Saturday, February 21, 2009

With Every Breath They Take

I can hear them breathe, but I can't see them. Not yet anyway.

I'm told there are nearly 50 West Indian manatees just below the
surface. Be patient. And watch. I do, along with 30 or 40 other
people who've come by Blue Springs State Park near DeLand, FL, at 8
a.m. to see the winter migration of the manatees.

The manatees aren't migrating far. They are moving into the warm
spring waters (72 degrees year round) from nearby St. John's River,
where the water is below 60 degrees. The air temperature is 34
degrees. There's frost on the grass I'm walking on. Shiver.

Fog hangs over the springs, making it difficult to see the manatees,
but I hear them breath.

The massive mammals surface every three to five minutes to fill their
lungs with air. They don't raise out of the water, or even break the
surface much to do it. Instead, they poke the tips of their noses,
just their nostrils, out out of the water. They suck in one mighty
breath. INHALE. They don't exhale. They submerge.

Multiply that inhale by 50 and it's like the water is alive.

When the fog lifts and the sun moves in, the sea cows' forms take
shape just below the surface. Click on the picture above to get a
larger image. Perhaps you can make out the 12 or so manatees hanging
out at the water's edge. And then imagine hearing them breath.

1 comment:

Tory Casey said...

I adopted a manatee last week - they are wonderful creatures. We stayed at a place in key Largo that had 2 manatees that lived nearby, and we could swim with them!!