A Writer’s Grave, Turtle ICU and the Year that Was

December 28, 2011

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t believe another year has come and gone! One of the fun things about blogging is you can look back on the year and see what you’ve accomplished, where you’ve been, and what you’ve learned. Although I didn’t travel as much this year, I still had amazing experiences.  Here are a few of my favorites:

No. 1:  Cross Creek, home of Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings…

with a visit to her gravesite.


No. 2:  Turtle ICU at the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet

No. 3:  Gander Mountain Firearms Academy, in Lake Mary

No. 4:  Dinner at the top-notch Blue restaurant in Flagler Beach.

No. 5:  Deep Sea Fishing out of New Smyrna Beach

I finally tried a Florida avocado, made a Clove Orange, devoured a champagne truffle and tasted the best Muffaleta sandwich ever.  I learned about armadillos, LandLubber grasshoppers, and Herculean trees.

And I’m not through with Florida yet.


Turtle ICU and Marine Science Center

July 13, 2011

Say you’re out on a friend’s boat in the ocean.  You see something on the surface, and it’s moving. As you edge closer, you see that it’s a turtle, possibly a Green Turtle, or maybe even a Hawksbill. You’re all smiles until your friend points out that something’s wrong. Then you see it. The turtle’s right front flipper is mangled, or its shell has a serious gash.  Who ya gonna call?

It turns out we have just the place not far away in Ponce Inlet — the Turtle ICU at the Marine Science Center. We finally ventured into this small facility and were thrilled to find we could view the ICU. On this particular day there were 11 turtles in the ICU for rehabilitation, 7 of which were juvenile Green Turtles, and 2 that were subadult Loggerheads.  Most were under care for propeller wounds.

Injured Juvenile Green Sea Turtle in the ICU Rehabilitation Tanks


More Rehabilitation Tanks in the Turtle ICU

We ventured inside, paid the $5 entrance fee, and roamed around the small center. First we checked out the classroom, where they hold summer camp teaching kids about sea creatures great and small. ( I wish we had had such camps when I was a kid!)

Matt watching a video in the Marine Science Center classroom

The educational displays are fun also. The Freshwater Habitat Exhibit contains Yellowbelly Slider turtles, Peninsula Cooter turtles and Chicken Turtles.  The Red Devil Cichlid, Suckermouth Catfish, Blue Gill and Florida Gar swim around the tank as well. But it’s the turtles that seek out all the attention from observers.


Attention-seeking freshwater turtles --photo by Matt O'Neill

Another display that naturally caught our attention was the shark display.  Here we learned that the Black Tip Shark is the most common shark found around the Ponce Inlet area, and the source of all those ankle bites.

Shark Exhibit at the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet --photo by Matt O'Neill

The Center may be small, but it is definitely educational. And the Turtle ICU is worth seeing several times, whether you’re a resident, or a visitor.  This is true Florida at its best.

To My Lighthouse

April 26, 2010


The Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening…

— Virginia Wolfe  (To the Lighthouse)

Women Who Kept the Lights

I have this grand romantic notion about lighthouses.  Whenever I see one I become completely mesmerized.  I wonder what it was like to live in isolation, working all night, every night, to light the way for passing ships. 

On my bookshelf sits a book by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford, Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers.  It tells of such women as Hannah Thomas who faithfully kept the light lit at Gurnet Point Light in Plymouth, Massachusetts while her husband was away fighting the British.  Then there was Ida Lewis, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, and later, the official lighthouse keeper herself, at Lime Rock beacon off the coast of Rhode Island.  Ida not only filled the lamp with oil at sundown and again at midnight, but also managed to rescue over 18 people during her service.  A noble profession indeed.

So the mystery of lighthouses is not new for me.  Fortunately, with over 1,000 miles of coastline, Florida boasts over 30 lighthouses of its own, each with its own unique history and mystery.  Who knows, maybe I’ll find one with a history of a female lighthouse keeper, or at least a wife or daughter who helped out. 

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse

According to the Florida Lighthouse Association, most Florida residents live within 50 miles of a historic lighthouse.  I am definitely one of those residents.  Whenever my eye catches the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse just south of Daytona Beach, I get this faraway dreamy look in my eyes and I just can’t look away.

 The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse tower, at 175 feet tall, is the second tallest lighthouse in the United States. Original buildings occupy the lighthouse grounds, and  climbing the 203 steps to the top rewards you with an incredible view of the inlet.   It’s easy to spend all day here as there is a lighthouse museum, which includes exhibits of the lighthouse keepers and their families, and a building dedicated to a collection of restored Fresnel lenses.  


 With this being but one lighthouse in a state full of lighthouses, I can now enthusiastically add Number 2 to my List of 50 Things to Love About Florida—  exploring Florida’s lighthouses.