Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ides of October, or thereabouts.

Wow, it's mid October already. I think we need to mentally catch up to the calendar. We seem to have missed a big chunk of September. It must have been the couple of weeks that it took for us to get re-calibrated to a changed life after back-to-back hurricanes. But that is gradually happening.

I thought I would look around and see if I couldn't find something different to post about. I have found a slightly off-beat subject but before I introduce you to our new 'house guest,' I have to start with the traditional sunrise photo, of course.

This has been our typical first cup of coffee view lately, with the winter sun well to the south of us. And since it doesn't come up until around 06:30ish we are usually up and around in plenty of time to enjoy it. Love those programmable coffee makers.

Here's another one:

And life here is slowly but surely stabilizing to the new normal. The constant views of hurricane damage that once seemed startling to us now just seem to be part of the landscape. Blue tarps no longer grab out attention. The news media have moved on, so we no longer see familar sites in Grand Turk (or even Galveston) on the nightly news. But we do identify with the people living in those places. It's a shared ordeal.

Very few of the roofs have been completely repaired yet, even here on mildly stricken Provo. Including ours. We have been told that the materials are now "on island" and "cleared". These are always good words to hear in a country where the 'standard' lapse between needing something and actually getting it runs around three weeks.

We still get some personal reminders of the hurricanes from time to time. Nice of life to freshen up our memories of all that. For example, on Sunday we got a call from our friend Preacher telling us that the guys working on the marina had hauled our wrecked boat's t-top out of the water. We skedaddled on down there to see if it was salvagable at all. In addition to the t-top itself, it was a platform for a nice deck light, a navigation light, a GPS antenna, and our VHF radio antenna. We were also sort of hoping that the zippered mesh bag attached to it was still there. That had our life jackets, and Dooley's doggie life vest in it. When we got to Leeward, our spirits fell, again. Ouch.

The GPS antenna and lights were still attached, but the VHF antenna and all the life jackets were gone. The T-top itself is missing about a third of the aluminum, and what's left is bent, broken, and bashed. This thing took a heck of a beating while the boat was upside down. Seeing this dashed a few more hopes, but we decided to haul it home and have a friend who welds aluminum to have a look at it. I couldn't just leave it there.

I started unlacing the shredded canvas and removing the hardware, while La Gringa backed up the Land Rover.

After trying several configurations of getting this thing into the Land Rover, we gave up on that. We decided to lash it to the outside of the Land Rover. Of course I had not thought to bring some rope with us, so I ended up cutting up the lashing that formerly held the canvas, and with a lot of help from La Gringa we got it precariously attached to the canvas roof. We were a bit nervous driving through town with this thing sticking up in the air. There are still sagging power lines across the roads in quite a few places.

And Dooley, who categorically resists any changes of any kind and consistently worries about my judgement, was not completely happy with sharing the back of "his" Land Rover with this thing. He clearly thought it was going to be a navigational hazard.

La Gringa drove it all the way home, and we didn't even get electrocuted once. So now we have another piece of wreckage in the driveway, courtesy of Hurricane Hanna.

The scrap aluminum collection around here is getting pretty impressive. Makes me wish I had the capability to weld aluminum. Between the sat dish and the T-top I could probably come up with some outdoor furniture. Or a hammock stand.

Now, for our new "pet".

A couple of weeks after Hurricane Ike blew through here, La Gringa was walking into her office when she saw a small scorpion in the middle of the floor. It was barely moving. We figure it came inside during the storm, and had been hiding under the rug. This one is about a third the size of the one that was in the shower with me about a month ago. Unthinkingly, I had turned the previous scorpion into paste, and had been feeling bad about that ever since. So we decided to see if we could keep this one alive. I scooped it up and put it into a leftover sandwich container. La Gringa added some sand,and rocks, and we started doing some research on these things.

I was surprised to find out that there are quite a few scorpion collectors around, with their own websites on the internet. Of course this means there is quite a bit of scorpion information available. I found out that this is a "Centruroides platnicki ". I also found out that they are bloodthirsty little predators, are members of the arachnids (spiders) and that they eat other bugs. Well, anything that eats bugs starts with a couple of points in its favor as far as we are concerned, no matter how ugly it is. (Well, within reason. I can't see us cozying up to some of these 8 inch centipedes) So I started putting different bugs in with it to find out what it likes. So far, we know it likes moths and flies.

I read that some scorpions like to eat spiders. So I picked up some long legged, wimpy looking spider and dropped it in to see if that could be lunch. It did not work out. The spider stayed up high where the scorpion could not reach it. And the scorpion did not seem interested in attacking the spider at all. It does go after moths. After two days, we noticed that not only was the spider unscathed, the thing had managed to run down to the sand and grab a discarded scorpion leg. (I think the scorpion must have molted it, or replaced a damaged one, because it still has eight.) Anyhow, this spider, this mangy misfit, managed to meticulously move the mangled leg up to a corner of the lair. And there it might have maniacally masticated it with its multiple mandibles before maliciously mounting it to its metaphorical mantle, merrily manufacturing silk as it went. The spider was comfortably establishing itself a home, and taking tropies. I thought that this did not bode well for the peace and tranquility of the scorpion. And we want it to be peacefully tranquil. So I got rid of the spider.

