Beautiful in Belize

On February 28, 1978 I walked in the El Centro Hotel CafĂ©, Belize and met Mike and Roxanne Denoyer, managers of LighthouseReef Expeditions.  It was the beginning of a friendship that turned into 36 years of adventures beginning on the most beautiful tropic isle I have ever visited, Half Moon Cay.  I camped with Mike and Rox, the rest of their crew and guest scuba divers from various parts of the US.  The next year I came back for another three weeks.  We camped, we dove, we snorkeled, and we took pictures of the nesting red-footed booby birds.  Iguanas, softball size hermit crabs, huge land crabs, the bobbies and the frigate birds shared the island with us campers, the lighthouse keepers and three commercial fishermen.

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Half Moon Cay Lighthouse

I photographed 36 sunrises and sunsets at the island over the two years, dove the blue hole four times, once way deeper than I should have ever gone and returned home thinking it was the second best place I had ever spent time (the Atchafalaya Basin being first).  In those two trips of 3 weeks each I saw one floatplane and one boat that was not with our group. It was paradise to us.  In 1985 I sailed to Lighthouse reef from Belize City and spent a week anchor near half Moon Cay returning to the same dive sites of the 1970’s.  Still wonderful, but it was discovered as a dive destination. We saw about 15 boats that week.  Lighthouse Reef is 60 miles off the coast of Belize, so it’s a substantial trip over waters thousands of feet deep.

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Our dive boat was a Grand Canyon S-Rig

Just after this Christmas, I went back.  This time I stayed at fishing and diving resort on Turneffe Atoll. Turneffe is a 45 square miles mangrove atoll. It is surround by deep water.  It’s about half way from Belize City to Lighthouse Reef. Turneffe Island Resort is on a very small island, but is very comfortable with a great staff to take you fishing, diving or snorkeling.  The highlight was going back to Lighthouse Reef. It was only an all day trip, but the memories flowed back like the swallows to Capistrano. After 30 years I recognized some of the same coral trenches and caves I swam in 1978 and 1985.  The bobbies and frigates were nesting in the same zericote trees.  The only difference was the number of day tripping boats.  I saw 13 come in some with 20 divers, yet the island was still beautiful.  It’s a refuge now, the Nature conservancy being one of the supporters.  Some say you can never return to Shangri-La, I came close last week. The beauty and bounty of this island and reef ecosystems boggles the mind.

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Site of the old lighthouse 


Lunar Eclipse

The weather was perfect for Wednesday’s total lunar eclipse. The little bit of fog, low and below, did not get in the way of the clear cool skies above. In Louisiana the eclipse started early in the morning and was still partially eclipsed as the moon set over some trees at the edge of a farm in West Feliciana Parish, where I was standing with my Nikon 500mm lens. While watching the moon darken I looked up and to my left I saw the constellation Orion high in the sky.  You would never see this on a full moon night without an eclipse.
Image# 20141008_0101 Lunar Eclipse

Waiting between shots I remembered the many eclipses I saw of both the sun and the moon, while shooting night skies for three years in the early 90’s. Back then it was with film. The anticipation was exciting waiting for the transparencies to come back from the lab. Only then did I know if I got the photo right. Last night I only had to look at the digital viewfinder. Next May I will be teaching a night sky workshop in Southern California, where the sky is dark and the Milky Way shows up brightly.
Image# 20141008_0129 Setting Eclipse


Congratulations Poverty Point

Image #120327_0102-3-4 Mound A is the largest at Poverty Point.

Louisiana’s Poverty Point has been named as a World Heritage site, quite an honor for this fascinating historical park.  It joins Machu Picchu, the Pyramids and the Grand Canyon among other gems around the world with this special designation.  Poverty Point is the 22nd such honor in the United States. 

I have had the opportunity to photograph there numerous times, even at night.  Quite peaceful for it is hidden off major highways in rural West Carroll Parish. You can listen to nature’s night sounds as the planet rotates making the stars appear to move.  Just like I suspect the Indian hunter-gathers and traders did 3000 years ago. There are not many places left you can imagine yourself sitting in nature as did these ancient people.

Image #120328_0203 Stars glow peacefully above Mound A.

Significant is the fact that 2,000 people lived here for about 600 years without agriculture.  They lived off the land by hunting, fishing and gathering.  There are not that many places in the world where that can happen for so many people and for so long of time.  It proves what a rich environment Louisiana has. Bayou Macon had fish of many kinds, turtles, alligators and mussels.  Deer, squirrels and other game were numerous in the surrounding swamps and forest.  Birds such as wintering waterfowl provided more food and if there were any vegetarians the varied landscapes had all kinds of nuts, berries, and other editable plants.  The earthworks are impressive and extensive.  State archeologists have figured it took 5 million hours to build then all.  The largest is Mound A and it is shaped like a flying bird. Go visit this special place.


Two for One

What a great day yesterday! Sunshine, blue skies and enough clouds near dark for a great sunset. Best of all I photographed two state emblems in one shot. You can see in my Louisiana Nature Guide thirteen pictures of all the state animals, plants and minerals. In the swamp yesterday, Sue spotted a southern magnolia tree growing right out of a bald cypress. One is the state flower and the other the state tree. Pretty neat. Enjoy the spring it is busting out in South Louisiana!