Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our Fossil Finds

 Here are some of the things we found during our fossil hunt
at Flag Ponds Nature Park 
We found some brain coral.
 Some stingray teeth.
 Yes, they have teeth.
 And of course some shark teeth.
22 shark teeth to be exact.
This was the best find.
It's from a Snaggletooth Shark.
It 's a shark that is extinct,
though there are similar Snaggletooth sharks living 
in the Indo-West Pacfic.

 Some of our teeth were from Hammerheads.

 Lemon Sharks

And Thresher Sharks.

I'm anxious to see what all I can find this weekend at Shark Tooth Island.
Big E is going to make some sifters for us to use
similar to the ones we borrowed from friend for our trip to Flag Ponds.
I can't wait to go hunting again!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Hunt for Shark Teeth

Once we found our first shark tooth,
we had the shark tooth hunting fever.
Typically we search an area on the Rappahanock River 
that the Brat Child calls Shark Tooth Island.
This summer, my mom learned of an area in Calvert County, MD
that is know for its shark teeth.
So, in a final summer hurrah,
we took a day trip to Flag Ponds Nature Park.
The beach with Calvert Cliffs in the distance
The weather wasn't the greatest.
It was overcast when we arrived,
and after we took a lunch break, the wind and rain moved in 
and we opted to head home.
But not before visiting the Visitor's Center.

They have quite a collection of teeth
and other fossils.
We managed to find 22 shark teeth Saturday
plus some stingray teeth
and some brain coral.
Tooth identification and photos to come!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Great Rowboat Caper

Unknown family members in a rowboat
 My family has had a relationship with rowboats since the beginning of time.
As evidenced by the above photo.
Pepop in back, me standing and my cousin Ty in the front
 As a young kid, Pepop took us out rowing in his old rowboat we all affectionately called
The Rainbow Connection
(yes, we all loved the muppets).
When my cousin and I got older, 
my uncle purchased an old rowboat the neighbor had sitting on her property
for as long as I can remember.
We cleaned it up,
slapped on a dolphin decal on one side
and the name of the boat on the other:
(so named for the Chesapeake By Monster)
Chessie to the left, Miss Patsy in the chair and Kelly in the front
 Chessie can be seen tied to the pier in the background
(that's my partner in crime cousin and my aunt in the background).
Anyway, we spent  a lot of time on that boat.
Once we went out on the River and watched a Menhaden boat haul in their catch.
We were gone so long that my grandmother and aunt sent Pepop out looking for us.
Luckily we were headed back in at that point.
We also spent time trying to tip the boat.
I remember standing in it rocking it violently back and forth.
It never tipped.
Never sank.
And even though it had a hole in the seam that we plugged with chewing gum,
it didn't really take on too much water.
Which brings me to the story I wanted to share about the weekend.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of taking the Brat Child to Scout Camp.
One of the Scout Camp activities is boating.
Scouts enjoying a relaxing row around Memory Lake
The Brat Child developed this irrational terror fear of boats.
Last year I all but dragged him on the boat.
This year he went sort of willingly, 
but only after I insisted you can't sink a rowboat.
"I've tried," I said.
"They don't sink," I said.
"Sinking a rowboat is impossible," I said.
He asked me what happens if in fact they do sink
(while we were in the middle of the lake)
I explained how the boat starts to take on water,
rolls over and floats upside down because of trapped air.
"You then just hang on to the boat and stay with it,
but rowboats don't sink," I said
 So the camp staff signaled for us to head back to shore.
Big E started rowing back, and at this point,
we began realizing that there was a lot more water in the boat
than there was when we left shore.
"Row faster," I said.
I kept looking at the back of the boat, now only half an inch above the water level.
Big E and I both knew we weren't going to make it back to shore.
I handed the Brat Child my camera (the water proof one) to hold and prepared to attempt to launch myself towards the front of the boat in hopes that would level things out before it was too late.
It didn't work.
The Brat Child began shrieking.
The unsinkable rowboat began sinking.
As it filled with water and rolled over, I calmly narrated
"See, this is what I said would happen. 
Okay, now it's rolling over, and now we hang onto the hull."
The Brat Child was still shrieking.
Also, he was trying to climb on top of my head. 
And he was yelling things like "This is the stupidest place ever! I'm never coming here again!"
Then we saw the staff start to row out to us.
The Brat Child said, "They are coming to rescue me! I'm getting into that boat and you can swim!"
Through all this, The Brat Child never dropped the camera.
The staff member was a little irritated 
because he thought we swamped the boat on purpose.
I explained The Brat Child's terror and told the guy the last person I needed to have this happen to was BC.
The guy took BC to shore and Big E and I swam the rowboat back to the dock.
swimming the boat to shore

 When I got to shore I explained to the staff that the boat was taking on water
and that it wasn't coming from splashing or coming over the sides.
Turns out the damn thing had a hole in it. 
So, that's my exciting weekend story about the rowboat that sank.
I laughed through the whole thing. 
The Brat Child not so much.
(but none of us got our hair wet and the PFDs did their job)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Shark Week Finale That Wasn't