We found out that scorpions cannot jump (probably a good thing to know, keeps the clean shorts factor out of the equation) and that some of them can go months without eating. They just sort of shut down their metabolism to a hibernate mode.

Now, I have to admit that finding two scorpions, so far, in the house is not incredibly good news. We spend most of our time barefooted. And of course they are nocturnal, which means the most likely time to find one with a bare foot is when we are walking around in the dark. Great.

While La Gringa was reading up on the care and feeding of ugly, bloodthirsty, poisonous little arachnids, she read that scorpions glow in ultraviolet light. She mentioned this to me, and it rang a bell. Not about scorpions glowing, but about a pack rat and his junk collection. About seven years ago I was walking out of the TruValue hardware store in Mashpee, Massachusetts when I passed one of those bargain tables. You know the ones, anything on the table for five dollars. I can't resist those deals, and usually take a look to see what kind of goodies a hardware store has been unable to sell. In this instance, I saw a small, battery powered UV light. I bought it, just in case someday I might need a small UV light. (Hey, one never knows when one might run across an old Jimi Hendrix poster). Anyhow, it got thrown into a box and forgotten about. In seven years I have, surprisingly, had absolutely no need for an ultraviolet light. Go figure.

Since then it has gotten moved from Cape Cod to New Jersey, put into storage, then trucked to Florida, to being shipped to Providenciales, to being put back into storage, and then moved here still in the bottom of a box of miscellaneous junk.... So when LaGringa mentioned this supposed UV characteristic of scorpions, I remembered that I just might have a UV light. (This did not surprise her, strangely enough. She is totally accustomed to me pulling things like UV lights out of a tool box on a small tropical island. This is a good place for a pack rat.) So I went down to the garage and sure enough, after rummaging through various boxes of gadgets, tangled wire, and doo-dads, I found it. Still in the original packaging, and needing only a set of batteries.

The scorpion (which we are just calling "Sting" at the moment, not that it matters to it at all) was pale and translucent when we first found it. After a week or two of a steady supply of bugs and water, it has darkened up in appearance. Last night I decided to see if we could test this UV thing. This is what it looked like in a flash photo:

Not exactly the picture of "cuddly", is it.

Then I put the camera on a small tripod and managed to get some photos while holding the UV light over the scorpion. And yes, we can absolutely confirm that scorpions do, indeed, glow under ultraviolet light:

I moved the camera a little closer, but taking macros of live scorpions is something I want to put some thought into before going much further with this. Messing around with the focus ring on the lens puts fingers between camera and subject :

I realize some people might think this strange, but we are finding this bug fascinating. And La Gringa, especially, likes the idea that we could walk around in the dark with the UV light and 'sweep' the house from time to time. I am thinking we could also use the light outside and add to our scorpion collection. Of course that means I would have to build a terrarium, but this is do-able. For now, La Gringa has a live scorpion in its own little world on top of her desk.

And finally, to end this post, the now traditional sunset photo. It's not much of a tradition, as traditions go, but we work with what we have:


Anonymous said...

I guess every paradise has some drawbacks but I am completely and utterly freaked out by the thought of SCORPIONS skittering around at night.

I'm glad I didn't know that before my visit last year. I guess I had better check around for a portable ultraviolet light before my next trip. Eeeeew.

I don't know much about the creatures other than the fact that they are creepy, but just how poisonous is this type?

Anonymous said...

I really would not worry about scorpions for someone visiting here. We lived here for over three years full time before we saw one, and we never saw one until after we ran a bulldozer over this hillside and scraped up their quiet neighborhood. They are reclusive, and they are not aggressive. Basically, they hide under rocks and stay out of sight. That's because birds eat them.

The only way you could get stung would be if you trapped one with your foot or something. Not very likely. You won't find them on the beach, and I doubt that you would be running through the scruffy, dry rocky hills barefooted, kicking rocks over with your toes. From what I have read, (and I really looked into it) these are not on any dangerous bug lists. The sting would be, at most, what you would get if you stepped on a bumblebee or wasp. Wouldn't be fun, but it would not ruin your vacation, either. Its just another bug like a bee, wasp, or spider. Things you have seen all your life. It's just that these are different from you are used to.

Anonymous said...

Greetings From Wisconsin~

Well, unfortunately, we had to cancel our plans for a vacation to TC this month due to Hanna & Ike as the resort we were going to stay at is currently closed. But I still feel like someday we will come. I so much enjoy reading your blogs and look forward to taking a break from my desk to "catch up" with you and TC. You honestly should write a book someday. I can imagine it being on the NY Times Best Seller list. Your humor and choice of vocabulary is so much fun to read. Your description of ol' spidey was great. Anyway, best to both of you and your recovery of TC. Maybe next year!


