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Florida’s Biggest Strip Show

Cobalt blue land crabs have been burrowing in our neighborhoods since the Cenozoic Era, 25 million years ago.

Cobalt blue land crabs have been burrowing in our neighborhoods since the Cenozoic Era, 25 million years ago.

Here in Florida, we inhabit a geographic cul-de-sac, a continental appendage that my second-grade teacher taught us to draw as an upside-down turkey, with Lake Okeechobee providing a Cyclopian eye. Perhaps the least changed in our ecological novelty of a state are our swamps, the vines and mosses eternally being born, dank with black water and rotted leaves and ripe with the scent of living creatures, including the legions of microscopic things chomping away at something.

Changed more profoundly is the ground we walk on, once a prehistoric sea floor of shoals and terraces covered by a Devonian sea. The distant past is not as remote as it might seem. Just north of us in Port Orange, a small town near Daytona Beach, the remains of giant sloths were discovered on the grounds of what was Bongo Land. Florida’s prehistoric mise en scene probably contributes to the ongoing hunt for “Pinky,” believed by a few cryptozoologists to be a surviving dinosaur of the species theocelosaurus neglectus (honest) that began its life during the late Cretaceous period and has had numerous sightings all over the state, particularly in the swampy waterways of North-Central Florida. (My car dealership in Melbourne almost qualifies as North-Central; here in Vero Beach, we don’t make the cut.)

Described as the color of boiled shrimp, with slanted eyes set on a human-sized head, Pinky is as hard to dismiss as the Loch Ness Monster or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. What makes it especially scary is the mode of its travel. Not above ground, where one can see it and track its movements, but subterranean, travelling through the state’s aquifer – the freshwater passage under the land – as stealthy and unpredictable as the Phantom of the Opera in the sewers of Paris, able to pop up unexpectedly in any lake, pond, sinkhole, river or canal in the state.

Read the entire article in the November 2011 issue