I had some ideas of what I wanted to post for Friday, but my Friday plans got interrupted with this:

That's right, I left work early Friday
and on the way home a guy crossed the double yellow
came into my lane and hit my car.  
I was lucky enough to see him start to come over
so I was lucky enough to avoid a head on collision
which would have been nasty at 55 MPH.
So, I'm hoping to have an even better shark week finale
after this coming weekend's family day trip.
In the meantime, 
there's an interesting/amusing/can't believe this actually happened 
story that I'll be sharing this week.  
Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Shark Teeth

I've really come to love looking for shark teeth. 
 As I mentioned in yesterday's post, 
it's sometimes difficult spotting teeth on the beach with everything looking like it might be a tooth.  
Though I've watched people walk along the sand and pick them up.
I've had my luck using a simple sand sifter.
 These are the teeth we found a couple of years ago.
The largest was actually found sitting on the sand and was identified as 
a fossilized tiger shark tooth.  
The other two are fossilized sand shark teeth found using a sifter.
This year I walked a long stretch of beach looking for any teeth just sitting there waiting to be picked up.  Yeah, I was hoping for the Holy Grail of teeth- a megalodon tooth, but I saw nothing.
Upon my return to the group, I learned that my mother had found a decent sized tooth using the sifter.
So the Brat Child and I followed suit.  After about 15 minutes, we got lucky and found a tooth that was nearly identical to my mother's.  
Shortly after I found another smaller tooth.
The two larger teeth are from a Sand Tiger Shark

  Despite looking mean and ferocious, 
Sand Tiger Sharks are actually docile attacking humans only when provoked.  
They grow to 6.5 to 10.5 feet
and are the only sharks known to come to the surface and gulp air.
They store the air in their stomach to allow them to float motionless while looking for prey.
Sand Tigers give birth to live young called pups who are able to swim and eat immediately.
They are considered a threatened species because of low reproductive rates.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Finding Fossils

 We took another trip over to Shark Tooth Island
(named by the Brat Child- It's not an island 
unless you consider the whole of North and South America an island)
We went looking for shark teeth.
I still have hopes for finding a Megalodon tooth,
more so after seeing the size of a tooth a local guy found 
on the very same beach we were walking.
 The Brat Child used his sifter to check the sand near the waters edge.
While I went walking along the stretch of beach looking along the sand.

 There's so many rocks and shell pieces
that it's hard to see what is there.
Everything looks like a tooth.
We did find 3 teeth.
Photos and more about them tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Megalodons: Still Here?

     Last year, I touched upon the idea of the possibility of  Megalodon sharks still existing in the oceans today (It's Shark Week ).  Really, there isn't much fact to base that theory on.  I referenced a fictional story about a Megalodon in present day, but it was just that: fictional.  I also brought up a couple of facts about various fisherman/experienced watermen being afraid of large sharks they had encountered. I brought up examples of newly discovered species and species that were once thought to be extinct that were later found to be alive (this is called the Lazarus Taxon). 
Big E and The Brat Child demonstrating the size of a Meg's jaws.
     So can there still be Megalodons swimming in the oceans?  I imagine anything is possible, but it isn't probable.  Look at the Megalodons size.  Their teeth are 7 inches long.  They are thought to grow to around 60 feet in length.  A school bus is 36-39 feet long so a Meg is bigger than a school bus.I read a quote in an article that said, "A great white is about the size of the clasper, or penis, of a male megalodon," Peter Klimley, a shark expert at the University of California at Davis.  Can you imagine a shark with a willy the size of a 20 foot Great White?  An animal that size would need to eat a lot of fish, and I don't think anchovies are going to satisfy a Megalodon.  So in reality, there really isn't enough food to sustain a Meg population, and you would need a population in order for them to still be surviving (there is no supernatural 4 million year old shark swimming around).  And with all seriousness, there is more evidence supporting the existence of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster than a Megalodon. 

So, sadly, I'd have to say that no, Megalodons are not swimming around.  Could there be larger than average Great White sharks swimming around? I'd say that's a big possibility. 

But I'm not going to buy that bigger boat just yet.

Life Interrupted

I decided to forgo my Shark Week post today because I was so stunned to learn of the death of Robin Williams.  While I admit I didn't know the man personally, he's been welcomed into my home since my childhood.

  From Mork & Mindy, which I watched religiously with my rainbow suspenders running around saying Shazbot! and Na-nu Na-nu!, to movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hook, Aladdin, Flubber, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet's Society, Patch Adams, Night at the Museum.... I could continue but I'm sure most have seen at least one Robin Williams performance.  I've watched these over and over again.  My children have watched these, over and over again. I know he brought me and my family joy and laughter.  He brought joy and laughter to deployed troops through the USO. 

He made the world laugh.

