Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oil Spill: Words of Wisdom from Sanibel

With so many comments, speculations and projections about the BP oil spill and its impact, it would be difficulat to pinpoint a single source of information that provides meaningful updates.

But when it comes to some very interesting scientific information on the water world in Southwest Florida and beyond, the Sanibel Sea School has been posting detailed updates showing the testing of the waters in the Sanibel area. Thankfully, the tests are all coming back negative on oil. In addition, the Sanibel Sea School has created some fascinating, educational and sometimes frightening information on their blog about the spill and its impact.

One point made repeatedly is that this is not a "surface" problem.

Like the Gulf itself, the issues run as deep they do wide.

The "solutions" are complex and none offered are perfect.

We are going to select some quotes that we felt were particularly revealing and meaningful from the last several blog posts created by the Sanibel Sea School.

In early May, the blog post warns about the use of dispersants, making an analogy that the dispersants are, essentially, just sweeping the dirt under the carpet:

"Sending oil to the bottom of the ocean damages sea grass beds and coral reefs, and the oil is inadvertently consumed by mussels and other filter feeders – many of which make up the bottom of the Gulf food chain. The chemicals in the oil (mixed with the mysterious top-secret chemicals in the dispersants) will accumulate up the food chain over time until high levels are found in species that humans like to consume."

In later May, the blog post dissects the loop current concept, explaining that the surface oil is unlikely to effect Sanibel because the upper loop current will not carry it in that direction. But the caveat within that post does explain that the upper current is not the only current carrying the oil:

"In all likelihood, a significant amount of oil is being transported below the surface on deeper currents in other directions."

Uh, oh, that's a scary one.

But just week or so after that post, the authors of the blog were quick to assure that those black clumps people were reporting were not oil:

"A few people have expressed concern over dark blobs on the beach, wondering if they have found the first signs of oil on our island. If you come across the lumpy objects pictured at left, don’t panic – they are just tunicates, perhaps the most highly-evolved marine invertebrates. They are also known as “sea pork” or “sea hams,” and are related to sea squirts."

So we all went "whew" .

Perhaps most intriguing was the post on copepods, an almost microscopic crustacean that will be affected by the oil spill and is of extreme importance in the food chain:

" Copepods are so numerous that some scientists believe they make up the largest biomass of all animal species on the planet. Pretty amazing to think that nearly microscopic organisms can, in combination, weigh more than all the fish, whales, or elephants on the planet; but they do. Who would have thought that the workings of the oceans rest upon the mighty, tiny copepod?"

If you want to read these posts in their entirety, we hope you will go directly to the Sanibel Sea School blog. It's well worth the trip!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Everything You Ever Wanted to know about Sanibel

We are always happy to respond to guests' questions about our beautiful, pristine (oil free) and natural island. And our staff certainly is the line of first response to questions on our own properties.

Sometimes, however, our rental guests will ask a question where we have had no experience or where we might be in conflict of interest in responding.

Happily, there are dozens of ways a vacation rental guest can obtain information on such matters as best restaurants, things to do with children and where you can purchase the things you like best.

One highly interactive resource for vacationers is the TripAdvisor website. TripAdvisor is arguably the most active site on the internet for providing forums and discussions just about any place in the universe. In addition to the user reviews, there are forums and chat boards where you can post a question and, inevitably, you will get an answer. Some times the responses are written by island "experts", people who perhaps live on Island or visit frequently and their answers will be designated as "expert". Often times, the answer will just be another vacationer like you who wants to share their experience. Since all reviews and interactive discussions are anonymous, you must weigh responses carefully. But the information to be found there is quite good and most often quite helpful.

Of course there are lots of very generic sites where you can ask questions such as Yahoo, Askjeeves, About and several others, but you won't find the number of questions or responses nearly as vibrant as on TripAdvisor.

More locally, there is a site that appears to be pretty comprehensive with information,
and also has a message board, but it does not seem that answers or questions are posted publicly.

Perhaps the information on the Sanibel Captiva Chamber site will be most credible and up to date. Right now there are some live and lovely cam shots of the beaches as a way of demonstrating clearly that there is no oil spill on the Island. You may not be impressed with the disconnect (the scene does not show a single person except the on-camera individual) between the words ("families enjoying the beach") and the images (no one is there), but you will be impressed with the serene beauty of the Gulf. What a sight! You will want to head on down here asap with a vision of that tranquil blue/green water.

Another way to gather information is to use social media. We have been working with Second Porch, a new application for Facebook, to list our properties. What we like about social media in general and Second Porch in particular is the transparency. If you find someone who has been to Sanibel, you will know who they are and can trust that at least the answers you are getting are honestly composed.

But to be as truthful as we can, the best way to get to know Sanibel Island is to explore it yourself. An intimate island with a friendly atmosphere for both 2 legged and 4 legged visitors, you can get to know it quickly. And you'll be happy that you did!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Ugly Truth about NoSeeUms on Sanibel

There is still a lot of talk about the BP oil spill up and down the coast of Florida. And there should be. This tragedy should spark concern, action and endless discussion about how we should and can avoid such catastrophes in the future.

Though the scientific projections based on the loop current are saying Sanibel Island only has a 15 to 20 per cent chance of oil reaching its shores, we are all still worried and very concerned about the long range impact of the spill on the upper Gulf.

But at this point we can only pray that the spill is contained and cleaned up and stays away from the ecologically special and fragile islands of Sanibel and Captiva.

So this post will address a much smaller concern.

An infinitely smaller concern.

Those who travel have alluded to tiny biting flies that often live near water. They are so tiny, they are not generally visible and hence their appropriate name, Noseeums. They are also called Midges and since it is only the female that bites, I guess the female nomenclature is also appropriate. The Noseeums are common not only on Sanibel, but in the Caribbean and any warm, tropical body of land where there is water nearby.

Sometimes our vacation rental guests ask if traveling in winter is a way to avoid these pests, and we have to be honest and say the bigger factor in avoiding Noseeums is not time of year, but time of day and strength of breeze.

Noseeums are worse at dawn and dusk and worse when the air is still.

But getting bitten is not totally unavoidable.

Your best defense is Deet, applied liberally when you are setting out. It is the only for sure protection against getting bites. Because Noseeums are so very tiny, they can even get into screened lanais so keep fans going and that should help as well. We have heard from some sources that Skin So Soft, which we know does work for mosquitoes, is effective for these little buggers, but have not tried that route as yet. We have also been told by several of our rental guests that vitamin B12, started even before arrival on the Island, is a good preventative measure for bites.

Generally, your bites will be on the bare areas of your body, so wearing long pants/slacks and long sleeve shirts may be of some assistance as well.

Some folks are just lucky and their chemistry is not attractive to these biters at all. One person in a couple can get several bites and the other none what so ever.

If you don't know how appealing you may be, just take all the precautions and you should be just fine.

Now, if only the oil spill were this easy to address....