Video Of The Week: “Pliny The Elder And The Harbors Of Healing”

                                                                 Perceptum Quispiam Dammitium!

What do you get when you combine Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Gaius Plinius Secundus, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum, short legged pants, and pyroclastic flow? We present to you “Pliny The Elder And The Harbors Of Healing”

The Caribbean?

A land and sea of mystery and enchantment… and my home for 7 of the last 10 days … sort of.
I enjoyed the hospitality of the Explorer Ventures Turks and Caicos live-aboard.
And its considered “Caribbean” even though its in the North Atlantic … its just one of myriad contradictions in the tropical region.
It matters how you define “Caribbean” – if we talk about it geologically it involves the Caribbean Plate which has the Cocos Plate to the West subducting beneath it causing the isthmus to form as Central America. To the East the Crust surface of the Atlantic Ocean is being subducted creating a string of volcanic islands from Montserrat to Grenada. To the North and South the American plates has slip-strike tectonic interactions causing earthquakes like the one in Haiti.
From an aquatic viewpoint its pretty clear… the Caribbean Sea is bordered by Central America from the Yucatan peninsula to Columbia and Venezuela in South American. The Greater and Lesser Antilles establish the border between the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Most Caribbean Islands have a Caribbean side and an ocean side. (Cuba also has coastline on the Gulf of Mexico and Jamaica and the Caymans are completely within the Caribbean.)
But this is where the screwiness starts. First these island names — Antilles– It was not easy to track them down etymologically… it turns out they are named from a Middle English word for a mythical land to the west of Europe. – Essentially Atlantis..
These islands are also called- collectively the Indies or the West Indies – This is, of course, a throwback to the late 15th Century when Columbus thought he’d found a western route to India.
So the island groups are either named wrong… or named for a mythical place from the 13th Century. The Greater Antilles – just as an FYI – Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico make up 90 % of the land mass of the Caribbean islands (geographically the tiny Cayman islands are usually included with them) The Lesser Antilles are all the small islands that form the outer reaches of the Caribbean Sea.
Which brings us to the true lunacy of the political arena… The Caribbean Federation includes all of these true Caribbean nations plus Barbados which is out of line with the rest of the Windward Antilles- so technically in the Atlantic and the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos — which are totally in the North Atlantic just north of the Greater Antilles… and all of Central America – including the entirely Pacific coastal El Salvador… and Bermuda … yes Bermuda is considered politically a part of “the Caribbean”. Its nearly 1,000 miles from the Bahamas … 1500 miles from Cuba … All of Florida is closer to the Caribbean than Bermuda.

And this brings us to the Caribs — of the Caribbean region… They were a relatively small but warlike people who had made their way into the western Windward Antilles… only as far back as about 1200 CE – they had been beating up the Tainos on these islands for fewer than 300 years before Columbus showed up.
Beside the Sea and the Islands and the political union, the Carib gave us the English word for cannibal. Cannibalism vastly pre-dated European exploration of North America, but the Carib word for themselves “karibna” works its way to cannibal after stories (they may not have been true) were circulated that the Carib would eat their enemies after battle.
In 1503, Queen Isabella proclaimed that only people whose lives would be improved by slavery could be enslaved. Clearly cannibals fell into that category, so the stories ‘may’ have been circulated to allow for enslaving them.

Scallops from the Five Minute Professor lecture


June 10th Governor Crist and the Florida Wildlife Commission issued an order that will expand the recreational scallop season along the Gulf Coast. The Bay Scallop season will now start on Saturday (July 19th) instead of July 1st and last either until oil closes the beds or September 10th, whichever comes first.

The season is open early from the Pasco-Hernando County line to Mexico Beach Canal in Bay county. That means that Gulf, Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (the real “armpit” area of FLA) will have two extra weeks at the start of the season.

Scallop “fishing” is unique. Commercial scallopmen use dredges. Sifting through tons of sand to get the scallops. Most of that action happens off the coast of China. Over 80% of the world’s scallops come from China.

In Florida Scallop fishing is VERY different. You take a boat out to the scallop beds (not very far— only about a 15 minute boat trip), you snorkel in about 5 feet of water and conduct what Greg the First Mate calls “an underwater Easter egg hunt, catching them with your hands. When you get them back to the dock, the bivalve shells get cracked open, the big adductor muscle gets cut off one shell and then they use a shopvac to suck the scallop and any dirt or grit off leaving just the muscle and the shell. Then a quick flip and the muscle is cut off of the shell.

So to recap. The “scallop” which is the only shellfish my wife enjoys … is ONLY a muscle. NO guts or brains or anything else.

You will need a Florida Saltwater Fishing license. The limit is two gallons of whole scallops or a pint of meat.

Most sources claim that Scallop comes from the Old French “escalope” for shell. But just as a concept … is it possible that the “shells” the French described were scallop shells. The very distinctive shape of the scallop shell has been a part of decorations for millennia.

Scallops are active swimmers and are the only migratory bivalve that moves under its own locomotion. They exist in all of the world’s oceans.

They are also the only bivalves with eyes. They have both a lens and retina but are still rudimentary… being able to detect light and motion but not shapes.

Scallops have diverse sexuality. Many species are standard heterosexual pairs… several are true hermaphrodites creating both eggs and sperm and a few exhibit protoandrous hermaphrodition. They are males as young and become females later in their life cycle. Some species can live to be 20 years old.

Reproduction is disgusting. Ova and Sperm are released into the water at the same time eventually some eggs are fertilized, fall to the bottom attach to sea grasses and the sandy bottom. The larvae hatch and the float up and attach themselves to plankton.

Now check this… scallops are filter feeders who each plankton by siphoning food onto cilia within the shell that moves the food to its mouth. Food that often includes … scallop larvae.

Good Eats episode Shell Game IV gives two great and easy scallop recipes. Seared Scallops for 11/2 minutes each side in a skillet on high. Baked scallops on the half shell with a breading in a 450 degree oven for 8 -10 minutes.

Scallop production in the US is down. Two major factors are considered the likely culprit. A reduction in seagrass from dredging operations and coastal runoff from construction. Also the overfishing and killing of sharks. The sharks keep the ray populations in check. Without the sharks… the rays can eat to their hearts content.