But behind all of that laughter, was a man in pain.  And that's really what I want to touch upon.  Depression kills. WHO estimates 340 million people worldwide have depression.  It's debilitating.  It sucks your hope away.  It takes away your motivation to do things, things you love to do, things that if you could just get yourself to do them might make you feel a little better.  It causes physical pain in the form of aching muscles, back pain, indigestion and headaches.  Many suffer in silence, portraying a happy outward persona when emotionally they are anything but happy.  Some attempt to self medicate and slip into the dangerous waters of addiction.  Chances are, you know someone who is suffering, whether you actually know it or not. 

With that in mind, remember that everyone is fighting their own battles.  No one is perfect, everyone has a story.  And one conversation, one kind word or gesture could be the thing that saves someone's life.  And if you're someone who suffers from depression, you aren't alone even if you feel that way, you really aren't.  There are people who can help.

The National Suicide Hotline Number is 1-800-273-8255
The call is free, confidential and answered by a trained counselor.
Go to this site Suicide Prevention Online for information on how to get help or how to report suicidal comments you encounter on social media. 

Get help.
Speak up. 
If not for yourself or someone you know or love, do it in gratitude for a man who spent his life making people feel good even when inside he was suffering.

"Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shark Week: The Submarine

It's that time of year again, folks.  Time to discuss all things shark.  Only here on this blog, we don't make up stuff and pass it off as fact to raise our ratings.

The Malta Shark
Several months ago, I came upon a story about a shark that supposedly lived off the coast of South Africa that the locals dubbed "The Submarine".  It was said this shark was 30+ feet in length and was blamed for several attacks on boats and people in the 70's and 80's.  While there have been reports of Great Whites growing to 7-9 meters (22-29 feet), there is no actual documentation.  Research of large Great Whites revealed squid parts in their stomachs rather than seals indicating that they live far offshore and far away from public view.  It's possible this is the reason why there is no documentation of a 22-29 foot Great White even though there have been sightings and reports of them.

The average Great White grows to around 5 meters or 16.5 feet length.  There have been larger Great Whites captured.  One was caught off the coast of Malta, Italy and measured 6.8 meters (22 feet) long.  It is the largest captured Great White that has been accurately measured and recorded.

After doing a little research, I came to the conclusion that The Submarine was probably not 30 feet long.  Out in open waters it would be extremely difficult to judge the length of a shark, especially if it's swimming or attacking.  In fact in the Daily Mail there was an article with the headline "Tourist Killed by 'Dinosaur Sized' Great White Shark Off South African Beach".  One witness to the attack referred to the shark as "dinosaur huge" and "larger than a mini bus".  But another person judged the shark to be about 5 meters (16.5 feet) long which is really the average full size of a Great White.  Nothing dinosaur about it.  This just proves that people either exaggerate or don't accurately judge the size of something, and I think the stress of witnessing an attack would add to this issue.  Further research into The Submarine revealed that some local reporters in South Africa were discussing the gullibility of their readers one evening and hatched the plan to test their theories.  They made up a story about a large shark and people immediately started reporting sightings.  And thus, the urban legend of The Submarine began.  Was there a large shark causing problems in the 70's and 80's that could have been a real "Submarine" definitely yes, just not a 30 foot shark.

So, with all this talk about sharks in South Africa, you're thinking you don't have anything to worry about in Virginia or the Chesapeake Bay.  Aren't you cute.

Last year a 12 foot Great White was caught at the mouth of the Bay and a 15 foot Great White was caught in Coastal Waters by the Bay.  Earlier this year, several dolphins were found with large chunks missing.  A professor emeritus with VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) concluded is was a Great White bite and that the shark was about 10 feet in length.  And Mary Lee a 3.500 pound Great White fitted with a Ocearch surveillance tag was recorded hanging out in the Hatteras Inlet and the mouth of the Bay. 

Happy swimming!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Boxer

I never had the pleasure of meeting my great-grandfather Monroe, and that's a sad thing because the stories about him are among my favorites.  One in particular is my favorite and demonstrates what a character (scrapper) he was.

Monroe and his best friend M- joined the military back in WWI.  They were sent to what is now Ft Lee for training.  At the time, they had to wait for all the other newly enlisted men to arrive for the training to begin, so the men were entertained by setting up a boxing ring.  There was a Lieutenant who was a big man and from accounts an excellent boxer.  The main event was watching this LT take on anyone who was willing to fight him.  One by one his challengers were knocked out and carried out of the ring.  During all this, Monroe was watching the matches and dancing around with his fists up muttering to himself while he ducked and dodged as though he were in the ring. He even made the comment that he would take out that "SOB".

So when the last guy was carried out of the ring, the Lieutenant invited anyone who wanted to go a round to enter the ring.  And before anyone else could make a move, Monroe was in the ring.  It was the big burly Lieutenant against the small statured scrapper from Deltaville.  The match began.  Monroe began bouncing and moving on his feet.  The Lieutenant took a giant swing at Monroe but Monroe ducked and the blow missed his head.  But as he dodged, Monroe came up with a swift upper cut that hit the Lt square on the jaw.  It's said that the Lieutenant was literally lifted off the ground by the blow and was knocked out.  As he Lieutenant was carried away, Monroe turned to his friend and said, "I told you I'd knock out that SOB".