Monday, November 12, 2007

Sea Birds Flying In The Sun...Galveston

Galveston, oh Galveston...

I still hear your sea winds blowin'...

I still hear your sea waves crashing...

I watch your sea birds flying in the sun...

At Galveston, at Galveston

---Glen Campbell

Location: Day Trip to Galveston, TX

Click for Larger Image of Sea BirdsGalveston is a barrier island off the coast of Texas -- to the south is the Gulf of Mexico, and to the north is Galveston Bay. Galveston's name dates back to 1785, when the island was named in honor of Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, who never had -- and never did -- visit the island. He was a military leader who assisted the United States in the Revolutionary War. Galveston, because of it's strategic location, not only played a role in the American Revolution, but also the Texas Revolution and the Civil War. If that isn't enough, rumors still abound that the pirate Jean Lafitte buried treasure on the island, and it is just waiting to be discovered.

Click for Larger Image of Galveston and the Gulf of MexicoIn September 1900, Galveston was forever changed when a hurricane (then unnamed) slammed into the coast. Even after Katrina, it is considered to be the deadliest natural disaster in the United States. The storm surge was 15 feet, and the winds reached 135 miles per hour (an estimate, because the anemometer blew off the U.S. Weather Building). The death toll was between 6,000 and 12,000, easily topping Katrina's 1,600. A lesson learned, Galveston built a 17-foot seawall and numerous rock jetties (see photo) to protect the city. In addition, dredged sand was used to actually raise the city 17 feet.

Galveston has experienced other hurricanes, one which catapulted Dan Rather to fame. Hurricane Carla hit the island in 1961. At that time, weather reporters typically hunkered down and reported from safe locations. Dan Rather was the first to report from the middle of the storm, tying himself to the flagpole of the Galveston Post Office. A crew member drew a crude outline of the Texas gulf on a piece of clear plastic, which they held over a black and white radar display to show the audience the location and scope of the storm. His bravery and ingenuity caught the attention of CBS, and they offered him a job -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

Click for Larger Image of King PenguinsGalveston is also the home to a wonderful aquarium with King Penguins, seals, sharks, Giant Tortoise, coral reefs and lots of exotic fish and sea creatures. I only had time to visit the aquarium, but the complex also contains a rain forest, IMAX, and a discovery zone, all housed in giant pyramids, visible in the Galveston Bay photo at the end of this entry. There is also a historic district that looks like a fun place to exercise my "shopping genes" that are expressed every so often (but now that I have so little room to store things, my buying impulses have been severely curtailed).

At the end of the day, the pelicans, egrets, gulls, cormorants and other sea birds are abundant in both the gulf and the bay. What better place for a pelican to engage in some last minute hunting than atop an old pier in Galveston Bay? Who knows -- maybe this pelican is hiding more secrets than the contents of his beak -- perhaps he is guarding Lafitte's treasure. But he's not telling.
Click for Larger View of Sunset On Galveston Bay

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