Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

On Saturday the 9th we decided it was time for a trip to the beach.  Clearwater Beach is a favorite so that's where we went.  We spent about 3 hours there. 
 While we were at the beach we saw this one footed seagull which Hut and Wade named Peggy.  Get it???  Peggy.....peg leg.
 After a few hours at the beach, we ate some lunch at the Marina Diner (awesome place to eat if you're ever in Clearwater Beach).  We saw an advertisement for the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs.  Wade decided to see how far it was from Clearwater(smart phones do come in handy).  Since it was only 30 minutes, we decided to spend the afternoon checking out the Sponge Docks.  I've always wanted to go there.  They actually dive for sponges in Tarpon Springs.  The only other place in the world where I believe they dive for sponges is in Greece.  Above is a photo of the family waiting to go on a boat ride where they actually have a diver who dives for sponges the old fashioned way.
 This is Frank.  He was our sponge diver for the tour.  We thought we were going to be the only ones on the boat for the trip, but just before we launched about 6 more people got on.  Still a small amount of people, but it made it nice.  It was like a private tour. If your ever in Tarpon Springs, I highly recommend a tour with St. Nicholas Boat Lines.  It's only $8 a person and it's not just a boat ride.  It's an experience.
 This is one of the shoes the diver wears.  It's a leather shoe that ties on, with a 12 pound weight.  That's 12 pounds on each foot.
 This is the helmet that the diver wears.  I can't remember how much it weighs.  But it's attached to a hose that allows the diver to breath, but also inflates his dive suit so he can float to the top of the water to get back on the boat.

 Pelicans, drifting in the river.  I have never seen a pelican up close and personal, and I thought they were kind of cool looking.

I did not get a picture of our boat, but this one was docked close by.  The one in the photo is owned by the City of Tarpon Springs and is on display on the public docks.  Notice all the sponges on top.  These are actually sponges that were collected underwater in the area.  The boat we were on was built in 1932 and has been in commission since 1933.  Isn't that amazing?!
 A shrimping boat that was docked.  I believe they said it was normally based out of Louisiana.

 Our Captain, and of course I forgot his name.  He was showing some different sponges that they harvest.  Sorry the pictures aren't more clear.  I was at the front of the boat and he was in the back. This first sponge is a wool sponge.  You can bath or wash your car with one of those.  They are soft to the touch.

 This one is a wire sponge.  It's wirey and it will scratch the crap out of your or anything you wash with it.  I believe he said it was used to make plastic products. 
 This next one is a yellow sponge.  They use this type of sponge to filter water.

 This next sponge is a grass sponge.  This type of sponge is great to grow plants in.  No dirt necessary.  You just plop some seeds in it and some water and watch them grow.  These are  great for herb gardens to grow in your kitchen.  These are also used for applying makeup, especially in the movie industry.  They cut the sponge into smaller pieces to apply the makeup.

This last sponge is called a finger sponge.  It looks like fingers.  These carry a toxic poison.  They must be handled with gloves when harvested.  Not sure exactly what these are used for, except decoration.  Once harvested, they are hung upside down for about a week.  This causes the toxins to dry up and they are okay to be handled then.
 Here is Franks standing at the front of the boat.  We are almost to the area where he is going to dive.
 Sitting on the side of the boat waiting. Once Frank is fully dressed he will drop over the side of the boat.  To help him walk on the bottom, he has his weighted shoes, his helmut and they also attach 70 pounds worth of weights over his shoulders.  He will inflate his suit before he hits the water and will slowly deflate it until he hits the bottom.
 Here he is actually climbing back on board the boat.  I took video of him raking a sponge, but blogger won't let me upload it.  I'm hoping to upload on FB so those of you who follow me on FB, be on the lookout.  Frank did rake in one sponge and we all got to feel it.  They are black and slimy and I thought they look like a brain or a heart.  They dry the sponges for a week or so before they are ready to be used.
 Here I am with Frank.  Isn't he handsome????  I think he looks a little like George Clooney. 

 Rossi was afraid of him.  On most trips, he will put his helmet on one of the kids and Rossi was the only kid on this ride.  She was too scared so he had to pass.  But she was okay while she was on Diana's lap to get a quick picture.

 This is at the old Sponge Exchange.  Back in the day buyers would meet here, check out sponges and then submit bids to buy them.  Now it is a small shopping center with specialty shops.  They did have a couple of small boats on display.  This boat was actually used for sponging when sponges where first discovered.  They used a box with glass windows hanging off the side to look for sponges. When they found them, they would rake them in, but could only do so in about 14 to 16 feet of water.  Anything deeper they couldn't reach. Anything they did rake took four years to regrow.  So one of the men who had discovered the sponges here sent back to Greece for some men to come over and dive, like back in Greece.  And that's when the bigger boats came into service.
 Rossi punching the turtle.  She didn't like it.

Daddy getting his arm "eaten" by a shark.

If you would like to read a little bit about the history of Tarpon Springs and the Sponge Docks, please use the link below.


Granny Annie said...

Never knew such a place existed. How fun! That's quite a show for such a small audience. How many times a day do they give the tour?

Michelle said...

Thanks for the great tour. Sounds like a fun day. I didn't realize there were so many different sponges.