Mike Mongo reveals the worlds of marine, shoreline, and in-land eco-biology

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Loggerhead Turtle Rescue


Wow! What a morning! I was headed into shore when I came across this really big turtle with its head sticking up. Since it didn't dive I figured it didn't see me, so I slowed down and maneuvered over towards it. Funny thing, it didn't spook....

So I motored around it for awhile snapping photos, and I started to wonder if it was in some kind of crisis. True, I have been around enough big turtles to know that occasionally they hang out and let you get a good look at them, or even show interest in us, but generally they are out like a shot.

Eventually, I can see that it is letting me get very close to as I very slowly go round it. Something was definitely wrong here.

Pulling up right to it, with my hand I gave it a gentle nudge. It was surely alive but not going anywhere. With engine in neutral, I went to see if I could hold on to it. And indeed it let me grip its shell where its head was protruding. (Believe me, I was careful. That big head comes complete with powerful jaws!) And it let me. This one was in trouble.

I tried to haul it in, but realistically the creature weighed between two and three hundred pounds. In other words, no way. Finally, it did get tired of me handling it and dove down but only around four or five feet. I followed it for a while figuring out what to do. (A coast guard boat came by as I was right in front of the base, but when I attempted waving them down they thought I was just saying hi. Doh!)

What I did do wound up saving the day: I went to shore, and called my good friend Wade Miller. Wade is one of the captains at Danger Charters, and very ecologically-minded, and as luck would have it he had the number for the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. That number was just what the doctor called for. The phone was answered by a young man named Shane told me he was on his way.

In less than an hour he arrived, and we jumped back into my Carolina Skiff and went out to see if the great beast was still with us. To be honest, I was uncertain whether or not we would be able to locate it. I called in my buddy Cliff the Palm Weaver, another animal-loving individual like myself (and one of the most dependable guys I know), who happened to be out there and nearby on his boat.

While I was calling, Shane who was keeping watched spotted our quarry! It was floating on the surface, lifting its head, and only 30-40 yards from where I have parted company with it an hour before! That's when Cliff showed up, and thankfully he did; I am uncertain how we would have managed without him. The turtle was huge! Shane confirmed my original estimation of age: This turtle was in the 90-to-100 year old catgory. As I said earlier, it weighed between 200 and 300 pounds!

Between the three of us, we managed carefully lift it out of the water and as gently as possible flip it into my big skiff. There was a very bad injury on its underside, the shell was cracked but not cracked open (that's good). We immediately headed to shore, and Shane's awaiting ambulance.

We pulled up to the two-hour tie-off outside the window of Half-Shell Raw Bar, where the seats were full with lunch-time crowd. "Get ready to have your minds blown," I announced to the seated diners as we tied off. Then the three of us lifted the big beauty (a boy, you could tell by its claws—hooks on the fins for clasping during mating—and its large tail), and like I said, people were amazed. It was loud ooohs and aaahs the entire time. "So that's a dolphin," I mugged to the crowd, and everyone laughed. It lightened the mood considerably. Lots of people came out to take photos while we went for the "gurney" (dock cart). I would have if I had been them, and they had been me!

A number of fellows came up to help lift the 100-year old on to the gurney, and then kept up with us as we wheeled it over to the ambulance. (Yep, it is an actual ambulance, sirens, lights and all. After all the damage we did to the turtle population in the past, we now take their care seriously here in the future.)

And now it is being treated in Marathon. My thanks to Wade, Shane, Cliff, and the passerby's who helped today. It took all of us to make it happen, and one way or another it was worth the effort!

Key West Irony

one mccain family

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Friday, September 19, 2008

Obama Sign-Making Party and Voter Registration at Blue Heaven Today

And footmarch through the streets and down Duval in support of OBAMA at 6PM! Read on...

Today at Blue Heaven, from 12 PM to 5PM, we are gathering to hand-make our own Obama for President signs.

Our goal is to have children and adults come by, voters and non-voters, and by making our signs encourage a sense of ownership for the direction of our futures.

At the beginning of the presidential campaign, I was for Dennis Kucinich. Then, after the primary, I was for Hilary Clinton. Therefore, having followed my conscience all the way through, it has been with the greatest ease of conscience I am able to endorse Barack Obama for president.

