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Date of Issue: December 21, 2006

Sandscript

Tampa Bay history, plus some shopping thoughts

Tampa Bay was created 7 to 10 million years ago when a limestone crust over the surface of the earth collapsed and water rushed into the void. However, the void is pitted with caverns and cracks that have been described as similar to a deformed colander.

That's the description and history of the waterbody as offered by University of Florida geologist Albert C. Hine, who, with other scientists and the benefit of a grant from the U.S. Geological Survey, did rock borings and sonar scans to figure out just what happened to create the big bay.

As described in the St. Petersburg Times, Hines and associates have decided that "there was a time when rocks, limestones at depth, were dissolved. This period of time lasted several million years. And the overlying rocks collapsed down into it, creating a shallow depression. The depression became infilled with sediments and it's almost completely infilled, but not quite. If it were completely infilled, it would be land and we could walk from St. Petersburg to Apollo Beach."

A goodly amount of that sedimentation is fine quartz, what we call our sugar-fine sand. Hines has offered a description of that sand source, too.

He said that "300 million years ago, in the Paleozoic, during the assembly of the supercontinent [called Gondwana, which included Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar, Australia-New Guinea, and New Zealand, as well as Arabia and the Indian subcontinent, which are in the Northern Hemisphere], the Appalachian Mountains were formed as a result of collision with northwest Africa. And so the Appalachians at one time were Himalayan in size. The mountains yielded quartz-rich sediments which were transported away from the mountains and built the coastal plan, and those quartz sediments made their way by rivers and longshore transport down shorelines all the way down on top of the Florida platform.

"Florida, you can visualize it as a limestone cake, a thick limestone cake with a thin quartz sand frosting on top. And the limestone dissolves and creates sinkholes.

"Actually all of Florida ... except for the Florida Keys - it's the remnants of the early Appalachian Mountains," Hines said.

Welcome, y'all.

 

Critter tale: happy ...

It took the tallest man in the world to save two dolphins in China last week.

According to the Associated Press, two captive dolphins had somehow swallowed some plastic, which had blocked their stomachs and endangered their lives. Biologists tried to snag the material out with some kind of a tube contraption, but the stomach muscles tightened and they couldn't snake the little hooks down to reach the foreign matter.

      So the services of Bao Xishun, a 7-foot-9-inch herdsman from Inner Mongolia with 41.7-inch-long arms, and confirmed last year by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's tallest living man, were requested in a low-tech approach to help the marine mammals.

      He sort of cut right to the chase. Veterinarians opened the dolphin jaws, and Bao reached his long, long arm down the throat of each dolphin and fished out the plastic. The "operation" was a success.

I wonder if Bao could only come by my place and replace a couple lightbulbs in my ceiling?

 

Critter tale: sad

A manatee that traveled more than 700 miles up the Mississippi River has been found dead just south of Memphis, Tenn.

The wayward sea cow had made the trek last summer. Biologists were afraid harm would come to the critter, and attempted in October to net it to transport it back to warmer water, but were unsuccessful.

Manatees don't handle water temperatures when it drops into the 60s. Exact cause of death is not yet known, but hypothermia seems a good bet.

No word on the fate of the other manatee that made it as far as Cape Cod last summer.

 

Critter tale: under review

The lowly but tasty blue crab is the current focus of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Officials at the St. Petersburg-based center are conducting a "health assessment to determine levels of parasites, disease and toxins in blue crabs in Tampa Bay," according to the agency.

The study was prompted by blue crabbers, who had noticed high blue crab mortality rates in recent years and wondered why.

"Blue crab health conditions and toxin concentrations will be monitored throughout the year to observe seasonal changes in parasites, diseases and toxicity in relation to water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH and the spreading of harmful algal bloom or red tide distribution," according to biologists. "A result of this health study will be to develop a standardized protocol for reporting blue crab health conditions that will later be used by FWRI monitoring groups throughout Florida."

The results of the study will be published in 2007. However, there are some preliminary findings that may be of interest to crabbers.

"Preliminary data indicates that the presence of some parasites can be observed in blue crabs in the wild," the agency said. "For example, a crab with pink coloring on the underside of its shell may be infected with the parasite Hematodinium sp. While this parasite is not harmful to humans, the infected crab meat has a bitter taste (leading to the name of the condition, "bitter crab") and is generally inedible." 

 

Last-minute shopping thoughts

There seems to be some sort of journalism rule that calls for the publishing this time of year of a shopping list for last-minute procrastinators. Since I'm something of a reader and book lover, here's some of my suggestions. They should all be available at your local bookseller.

And I'm pretty much sticking to Florida authors. The Sunshine State has suddenly become something of a mecca for mystery writers, and most are very, very good.

Top of my hit parade is, of course, my buddy Terry Griffin's new book, "Murder Key." It takes place almost entirely on Longboat Key, and is filled with all sorts of bodies and intrigue and plot twists.

Also just out is Claire Maturo's newest, "Bone Valley." It's a Sarasota-based story of attorney Lilly Cleary and her dealings with eco-freaks.

And don't forget Tom Corcoran. He's got about five books out now, and although they take place mostly in the Florida Keys, his ties to our part of the state are strong - his sister lives in Lakeland and he's no stranger to Southwest Florida. "Air Dance Iguana" is his newest.

Although not quite in the mainstream, Sarasota author Blaize Clement has done a superb job in her Siesta Key-based mystery, "Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter." It's one of those books that has been given an unfortunate dust jacket, which turned me off for a while until I got into what is a hard-boiled novel and a wonder first book, and her second in the series is due out early next year.

Don't forget that Carl Hiaasen has a new novel out, too. "Nature Girl" is a Ten Thousand Islands/Everglades mystery that allows his usual and wonderful rant about how development and growth is spoiling this special place we call home.

Manatee County resident Ward Larsen has written a superb first novel, "The Perfect Assassin," which has the almost unprecedented repute of first being published as a print-on-demand volume, then picked up by a major publisher. It's a good spy thriller with lots of sailing thrown into the mix.

And, of course, don't forget Tim Dorsey, Randy Wayne White, James Born, Bob Morris, Jeff Lindsay, Jim Swain and all the rest of the "usual suspects" in Florida mystery circles.

Enjoy!

 

Sandscript factoid

Have a happy and safe holiday season.

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