Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spring Break...Day 2

After having breakfast at the hotel, we went to Tarpon Springs, which is the Sponge Capitol of the World.

This is a town that has an area historically devoted to sponge harvesting in the Gulf of Mexico. In the late 1800's, one of the towns prominent citizens realized that there was money to be made in sponges, but the primitive harvesting technology available in the USA would make it difficult to make money. He imported sponge fishermen from Greece to harvest the sponges. They brought with them the technology of supplying air to the sponge divers from the ship (ala deep sea diving) so they could stay below the surface for hours at a time. Soon the sponge crop supplied sponges for most of the Western World and did so until synthetic sponges were invented in the 1940s. At one time there were over 300 ships that harvested sponges, and some 2500 Greeks immigrated to do the work. Today, there are only 3 ships that still harvest the sponges full time. The dock area where all the ships sailed from and brought their loads of sponges has been transformed into a "little Greece" area with Greek shops, Greek restaurants, and an area where descendants of the original Greeks still congregate. The city has a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and by some estimates 20% of the people in this area are Greek.

We ate at a Greek resturant...Hellas...and enjoyed a delicious Greek Salad.

Later in the afternoon, we went on a boat tour of the area and it included a stop at Anclote Key State Park. We saw an interesting lighthouse that is no longer in use. We also had a chance to collect shells along the beach there.

Along the way, we saw lots of wildlife including Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Brown Pelicans,raccoons, squirrels, dolphins, and sea turtles.

After we left Tarpon Springs, we stopped and had supper at an ok Mexican restaurant. We get spicier and better in Cleveland.

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