When Suanne Kitchar suggested to me the idea of a sign-making, I was immediately thrilled by the idea. For me, America as a is more than just voters. It is all of us. In fact, America is limited by boundaries. For me, the ideals I have learned, and absorbed over time—such as truth and justice, liberty, the pursuit of happiness—extend beyond boundaries of land. They even extend beyond the boundaries of cliche!

For me, these ideals are real in the way life is real.

Barack Obama is not the embodiment of them. He is a man, and a professional, and a Democrat, and a politician, and a candidate. And with all those failings—mortal as all of us—he understands life's true value. And it is not money, power, or fame.

It is hope.

Yesterday, Suanne went to see Obama speak in Miami. But as luck would have it, the Key West contingency of women who journeyed together for the occasion were invited to sit behind and to the sides of Barack Obama at the podium. And after waiting three hours for the speech, and after seeing him and hearing him just feet away from this individual who has come to embody the hope for the future, as luck would have it, she met the man. She was there and she shook his hand. Here's the video of the speech. (And here.) (Update: And here.) Suanne is at 3 o'clock. You can see the sign that says "KEY WEST MOMS for OBAMA". She's next to that.

Whatever happens from here on out, Barack Obama's place in history is sealed. But what can happen from here on out will determine the direction of our planet's future.

And sometimes things do work out in the most unexpected ways. In fact, whenever things work out, it is always unexpected.

Barack Obama is unexpected.

Join Suanne and I and our friends at Blue Heaven from 12PM to 5PM as we enjoy fellowship and conversation while entertaining the idea of a hope-filled future. Kids welcome. Non-voters welcome. People who have been sitting on the fence welcome. Supporters welcome. It's a Obama sign-making party, and everyone is welcome. There will be materials and refreshments. (Or bring your own boards, and use our paints. Any extra materials are welcome!)

Then meet up with us at Blue Heaven, the corner of Thomas and Petronia, as we go for a walk with our new Obama signs.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Increasing Our Network: Computers headed to Jamaican school!

The collection of unused/refuse computers Lincoln Thompson and I began early this summer has been successful: As you can see in the video above, packed for transportation for shipment are ten complete work stations...plus an assortment of computer accessories, peripherals, and odds and ends. Most of this stuff was sitting around or headed for the trash. Now it has been cleaned, re-vitalized, re-purposed, and is already on its way to a "second life."
Lincoln and I (along with Lincoln's brother Clive and their cousin Kevin) collected about double this amount of stuff. Between all the computers and monitors, we cobbled together seven solid desktop stations and three laptops (including an assortment of Macintosh computers—one green iMac, an old (but working) MacBook laptop, and for those who know about such things, an old old Power Computing Macintosh clone running system 9!). It was dirty work, it was tricky work, and there was a plenty of work, but getting to sit down for days at a time cracking open all those computers and stuff, and then piecing it all together to make whole working computer work stations, well, that was just about as fun as it gets!

[Also, special thanks to Conch Town Cafe and Blue Heaven restaurants for the generous loan of space and resources. And extra special thanks to Sloppy Joe's, who provided us with a gift of used computers and peripherals which wound up accounting for about 25% of our collection. It was a terrific surprise to see such a huge player on our Island as Sloppy Joe's come to the table with such generosity.]

Speaking of which, there are (of course) two more things we could really use:

1) Unused Windows XP and Macintosh system disks.
2) A decent condition, good-sized wall unit air conditioner.

The use for the disks is obvious. To re-build some of the systems on the computers should anything go wrong. Back-ups.

The need for an air conditioner, however, is inspiring: The school Bramption Primary has re-dedictated and had rebuilt an entire room for the use, up-keep, and security of their new computer workstations. Since the computers have already shipped by container vessel (boat), an air conditioner will have to fly with us directly. But if we find one, I'll make certain it gets there.

Incidentally, if anyone knows of any students here are the Island who need computers, please let me know. I may be able to help with a solution.

And that's it. Lincoln and I are set to fly into Montego Bay on September 26. His wife will pick us up, and then I'll be there with them for two weeks of computer installation and instruction at Brampton Primary, Trelawny District.