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your vacation plans. Hanna and Ike changed a lot of people's plans. The good news is that this is the first time since 1960 that these islands have been hit like this. We get tropical storms, of course, but not hurricanes normally. They usually do not turn into hurricanes until after they pass us.

As for writing, I am glad you like my captions. I actually started working on a fictional novel project some time ago. I have the plot, outline completed, characters, several chapters written, etc. I just don't know where to go with it. I know absolutely nothing about writing and publishing. I guess the first step would be to finish it. But its a big stretch from writing captions for tropical photos to writing serious literature!! Not that anything I would ever write down is likely to be too serious.

Maybe the blog photos would make a decent coffee table book about the TCI someday. Who knows.

Anonymous said...

Actualy, scorpions can jump. I had one jump from a swimming pool cover to under my arm and he nailed me good. Glad the ones here do not kill you like some out in the western deserts can.

Captain Dubble

Anonymous said...

Well, Captain D, I would not be surprised at all to find out they can jump. I had Googled that question, and found info on the internet that said they could not jump. But then again, I did not think they could climb the slick sides of plastic containers, either.

Yesterday La Gringa loosened the lid on Sting's tupperware container. She thought it would be nice if he got some fresh air.
We went out to dinner. When we came home I snagged a moth at the outside light before we came in. I walked in to her office, and was reaching for the tupperware cover to open it up so I could slip the moth in. I stopped my hand just in time, inches from the cover. The scorpion was on top of the cover. I still don't know how he managed to climb up the side of that plastic, wriggle through the small crack between it and the cover, and then climb on top. But he did. Gave me a start. I think seeing a scorpion close to your hand is one of those gut reaction things like many people have about snakes, and some people have about looking up and seeing a shark swimming toward you when you are underwater. Its just a momomentary thing, the skip of a heartbeat...but it's undeniably a reaction.

Anyhow, he's back in his cell now. With a fresh moth.

jschieff said...

Awe-inspiring sunrise and sunset photos.

Not too sure about the scorpion. there are very few critters I've seen that emanate as strong an aura of malevolence as a scorpion. Moray eel, maybe. I would be very tempted to turn it into paste, or at the very least slingshot it into distant scrub. Very distant scrub.

What are boat possibilities? You must be getting antsy without a way to muck about on that marvelous water around your island.

Anonymous said...

Hi John.
Yes, 'antsy' would be one accurate term for us being boatless. We have now been unwilling landlubbers (islandlubbers?) for about six weeks. We hate it.

Even when we were not using the boat as often as usual, we knew it was there. Just hop on board, fire it up, cast off the lines and go. We did get off the island for a few days in late September, but that was a quick trip to NYC. Not the same thing, at all, at all.

Boats cure island fever. They also cause it, but that's okay as part of the package.

We hope to have some news in about a week and a half about the boat situation. Unbelievable news, in fact. So unbelievable that I don't want to jinx it by talking about it before it happens.

I will just say that there are some really, really fantastically nice people in this world, and some of them read this blog.

Anonymous said...

It's gotten cold up here in the states, Gringo, and I'd like to hear more and see more of TCI. Have you tried fishing the flats between your place & the sunrise & sunsets? From your photos, they look like good places to throw a top water bait like a zara spook puppy or a buzzbait. Any edible fish cruise those areas?


Anonymous said...

it's about time for a update ...?

Anonymous said...

Hello Geauxfishin,
We have not fished the salina (between us and the sunset) or off the shore on the Banks (tween us and the sunrise). People do go flyfishing for bonefish in the salina all the time. We are just not into bonefishing, and are not set up for flyfishing. I know a lot of people do eat bonefish, but I am a wimp when it comes to fishbones. If I bite into one it ruins the meal for me. Yeah, yeah, I know.

And lizabeth, I do have another post I could put up, but I have been kinda saving it until I was sure I had some good news to report. I should know by tomorrow.

Existentialist said...

You sound as bad as my friend Johnny Deep, he keeps everything. I showed up at his house a couple of years ago and in passing said something about needing a 1/2" ball valve and he says, "hold on a minute, I might have one." Sure enough, out he comes with exactly what I need. I guess being a pack rat has it's advantages, although the practical applications of lighting up a scorpion are questionable. Thanks for the blog, it keeps me dreaming while I'm working.

Marlinsix said...

Enjoy mi amigas.

Anonymous said...

Exentialist,you nailed it. I am a packrat. Fortunately for me, I live in a place where that is not always a bad trait. I can so understand pulling a piece of plumbing out of a box of stuff, in which you have been throwing bits of plumbing for years. I guess the trick is to recognize which bits have some potential use and which are junk. I am still struggling with that part. I tend to want to keep it all,and of course you cant keep it all.
Well, you could, but it would be a junkyard.

Marlinsix, man, you so rock. When can I tell these good people what you have done?

Marlinsix said...

Just take a lot of good pictures my good friend. Of which I might add, you are a master :)

Anonymous said...

Everyone had me convinced that my father's passing left me as the world's last pack-rat.

I'm glad to learn that not only are they wrong, but I'm in such good company!

And now you've got me anxious for the next blog post...