Monday, June 21, 2010

Greetings for the Solstice

We had an absolutely lovely day in Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, which is so close that I'm sure we walked to it on the sand in the evening looking for ghost crabs. Fort Fisher is in Kure Beach, so after a morning enjoying the shore -- the water was warm and calm, we swam and surfed on boogie boards and found mole crabs and watched gulls and pelicans -- we went to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, which focuses on the waterways of Cape Fear, including the swamps and rivers that feed into the ocean. The entrance leads visitors into a conservatory where quails chase each other around on the ground and there are turtles, snakes, alligators, frogs, and salamanders in addition to the tanks of local fish. There's also a multi-story tank with sharks, rays, moray eel, and hundreds of other fish, where divers were talking about the animals while swimming among them, a touch tank with starfish, urchins, horseshoe crabs, and anemones, a mini salt marsh with pufferfish, smaller turtles, and coastal fish, and a big outdoor area with local birds, turtles, small alligators, and a snake.

While we were in the area, we went to visit Fort Fisher itself, named for the first North Carolina officer to die in the Civil War (at First Manassas, so we may have heard his name last weekend too). The fort has an outdoor exhibit of parts and equipment brought up from shipwrecks and an indoor museum with an LED display on the battle during which the Union took the fort from the Confederates. The site of the original fort is now underwater -- the local coastline has shifted a good deal -- but it has been rebuilt bordering a tidal marsh, so while walking around the earthworks, we got to see egrets, pelicans, and fiddler crabs. It was very hot in the sun but there was a nice breeze off the water when we were in the trees.

This is Luna the albino alligator. Although she was born in Louisiana, alligators are native to North Carolina, so she lives at the Fort Fisher aquarium.

Here is one that lives in the outdoor enclosure, along with one of many turtles. (And my shadow.)

Inside, we saw the rays being fed...

...and this snake wrapped through a hole in a log.

Adam sat on a Civil War cannon at Fort Fisher.

I must admit that I was more excited to see fiddler crabs there than artillery.

Here is my family heading into the water later in the day, Adam with boogie board.

And here I am holding a mole crab.

When we went back to Carolina Beach, we swam for another couple of hours and saw a ray diving in one of the waves -- they had told us at the aquarium that if we'd been in the Atlantic, we'd probably been within ten feet of a stingray and never known it, but this is the first time I've ever seen one in the water near me. The ocean is so clear here that it's possible to see fish and little crabs swimming near the bottom. We took a walk after dark to try to find ghost crabs, but either we were looking in the wrong place or the lightning in the distance had made them burrow early. We watched Doctor Who's "The Pandorica Opens" -- I can't believe the season is so close to finished considering what a cipher Amy still is. Spoilers: There's something wrong when we get told only now that she's into Roman history and Greek mythology and, well, when we're told how important she must be, while all we see her doing of import really is remembering her boyfriend while the increasingly awesome River (who is probably going to turn out to be an epic failure, I'm braced for it) gets to be Cleopatra and fly the TARDIS. She also has the episode's best line, "I hate good wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him." (I did like the Doc's "If something can be remembered, it can be brought back," though his own blase reintroduction to Rory wasn't at all promising.) I want to know something about Amy that doesn't have to do with kissograms, Rory, and throwaway childhood moments before the season ends!

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