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Story Tools

Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sandscript

Lots of stuff coming up in the next few weeks

Fans of Rick Catlin's "Greatest Generation" column in the Islander may enjoy the festivities at the airport in the next few days.

Tours and flights are being offered aboard two World War II airplanes, a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-25 Mitchell, beginning today and running through Friday. The event is part of a "Wings of Freedom" tour.

Tour charges are $7 for adults, $3 for children under 12. For $400, you can get a flight in the morning or at sunset. Sarasota's Brandy Marine Inc. organized the festivities in an effort to "showcase the aircraft and veterans that helped keep the world free, to honor World War II veterans, and to educate young people about the role of these historic warbirds in U.S. history," according to organizers.

Tour hours are 3-4:40 p.m. Feb. 2, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, and 9 a.m. to noon Friday. The flights are scheduled an hour before the ground tours open and right after the tours close for the day and run about 30 minutes. Tours and flights will be out of Jones Aviation, on the north side of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

Further information is available at 360-1015.

Naked bike ride 2005 scheduled

More fun than you may be able to stand without many of your clothes on is coming to our area Feb. 13.

The World Naked Bike Ride's Southern Hemisphere version is scheduled to be held at 1:30 p.m. at Fort DeSoto Park, just north of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Pinellas County.

"The World Naked Bike Ride has many messages," according to the group's announcement. "It began as an oil-dependency protest, but it has taken on the messages of body acceptance and earth-friendly living."

Apparently more than bikes are allowed, but all must be non-motorized - you can bike, run, walk, in-line skate, skateboard, and the like.

And organizers add that "keeping in mind that the legal minimum attire in the park is thongs and G-strings, this is a 'bare as you dare' event" - so the "Naked Bike Ride" title is not quite accurate.

The group will gather at 1 p.m. at the last parking lot at North Beach at the park, then proceed to the ranger station and back, a distance of about seven miles.

Enjoy, I guess, and although February seems a bit chilly for such an event, it does seem to be a good start to Valentine's Day the next day.

Pearl story

The pearl is real, but the story behind it appears somewhat wild, to say the least.

The world's largest pearl is purportedly a 14-pound, football-shaped monster that some have said dates back 2,500 years to Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu, who carved his face and that of Buddha and Confucius in the surface.

It began as an amulet, then was placed in larger and larger clams as it grew bigger and bigger.

The tale goes that it was lost in a shipwreck hundreds of years ago, then turned up in a giant clam in the Philippines in 1934. The diver who found it drowned trying to get it to the surface, and the village chief took possession and named it the Pearl of Allah.

Apparently, a man named Wilburn Dowell Cobb saved the chief's son's life, and ended up with the pearl as a token of thanks. His heirs sold it to a Beverly Hills jeweler in 1980 for $200,000. Others joined in a partnership to acquire the pearl. One of the partner's wives was killed in what was described as a contract killing. Her heirs won a $32.4 million wrongful death suit and want the pearl as part of the estate package.

The pearl price today is estimated at more than $60 million.

Seems like a lot of money for something that started as an irritation in a oyster shell, doesn't it?

Wildfire fears

Speaking of irritation, there are some statewide worries that we may be in for a wicked Florida wildfire season this spring and summer and, yes, you can blame it on last summer's hurricanes.

"From Naples to Pensacola, many once-scenic stands of trees are now tangled masses of trunks and limbs," said Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson. "This additional debris will make wildfires more difficult to control and more dangerous for our firefighters."

Bronson continued that, "Many trees damaged by high winds or inundated by heavy rains are expected to die from insect and disease infestations over the next two years. This scenario, combined with tinder-dry grasses and frost-damaged brush, means conditions in Florida are conducive to an active wildfire season."

He urges caution for anyone going out in the woods, especially smokers.

An additional threat posed by wildfires is reduced visibility for motorists and the potential for crashes on the state's interstates.  

"Wildfires can occur throughout the year in Florida, but the most active part of the wildfire season is usually from January through May," according to Bronson. He said that Florida averages about 5,000 wildfires each year.

Since Jan. 1, we've had 191 fires that have burned 547 acres, many caused by outdoor yard trash burns that got out of hand.

Blue crab regulatory workshops set

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has scheduled a series of public workshops regarding management of blue crabs and is seeking public input on proposals regarding a draft rule to develop a limited-entry program for the blue crab fishery.

The nearest workshop to the Island is at the

Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council offices, 4000 Gateway Center Blvd., Suite 100, Pinellas Park, on Feb. 22. Another hearing is Feb. 21 in   Fort Myers at the East Room of the Old County Courthouse, 2115 Second St.. Both workshops will begin at 6 p.m.

The blue crab fishery has been in a state of decline for several years, FWC officials have said, and some form of regulation has been contemplated, hence the workshops.

Fishing college this Saturday

The Florida Fishing College is Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto, Doors open at 10 am. and the event will run through 6 p.m. There will be lectures about fishing from local guides, plus trade exhibits and educational booths. There will also be about $5,000 in door prizes given away.

Cost is a whopping $2.

Sandscript factoid

After years of debate, anthropologists have apparently concluded that the hippopotamus is linked to a branch of prehistoric whales that also has as its descendants pigs and camels.

The anthracotheres date back about 60 million years ago and have direct links to the oldest whales, which were semi-aquatic, four-legged critters in South Asia.

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