromeliaceae that includes pineapple. Here we have two epiphytic bromelias sharing the trunk of a palm.

A rootless epiphyte native to the tropical / semi-tropical Americas, Spanish Moss has a preference for southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) because of their high rates of foliar mineral leaching (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus) that provides an abundant supply of nutrients to the epiphytic plant.

My two volume “go to” resource for plants and trees had sparse information about Spanish Moss and no wonder as it is a burden on trees, though not parasitic, and so more a pest than a decorative element to cherish. Surprisingly, Spanish Moss was purposely introduced to Hawaii where it is now known as “Pele’s Hair” after their fire goddess.

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Reference: wikipedia “Spanish Moss”

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved