I had been following the building of the big yellow thing at Gulf Marine Fabricators’ yard in Ingleside for months and wanted to see it depart through the Aransas Pass ship channel on completion. I almost missed it, but on my way back from Corpus Christi on the Island Road on Friday, Sept. 16, I saw the distinctive yellow structure in the wrong place.
It appeared to be in Port Aransas, and there was more: It was moving! I had to hurry, but did not have TonyCam with me, and would have to go home first to get cameras. Of course, I didn’t break any speed limits, but all the lights were against me, and tourists were tottering along in town on golf carts. Slowly as it was traveling, I knew I would only just get to the ship channel in time. And I did. The yellow things are called “bottom feeders.” (This is not the first). They are special lifting devices for recovering whole oil-rig platforms from the ocean floor. Already, several platforms weighing over 1,000 tons have been lifted from as deep as 250 feet by bottom feeders and placed on barges that are maneuvered between the arches to receive the battered platforms lifted from the bottom.
Go to http://www.vbar.com/om-landing/ to see a company video.
You’ve doubtless seen the hundreds of hummingbirds that are in town these days, and you probably have a feeder and witnessed the amazing scene of dozens of the tiny birds trying to feed while chasing off others and being chased themselves. This morning, while still almost dark, there must have been 50 ruby-throated hummingbirds at our one feeder, and the scene was abuzz with action.
I made a short video that is posted on the South Jetty’s web site. Amazing as the scene was, it paled beside the more than 3,000 hummers I saw a few years ago, zipping along the dunes bordering Mustang Island Gulf beach. I have video of that incident, too (but not posted). Today, there were several (but nowhere near 3,000) hummingbirds zipping along the beach, heading south.
Unfortunately, three whales have stranded on remote beaches on Padre Island National Seashore recently. These were not great beasts, but small whales, a little larger than our familiar bottlenose dolphins.
A mother and baby pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) were both dead and decomposing when they washed ashore. Like their huge cousin, the sperm whale of Moby Dick fame, they have teeth only in the lower jaw (around 15 on either side) that fit into sockets in the upper jaw.
A melon headed whale (Peponocephala electra) died on the beach. These whales have been called “may- toothed blackfish” because they have up to 25 pairs of teeth on both upper and lower jaws.
Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and director of the ARK – Animal Rehabilitation Keep.