Back in the past through maps of Manatee County
Fans of Manatee County history may enjoy the following Web site, and your lips won't even get tired because the site is all pictures.
Maps and charts, actually, dating back to 1856.
Go to: http://www.fcit.usf.edu/FLORIDA/maps/county/Manatee/Manatee.htm
As the site explains, "Manatee County is Florida's 31st county, established on Jan. 9, 1855, from segments of Hillsborough County and Orange County. It gains its name from the manatee, also known as the sea cow, a large animal that used to be found all over the Gulf of Mexico and up to the Carolinas along the coast. Their numbers have declined significantly in recent years and they are now considered an endangered species.
"Bradenton, named after Dr. Joseph Braden, one of the first sugar growers in the area, is the county seat."
The maps make for some pretty interesting viewing.
For the coastline, north to south, the place names listed on the first map available, 1856, are:
Passage Key - which is depicted as a huge island in the mouth of Tampa Bay, by the way; Anna Maria Key; Boca Seca - which looks like it could be some conglomeration of islands near where Coquina Beach is today; Long Boat Inlet; Long Key - today's Longboat, it would appear; Sarasota Bay; Little Sarasota Inlet - maybe New Pass?; Little Sarasota Pass - maybe Big Pass?; Chaises Key - Siesta Key? Casey Key? Maybe a combination of the two?; and Casey's Pass - Midnight Pass, now closed? Or maybe the Venice Inlet?
There are also some rivers that are a puzzle: Palm River, which looks like it could be Bowlees Creek today, which is just north of the airport, but its depiction is huge; and Clam River, which I guess could be anything from Whitaker Bayou, Hog Creek, Hudson Bayou to Phillippi Creek in Sarasota.
It's fun to skip through the years and see the names get garbled, even in maps of the same year that were created by different entitites.
And the geography changed a lot too over time.
Enjoy your visit back in time.
Another, more timely, map
There is a newer map that should be a part of every household on the Island, at least for those who have an interest in Tampa Bay.
"Boating and Angling Guide to Tampa Bay" is a big folding chart of that huge body of water, packed with all sorts of eco-info and tips for having a good day on the water.
For example, Tampa Bay is Florida's largest open-water estuary, encompassing 398 square miles. Estuaries, by the way, are where saltwater from the sea mixes with freshwater from rivers, creeks and uplands. About 70 percent of all fish, shellfish or crustaceans call estuaries home for some part of the critters' lives.
There are also about 40,000 pairs of birds that nest in the Tampa Bay area.
The chart includes navigational aids, marine preserves, seagrass beds, and even some fishing hot spots, including artificial reefs. All in all, it's a pretty useful tool for anybody looking to go out on the water - it's even printed on waterproof paper!
And best of all, it's free and available at The Islander office, 5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. Help yourself, while they last.
More free stuff
And while we're on the subject of free, we've still got plenty of gun locks available at the office. A contribution by Project Childsafe, the locks work on handguns and rifles and are intended to keep firearms safe from children and others.
If you need to, stop by and help yourself to a few.
And regular readers of this column may remember my mentioning that they also would work as a bike lock. Wrong - they tend to rust in the weather, and after all, they're intended to keep guns out of harm's way, not bicycles.
'Lost' woodpecker turning into cash cow?
Last year, avian fans were delighted by the discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the wild swamps of Arkansas, the first sighting of the bird in more than 50 years.
Now, U.S. wildlife officials are hoping to get up to $2.2 million to help the bird, even though there haven't been any more sightings of the big critter since it first was spotted by a group of ornithologists from Cornell University.
According to the Nature Conservancy, "The budget request to Congress calls for $1.6 million to develop the recovery plan for the bird; $400,000 for searching the lower Mississippi River Valley; and $200,000 for law-enforcement support."
Not all the bird lovers have embraced the bird's return, with some skeptics of the discovery dismissing the sighting claims as "faith-based ornithology."
... and a new bird hunter camera?
Perhaps a portion of that $2.2 million to aid the ivory-billed woodpecker could be spent on some new photography equipment and, if so, here's just the thing for those erstwhile avian photographers.
Hasselblad is usually considered the Rolls Royce of cameras. In the good-old days of film, the large-format camera was used in fashion shoots by the elite of the photo world. I've drooled over getting one for decades.
Since film photography is akin to the dinosaurs these days, Hasselblad has finally come out with a digital version of its old standbys, and has now upgraded to the top of the top of the digital world.
If you're not into the tech talk on digitals, skip the next paragraph.
The H2D-39 has 39 megapixels of imaging, viewed through 2.2-inch display and comes with a "tether" that will link it directly to a computer while shooting. That feature is a good thing, because each image this camera shoots is a 78-meg file. With a 1-gig card, according to my math, you could get about 12 shots without having to dump the images or switch cards, and this 1-gig is one huge amount of storage - normally. Remember that the more top-end cameras come from the factory with maybe a 48-meg card, or half a Hasselblad picture.
Cost of the camera: $31,000 for the basic model, $40,000 for the maxed-out version. Heck, let's get two! Of each! Or more!
Here's a bit of refreshing news from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: "NoKarenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, was detected this week in any of the alongshore samples collected from Pinellas to Monroe County or in offshore samples collected southwest of Venice in Sarasota County."
In fact, there was no red tide reported anywhere in Florida waters last week. Finally.