Now think about that! A school of ninety kids (and their teachers) getting computers and being connected to the internet where before there has been neither! And remember, Olympian champion Usain Bolt is from Trelawny Parish! These kids are world-famous and don't even know it yet!

Can you imagine? Stay tuned. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Large Hadron Collider rap

Alright, it's not rap, it's more like song sung in regular speech. But the lyrical content is spot-on:

"LHCB sees where
the antimatter's gone
ALICE looks at collisions
of lead ions
CMS and ATLAS are two of a kind
They're looking for whatever
new particles they can find
The LHC accelerates
the protons and the lead
and the things that it discovers
will rock you in the head"

And this article does a bang-up job of filling in any holes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Ike in Key West—Wednesday Night!

It is as much to my own surprise as anyone's that the weather continues to be noteworthy here in any sense other than it's great! Strangely enough, we are still being belted by powerful winds, yet Hurricane Ike is 300 miles Southwest of us!

Tonite, at the end of Duval, the presence of the winds is obvious from the waves overflowing the pier at the end, beating down the human-made sand dunes with great waves, and covering the entire block with saltwater, seaweed, and sand.

Tomorrow should be interesting: Sun or rain?

Hurricane Ike from the Grinnell Street Parking Garage, Key West

This the from where I recorded last night. It has the amazing features which produce the most unusual "wind song" Additionally, from the top of the Grinnell Street parking garage, there is an amazing view of the Island and the harbor.

Hurricane Ike's effects are nearly gone from Key West. Tomorrow, undoubtedly our world will return to the state of Paradise we are used to here in the Conch Republic. Trust me, everyone is stir crazy! But good news: There are already tourists back on the streets!

First Key West rooster in four days of Hurricane Ike

When I heard this, my first thought was, "What kind of bird is that?"

Why, it was an out of practice rooster!

But the interesting thing is the effect it had on everyone. It was as if a spell had been broken, like break time was over, and life had officially resumed again. Other roosters then picked up the call.

In Key West, you can say its over when the hoarse rooster calls.

Hurricane Ike in Key West—Tuesday Night

This was taken atop the Grinnell Street Parking Garage. It is an unusual spot due. Not only is it four stories above ground and lend itself to an amazing daytime vantage point, it has these very peculiar harmonics which are triggered by big winds: The garage sings.

Winds are blowing between 20 and 50 miles per hour, with gusts to 60 and 70. This is interesting as Hurricane Ike, now far out in the Gulf of Mexico, is about 250 miles away from us, and is itself rated at only 70 miles per hour.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

Pre-Hurricane Ike, Key West from the top of La Concha

Recorded a few hours ago, it is amazing how terrific the weather continues to be. What's the point of technology? I mean, yes, we get it, a hurricane is coming. But all the hullabaloo about that resulted in stress when this is the third false alarm this year!

Anyhow, it is starting to get breezier, I am happy no hurricane is coming (right?), and this is my report.

Today, everyone just went around and saw everyone. It was like a real intimate and small town scene. The reporters are all in place, most businesses are closed, and it's like an enforced vacation. Work that is non-hurricane related is all pretty much off the table. I get calls to come to hang-out.

It has taken me all day to post this, some sort of glitch on various DSL lines. But I wanted everyone to see what we are having while traditional media hogs the spotlight with infotainment: Impending doom is okay I guess if it's just for show.

Anyhow, all of us are expecting some wind tonite, standing by.

pre-Hurricane Ike in Key West: Sunday Night on Duval Street

Everyone is gone except for locals with time under their belt, a few tourists of questionable sense, and newly arrived locals who are uncertain of what to do/interested in what a hurricane is really like. (ha/ouch)

So this was Duval Street last nite, pre-Hurricane Ike. Everything is boarded up, and it's quiet, and really something else. The funny thing to me is how I wish everyone could experience how quiet it is, but if they were here it wouldn't be quiet! Go figure.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Mike on Hurricane Ike, Key West—Sunday at Sunset

Yesterday evening, late, before bed I was talking with my good friend Cliff the Weaver, and looking at the weather report. Somehow, it seemed like it was Sunday instead of Saturday. And according to the report, winds would start blowing by 7AM. To be honest, I was freaking out a little: There was still so much left to do!

