Hey Manatees …
BUMMER MAN! No video feed today (Thursday).
I’m sorry. Shelby, who works for Earthwatch, has been working all week to keep the internet open and make sure our conferences go off without a hitch. It is practically an impossible task to master. We tested the video feed early in the morning and “thought” it was working. Then when it didn’t pop up at 1:30 we tried everything. Shelby switched cameras, rebooted, etc etc. Alas, to no avail.
The reason it didn’t work is the same reason we can’t send LOTS of pictures or videos… limited band width. I had several things to show you, a point intercept grid, mature and immature conch, fossilized maze coral, stubby finger coral, and a very special buoy.
I had a shoe to show you as well. After our trip to the San Salvador lighthouse this morning, we picked our way downhill to a cavern (many inlets and exits) on a poorly maintained trail through a dense thicket of burrs, limestone scrabble and slippery sand. An overtly friendly black-on-brown dog of mixed island heritage had accompanied us on our sojourn down from the lighthouse, through the brush and scrub to the cavern. He seemed to be quite fond of sniffing at my heels in particular, but he was none too troublesome – or so I thought at the time. When we reached the hole in the ground that served as the cavern entrance, nervous chatter accompanied our wetsuit squeeze–in tug-on dance in swim trunk underwear in the underbrush perilously exposing parts of our anatomy to an even more dense thicket of cactus, prickle bush and plants I can’t begin to identify. The pooch sat patient and attentive between our eleven piles of clothes and gear, eying each of us in turn as we carefully descended an old and somewhat rusty ladder into the cavern for some wet spelunking.
One after another we slipped over some slick rock, slid derrieres over limestone ledges, and stepped into waist deep water, bumping and banging our heads until we became used to ducking at the appropriate time. We waded knee, then waist, then neck, then chin deep through a narrowing one hundred foot long tube. Entering a cave (an underground room with only one way in or out) we found ourselves squatting in sea water – surprisingly discovering that were submerged sea level. I found a single thin colorless spine of a sponge about 4cm in height below the salt water’s surface. The only other life was two frisky snub-nosed flower bats- we think. We flickered our flashlights over the limestone formations, marveled at the time-formed twists and turns of leeching and trickling, and simply mellowed in the moment. Then, in a quieter softly different mood we returned one at a time back to the surface.
Upon exiting, I immediately noticed that one of my shoes was missing. I didn’t even search, so apparent was the crime, so obvious the culprit. Shoes don’t just walk or in the case of a solitary victim - hop away on their own. I could account for all of my fellow spelunkers, their alibis were apparent. It was obvious just who – should I say “what” absconded with my foot apparel. While this seeming misdemeanor delighted the others and was a source of poor puns and amusement, I on the other hand found no adventure in the predicament and was unwilling to see the humor in the perpetration of such a blatantly premeditated caper. As all the rest of the aquatic spelunkers donned their dry clothes and shoes I had to choose between wetsuit and dive booties or a long up and down hill hop. As you may be aware, dive booties fill with water while immersed and only empty when you remove them. So I slipped and sloshed from the lowest depths of the island back to the lighthouse atop the highest hill in San Salvador along with my dry- footed friends, spicing my vernacular with each foot gouge all the while considering an extensive menu of potential repercussions should we apprehend the canine criminal.
When we stepped through the open gateway cut in the gray stone wall surrounding the lighthouse the culprit was spied prancing no less around the base of the lighthouse. I approached the suspect in question. His tail swished side to side in faux innocence. Other members of our party fanned out across the hilltop, some in search of the missing Merrels and some to cut-off any dash for escape. Not surprisingly evidence from other canine capers was discovered left and right scattered conveniently about the lighthouse lawn. It seems my case was simply another in a long life of crime - a serial foot felony. As I confronted the cunning canine culprit, I noticed that his posture portrayed remorse, his head turned contritely aside. Yet, a certain twinkle in his eye remained and a slight sly curve in his smile couldn’t be truly concealed. It was obvious he was not about to truly give up his felonious ways. He bowed his head for a scratch behind the ear, and politely rolled over for a belly rub. All the hikers lined up to pay him a petting homage and goodbye.
He sat stoic at the door to the white lighthouse as I took back my purloined property, placed it once again on my foot, bid him well with an ear-scratch and a pat, and headed back to the truck for my ride home. I turned one last time to bid farewell but he had slipped from sight. I took his smile with me as I left.
When you visit the San Salvador light house in the middle of the island in the middle of the ocean in the middle of practically nowhere…and then decide to visit the cave far below, watch your step. There resides a four-footed brown-eyed character just waiting to play you for some island soul.