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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sandscript

Tsunami effects felt in South Florida; pet tales, too

From the "everything is connected" files comes this snippet of information from the South Florida Water Management District:

"Water levels in the district's deep Floridan aquifer monitoring wells in Collier and Okeechobee counties and other wells throughout the agency's 16-county region saw sudden spikes of up to 4 inches approximately 60 minutes after the Dec. 26, 2004, underwater earthquake," according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife News, a publication of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

The Floridan aquifer is basically a huge underground sponge that lies underneath most of Florida at depths of about 1,500 feet. The system is comprised of porous limestone and "is used as the primary water supply source for millions of people, business and farms throughout much of the state and is a secondary source of water in the area south of Lake Okeechobee," according to the federation newsletter.

"Normally, water-level changes in the Floridan aquifer happen slowly," according to a district spokesman. "The spikes were sudden and very unusual. The speed at which the shock wave moved was absolutely awesome." Water experts figure the shock wave traveled at something like 7,400 mph to make it from the Indian Ocean to Florida.

Wow.

Tsunami update

According to "Wikipedia," an online encyclopedia, the earthquake's 9.0 reading on the Richter Magnitude Scale "was the largest earthquake since the 9.2 magnitude Good Friday Earthquake off Alaska in 1964, and tied for fourth largest since 1900. The earthquake-generated tsunami was among the deadliest disasters in modern history," with 228,000 to 310,000 people thought to have died as a result of the tsunami.

The jury is still out on the magnitude of the quake, though, with some scientists predicting the final Richter number will rest at 9.3.

The event originated in the Indian Ocean just north of Simeulue Island, off the western coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The resulting tsunami devastated the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, Thailand and other countries with wave height up to 55.8 feet, and its effects were felt as far away as eastern South Africa - not counting the aquifer fluctuation in Florida.

Wikipedia reports that the power generated by the earthquake and tsunami was enough to generate energy "sufficient to boil 40 gallons of water for every person on Earth. It is estimated to have resulted in an oscillation of the Earth's surface of about eight to 12 inches."

The undersea activities also shifted the Earth's rotation and shortened the length of a day by 2.68 microseconds.

"More spectacularly," according to the encyclopedia folks, "there was 33-foot movement laterally and 13- to 16-foot shift vertically along the fault line. Early speculation was that some of the smaller islands southwest of Sumatra may have moved southwest by up to 66 feet, and there were also calculations that the northern tip of Sumatra may have moved up to 118 feet southwest."

The earthquake also dramatically changed the topography of the sea bottom in the area. A Royal Navy vessel surveyed the sea bed in February 2005 and found "thrust ridges almost a mile high, which have collapsed in places to produce large landslides several miles across. One landslide consisted of a single block of material some 300 feet high and 1.25 miles long. The force of the displaced water was such that individual blocks of rock, massing millions of tons apiece, were dragged as much as 7 miles across the sea bed."

Wow.

Restoration efforts closer to home

The Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commission has awarded a $1.7 million federal grant to restore oyster reefs damaged by Hurricane Ivan last September.

"The restoration project involves the construction of oyster reef habitat in a number of Florida's Gulf Coast estuaries, including in Escambia Bay, East Bay, Choctawhatchee Bay, West Bay, North Bay, Apalachicola Bay, Oyster Bay, Suwannee Sound and Waccacassa Bay," according to the agriculture commission. "The project is designed to rejuvenate fishery habitat, enhance oyster production and facilitate recovery of damaged fisheries habitat."

Hurricane Ivan, as you may remember, hit the Florida-Alabama border with 135-mph winds and was the second-most powerful storm to make landfall in Florida last August-September.

No pain - now pass the butter

A new study by scientists in Norway has concluded that lobsters don't feel any pain when they're dunked in a pot of boiling water, according to the Associated Press.

The study was commissioned and funded by the Norwegian government as it determines whether creatures without backbones should be included in animal welfare legislation there. Its findings back up what Maine biologists and fishers have maintained for years.

As one scientist at the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission put it, "It's a semantic thing: No brain, no pain."

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has targeted lobster cooking within its Fish Empathy Project with bumper stickers that proclaim "Being Boiled Hurts. Let Lobsters Live," and regularly picket lobster festivals in the northeast.

Another critter worry

A new scientific argument has been made that those mechanical baby swings that entertain infants and briefly free parents' hands can trigger a dog to attack the child swinging due to the repetitive motion.

A forensic scientists postulated the theory, backed he said by at least five dog attacks on infants in the swings, three of them fatal.

"Think about dogs chasing cars or tennis balls," the doctor told the Associated Press. "They can't control their behavior: They just go."

True, several of the attacks were from pit bulls, not generally one of the more cuddly breeds, but almost all dog experts agree that it's not a good idea to leave a child unattended around a house pet.

Raccoon rabies vaccine air drops

Wildlife officials took to the air last week in an attempt to vaccinate raccoons north of Tampa Bay for rabies.

Airplanes and helicopters were used to drop 700,000 matchbook-size pellets of vaccine containing fish meal in six counties. The plan is for coons to sniff out the stuff, gobble it down and become immune to rabies.

The plan was first tried in Europe to get rid of rabies in foxes and it seemed to work well there. The Florida program costs about $750,000 a year, according to the Tampa Tribune.

The stuff is harmless to coons, dogs and other animals.

And on a lighter note

Here's an Internet funny among "things not to say to a police officer who pulls you over while driving."

  • "I can't reach my license unless you hold my beer."  
  • "Sorry, officer, I didn't realize my radar detector wasn't plugged in."
  • "Aren't you the guy from the Village People?"  
  • "Hey, you must've been doin' about 125 mph to keep up with me. Good   job!"
  • "Are you Andy or Barney?"  
  • "I thought you had to be in relatively good physical condition to be a police officer."
  • "You're not gonna check the trunk, are you?"
  • " I pay your salary!"
  • "Gee, officer, that's terrific! The last officer only gave me a warning, too!"
  • "Do you know why you pulled me over? OK, just so one of us does."  
  • "I was trying to keep up with traffic. Yes, I know there are no other cars around. That's how far ahead of me they are."
  • "When the officer says 'Gee son, your eyes look red, have you been drinking?' you probably shouldn't respond with, 'Gee, officer your eyes look glazed - have you been eating doughnuts?"

Sandscript factoid

Here's a quote from the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson:

"I have spent half my life trying to get away from journalism, but I am still mired in it - a low trade and a habit worse than heroin, a strange seedy world full of misfits and drunkards and failures."

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