Sunday, January 16, 2005
  winter diving in florida, part 2
or: i've never been so happy to have to pee


we got up at 6:30 (whoops) and got on the road soon after. at approximately 7:30, i got a voicemail from matt which stated, "today sucks." i hoped he meant they had overslept. as we got closer and closer to orange city, home of blue spring state park, i realized that he had indeed meant the weather.

it was in the 50s and drizzling. i rediscovered my desire to get in the water, however, at the first sight of a manatee off the boardwalk. she looked like a big ol' baked potato.


we suited up (two wetsuits each this time!) and walked out to the water, fully geared up. the plan was to walk in the water to the entrance of a cavern and dive into it.

when we reached the cavern's entrance, i stopped to adjust my mask before descending. i felt a nudge and my thigh and realized it was - a manatee! after enjoying my good luck for a bit, i reluctantly followed and and another diver over to a hole. i realized that they intended to swim into it. swim vertically. into a hole. after some maneuvering the flow, i got down to where i could grab onto a ledge and could pull myself down. amazingly, i felt pretty comfortable.

it was actually really cool. we got down to about 50 feet, me equalizing my ears twice for every breath, then paused to let some other divers through. i looked back down and the hole was now completely dark save for the faint glow of a diver's light further down. it was then ed gave the signal we were going up, much to my new-diver-ass's relief.

this was a picture i got on our way up. bad camera, but it was awesome in person.

when we came back up, we were met by matt and andrea's group on their way to descend.

hey there!

this is ed in the water. isn't it so gorgeous? it was like swimming in a postcard. a really cold postcard.

as the divers discussed their plan, some manatees began to approach. this is the baby nibbling on something.

bad manatee!

the other divers left, and ed, jc, and i were left alone with them.

a big girl, which we will call spud for the sake of brevity, was very keen on her human visitors. her baby amused herself in the middle of the river while she played doggy and went back and forth between us, seeking rubs and sniffing our fins. they were all interested in fins.

spud and ed's fins.

spud and my fins. and spud's arm rolls.

this is ed and spud.

again. note how she's hugging him. they like grabbing onto stuff with their flippers.

and again.

friendly gal, isn't she? like a big sweet dog at ed's feet.

this picture would be nicer with my hand edited out, but this is the only picture of me + manatee that turned out. i hate non-digital cameras.

well, this is a picture of me and a manatee, too, but not that you can tell. it's like trying to see a baby in an ultrasound. stupid camera.

it was completely amazing. spud would get right up next to me and hug on my leg, then roll over onto her back. i took this to mean, "scratch my belly!" and so i did. at one point, i realized i had just touched her belly button. all i could think was, "I JUST TOUCHED A MANATEE'S BELLY BUTTON!!!!" how cute is that?

this is me. i'm probably thinking about the belly-button thing.

i'm so happy we went on this trip. despite the hypothermia-inducing weather, it was awesome - a weekend full of new experiences. and, amazingly, my experience diving with manatees was all i could've ever dreamed of and more. i was face-to-face with that huge, gentle creature.. got to rub her belly and examine the hairs on her skin.. i got to touch her tail and hold her hand... how else would've i ever known that a manatee's "neck" is impossible to scratch? - all you can do is jiggle it. jiggle, jiggle.

my teeth chattering eventually made me agree to get out, but it was definitely hard.. both because it was FREEZING and because I WAS WITH MANATEES. ahh! great weekend!!! :) :) :) i smiled the whole three hours home! :)

THANK YOU, MATT & ANDREA!!!! Visit Matt's site! He'll have much better pictures than me.
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I'm Stacey. I'm a 31(!)-year-old Wisconsin girl living in sunny South Florida. The highlights in my life are my lovely boyfriend, my aloof cats, my adorable/adoring stepdogs, my two lumbering tortoises, select family members, being outside, being underwater, taking pictures, yadda yadda. Stay tuned for lots of babbling!

Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States


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Making a difference

A small boy lived by the ocean. He loved the creatures of the sea, especially the starfish, and he spent much of his time exploring the seashore.

One day the boy learned there would be a minus tide that would leave the starfish stranded on the sand.

When the tide went out, he went down to the beach, began picking up the stranded starfish, and tossing them back into the ocean.

An elderly man who lived next door came down to the beach to see what the boy was doing. Seeing the man's quizzical expression, the boy paused as he approached. "I'm saving the starfish!" the boy proudly declared.

When the neighbor saw all of the stranded starfish he shook his head and said: "I'm sorry to disappoint you, young man, but if you look down the beach, there are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see. And if you look up the beach the other way, it's the same. One little boy like you isn't going to make much of a difference."

The boy thought about this for a moment. Then he reached his small hand down to the sand, picked up another starfish, tossed it out into the ocean, and said: "Well, I sure made a difference for that one!"

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