Cliff made me look again. Oh, I see, there is still a day to go! It was a sudden lift of weight.

To be honest, there was only a bunch of little stuff to do. But all of it was important. Because in a hurricane, it's the little stuff that counts. For instance, one of my sailboats for which I am responsible needed chafe gear. That's portions of firehouse chopped and wrapped around the contact point of the anchor line that rubs on the boat. In a storm, that contact point becomes a weak point from all the bucking the boat will do from the wind and waves.

Another thing I had to do was get my personal belongings that were important to me to shore. Since I live on boats, that means all the tools and books and food and clothes stay. What comes ashore are papers, affects, writing, data, and legal (certificates, ID, receipts, etc.) The key here is to select what's important ie not replaceable and then hoping for the best for the rest.

So that's why the details count. I want my stuff to have the best chance of making it through unscathed and intact as I can provide. Even out on the water.

On land, nearly all the stores are closed, most restaurants, and some bars. Naturally, this being Key West, there are always bars open. Even I had a cold draft beer this evening. After all the work of the past two days, it was what hit the spot.

It's two AM. I just finished watching Serenity (again). I'm ready for bed. Tomorrow/today is the big day. In fact, as calm and warm and just absolutely perfect as it has been all day, right now the wind just started to stir in that way that says that it's time.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Saturday Night—pre-Ike—"It is beautiful tonite"

Here's what I did today. Upon waking up, I went immediately (pre-con leche) to West Marine to buy 100' of line, and parts for my outboard's gas tank. From there, I hopped on my bike, dropped all the gear off with Cliff the Weaver, and hustled over to Garrison Bight to meet up with the Danger Charter's boats. The Danger boats were being tucked into the channel next to Banana Bay resort. It's a tedious process which involves spider-webbing lines from the boats through the red mangrove trees along the shoreline, and then around the hardwood mangrove tree trunks.

The mangroves can withstand winds as high as 180 mph. This process has protected Danger's (and many other's) boats many times over the years.

There are three Danger boats, all in the 70' range, and the whole thing takes about four hours. As the weather was as good as it can get, it was bright, sunny, and hot. We went through gallons of water. Everyone was soaked with sweat, covered with mangrove tree bark.

Channel 10 Miami local came by and filmed the whole thing for television. Here it is, titled "5AM advisory could change the Keys evacuation order" (type in 5AM into the search).

When that chore was done, I ordered a grouper burrito from Bad Boy Burrito, drank a Coke and ate a quick lunch, and then Cliff and I hucked it out to the boats to work on engines, check lines, batten hatches, dive on the moorings, and attach new chafing gear to all the lines on the boats. It went fast. Then it was done. I shot the video after washing done and changing to head to town for some dinner.

The weather was gorgeous all day. But the sunset tonite was absolutely breathtaking.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Hurricane Ike, Key West, FL

Here's what's up with Ike. Everyone I know from here is already getting there stuff together. Looking like it's going to hit is not how I gauge storms; how the other people I know who aren't just "from here," but actually have a feel for the place are like living barometers. We wake up everyday knowing things that simmer just under the conscious. It's what I called my "under-mind" this morning talking to Eric D. He knows boats and water as good as anyone around here. And when I told him I was already jumping through hoops, he asked me why I thought this storm was any different. I told him it was in my under-conscious. He said, "Trust your under-conscious." That was enough for me. It meant he was feeling something suspect, as well. Better safe than sorry when it comes to hurricanes.

I have two boats out in the water, on heavy moorings, Navy chains strung across the harbor about a century ago to catch big Navy ships that dragged because of storms. Each link is the size of my hand. And I have big hands. So, I'm doing work on my already-strong lines, adding plenty of chafe gear (old firehose cut into sections and z-tied in place). And I am extending the line I have out from about 100 feet to 150. Even so, with winds of 150, I don't know what to expect. I'm nervous. I'm bringing in the stuff that is irreplaceable.

That's the report. It is bright and shiny and lovely outside today. That will last through Saturday, maybe Sunday. Unless the scary storm changes its path, Sunday afternoon, Monday it should get dark and breezy.