Space Coast

Christmas is so yesterday… we left Christmas, Florida for a campsite closer to the ocean, and closer to the Space Center.  It’s called Manatee Hammock, but we haven’t seen a manatee yet and I am pretty sure one couldn’t get in a hammock!  (OK, in this area, a hammock is a stand of trees growing on land a maybe only a few inches higher than marshy areas around them.)

 

Running around the lake

Adjacent to the Christmas RV park was a road that led past a large pasture, then into a heavily wooded area, and finally around a small lake and a picnic table.  It was a great place for a morning run.

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Vulture Banquet

When I was walking the road near the lake I saw a vulture with a black head. I read later that they are called Black Vultures. This one was tearing at something. As I got closer another one arrived. I couldn’t see what it was, but thought it might be a turtle. 

I ran the road by the lake and back to the gate and saw several vultures. After I did the run again I was nearly back to the gate when I heard a plane overhead. Only there was no engine! I heard a vulture soaring over me! At the gate I saw a bunch of vultures with many more coming. They tore that poor turtle to shreds. You can notice that they don’t share well!

At first sight it didn’t smell too bad. But by the time they had pulled all the pieces out it really stunk. So though I don’t like vultures because it seems sad that they eat such yucky stuff that they can’t have feathers on their heads, I do like that they erased the stink in short order. And I enjoy watching them soar.

By Cherryl – video with my iPhone

 

Cows and Egrets

Cows and egrets seemed to pair up in the pasture.  Most every cow had an egret within a few feet, and if a second bird came to join the two, the first egret would angrily shoo it away.  It seems that they like the insects that fly out of the grass as the cow grazes.  The cows enjoy having the pesky insects removed, the egrets enjoy the free meals.  An unlikely match that seems to work well.

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Christmas Tree Trimming

The RV park in Christmas was nice enough, and very quiet… at least the campers were quiet.  It must take a lot to keep it looking nice, because there were several workmen who really liked their big machines,  always washing buildings, trimming trees, repairing roadways, or using leaf blowers to clean up the lawns.  So in the daytime you could usually hear some sort of big machinery running.

One guy was going to trim some trees… Trimming trees in Christmas should be interesting, so the drone and I watched him… I’ve sped it up considerably to make it slightly more interesting…

 

Jungle Critters

You see some strange creatures in the jungle, including this somewhat modified El Camino.  Don’t ask me why I put it in this blog; I’m not sure myself!

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In the Water Again!

We finally found a place to launch the kayak! Just a short trip along the coast, but we saw lots of Cormorants, Pelicans and a Great Blue Heron. The GoPro is not a wildlife camera… by the time you recognize a bird in the wide angled picture, it’s flying off.  So it just looks like we were out chasing birds.

 

Space Center

I had high hopes for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center. KSCVC for short. Or maybe just KSV.  Anyway, we’d been told it was worth at least two full days.  Well, we’ve spent a couple admittedly shorter days, and are not anywhere near finished.  Really a fascinating place! A bus tour takes you by many famous sites, like many launch pads, the huge crawlers that move rockets around the base, and the iconic VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building).

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A moon rover and its instrument panel:

 

A copy of a Mars Rover made of Legos:

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OK, we didn’t see a Space Shuttle launch, but here is a picture of a picture.  Again, amazingly huge and complicated.

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They say the Space Shuttle consisted of about 2 million systems to make it successful, and over 400,000 people worked to make it happen.  I agree that’s pretty sophisticated… but it makes me wonder about the human body.  There are over 30 TRILLION cells in a human.  Each cell has several little “energy factories” and “machines”, to support the functions of that cell.  They are surrounded and protected by a cell wall that actively transports molecules in and out, selectively, as needed.  Then these cells are grouped together to form more complicated structures yet, that we call organs.  There are physical, chemical, and electrical networks to coordinate the functions of these organs.  All these organs are surrounded and protected by yet another organ, which we call skin.  All these trillions of cells are constantly regenerating and repairing themselves.  And yet most folks think this complex system just evolved, almost accidentally.  Could they also believe the Space Shuttle could just have appeared?  It certainly did evolve, from the beginnings of the manned Mercury capsules, through Gemini and Apollo programs, but with the intelligent energy driven input of half a million brilliant minds.

 

My Space Adventure

After a brief bit of encouragement from John Glenn (Who you may remember as the first American to orbit the earth), I was given a space suit (Just my size!), and after a brief EVA (Space walk) I was able to set foot on the moon!  And I have the pictures to prove it!

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PS: a bit of an apology: my beautiful camera tried to commit suicide by jumping from the back seat of the Suburban onto the ground.  It has spent this last week in the Canon hospital, and should be back with us Monday.  In the meantime, all pictures were taken with the iPhone or Drone.

Fairy Terns

 By Cherryl…

My favorite thing about Saipan is the beautiful white birds that fly around me while I am walking on the path by the beach. They are nearly see-thru when the sun is on them and I am looking up at them flying by. The front edge of the wing has bones I feel like I can see, while the rest is beautiful shiny white feathers. They have very black eyes and the rest of the bird is very white.

The wings are swept back like a fighter plane, thin, aerodynamic, fast looking.

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There are often groups of 3 or 4 flashing around the trees or above the ocean. At different angles they disappear and reappear in silver flashes. 

A friend in Tinian said he likes these birds, he called them fish birds, because when he goes out fishing he watches where they are and finds schools of fish there. 

These terns are related to Fairy Terns in New Zealand, but those have dark heads sometimes.  Maybe these are Saipan Fairy Terns.

When Bruce and I went out to get pictures of these birds he flew the drone. The Fairy Terns did NOT like the drone at a specific altitude. Down low near the ground was ok, up high, like 300 ft, was ok. But about tree top level was not ok. I read that they lay their eggs in the crook of the tree – no nest. And they protect their young vigorously. When the drone was at that altitude 15 or 20 birds would suddenly appear flying around the drone and dive bombing it!

 

Here is a link to an article about these Terns. CNMI stands for Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. It is the islands north of Guam.

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