St. John Weather: Surf’s Up!

High Surf Warning, High Surf Advisory, Coastal Flood Advisory

Jumbie Bay, St. John US Virgin Islands - high surf
Jumbie Bay

High surf caused by Superstorm Sandy came ashore on St. John just a short time before Superstorm Sandy slammed into the northeastern coast of the United States.

Trunk Bay
High surf comes ashore inundating Trunk Bay Beach

High Surf at Trunk Bay
Surf washes up to (ugly) Lifeguard Hut

Maho Bay St John
Sand from Maho Bay Beach washes across North Shore Road

 

National Weather Service

COASTAL HAZARD MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SAN JUAN PR 417 AM AST TUE OCT 30 2012  …COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AST TODAY… …HIGH SURF WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AST TODAY… …HIGH SURF ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON AST TODAY TO 6 AM AST WEDNESDAY…  .LARGE…LONG PERIOD NORTHWEST SWELLS FROM HURRICANE SANDY WILL CONTINUE TO SPREAD ACROSS THE LOCAL ATLANTIC WATERS AND THE CARIBBEAN PASSAGES. THE RESULTANT LARGE BREAKING WAVES OF 14 TO 18 FEET…AND LOCALLY MUCH HIGHER…WILL CONTINUE TO AFFECT THE WEST THOUGH NORTH AND NORTHEAST FACING COASTS OF ALL LOCAL ISLANDS EXCEPT FOR VIEQUES AND SAINT CROIX THROUGH NOON TODAY…THEN CONTINUE THROUGH EARLY WEDNESDAY MORNING WHILE GRADUALLY SUBSIDING. THE VERY LARGE BREAKING WAVES WILL CREATE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SURF CONDITIONS…WITH STRONG RIP CURRENTS AND SOME COASTAL FLOODING…ESPECIALLY IN THE MOST VULNERABLE LOW LYING AND EXPOSED AREAS.  PRZ001-002-005-008-010>012-VIZ001-301730- /O.CON.TJSJ.SU.W.0001.000000T0000Z-121030T1600Z/ /O.CON.TJSJ.CF.Y.0002.000000T0000Z-121030T1600Z/ /O.CON.TJSJ.SU.Y.0012.121030T1600Z-121031T1000Z/ SAN JUAN AND VICINITY-NORTHEAST-NORTH CENTRAL-NORTHWEST- MAYAGUEZ AND VICINITY-SOUTHWEST-CULEBRA- ST. THOMAS/ST. JOHN/ADJACENT ISLANDS- 417 AM AST TUE OCT 30 2012  …HIGH SURF WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AST TODAY… …COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AST TODAY… …HIGH SURF ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 6 AM AST WEDNESDAY…  A HIGH SURF WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AST TODAY. A COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AST TODAY. A HIGH SURF ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 6 AM AST WEDNESDAY.  * WAVES AND SURF: VERY LARGE BREAKING WAVES OF 14 TO 18 FEET AND   LOCALLY MUCH HIGHER.  * TIMING: TUESDAY…AND THEN CONTINUING THROUGH EARLY WEDNESDAY MORNING   WHILE SLOWLY SUBSIDING.  * IMPACTS: EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SURF CONDITIONS…WITH STRONG RIP   CURRENTS AND LOCALIZED COASTAL FLOODING.  THE FOLLOWING ARE THE TIMES AND HEIGHTS OF HIGH TIDES IN THE AFFECTED AREAS. ALL TIMES ARE ATLANTIC STANDARD TIME:  MAYAGUEZ  1.6 FEET AT 10:07 AM TUESDAY MORNING.  AGUADILLA 1.4 FEET AT 9:39 AM TUESDAY MORNING.  SAN JUAN  1.8 FEET AT 10:31 AM TUESDAY MORNING.  MAGENS BAY 1.6 FEET AT 10:46 AM TUESDAY MORNING.  PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…  A HIGH SURF WARNING INDICATES THAT DANGEROUS…BATTERING WAVE WILL POUND THE SHORELINE. THIS WILL RESULT IN VERY DANGEROUS SWIMMING CONDITIONS…AND DEADLY RIP CURRENTS.  A HIGH SURF ADVISORY MEANS THAT HIGH SURF WILL AFFECT BEACHES IN THE ADVISORY AREA…PRODUCING RIP CURRENTS AND LOCALIZED BEACH EROSION.  A COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY INDICATES THAT ONSHORE WINDS AND TIDES WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE FLOODING OF LOW AREAS ALONG THE SHORE.

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St. John Snorkels: Tektite

tektite snorkel cave
Dalti finds a cave at Tektite

Yesterday, we snorkeled at Tektite. We came by boat, but it is also possible to get there by land.

Although the coral reefs around St. John and in the Caribbean in general have suffered considerably in modern times, there’s still a lot of beauty to be enjoyed and the Tektite snorkel is a case in point.

For example, the coral encrustations on the rock walls still have brightly colored orange cup corals, sponges and other invertebrates.

 rock wall at tektite  sponge on tektite rock wall cup coral

Nurse SharkWe also saw lots of fish and cool creatures like this nurse shark and the little camera shy lobster that stayed hiding in it’s little hole in the reef.

We found two caves; one as shown in the above photo and another one further east. It was a really beautiful day, clear blue skies with passing rain squall adding a dramatic effect.

   
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Rainwater and WAPA Water

St. John Virgin Islands Morning: Venus and the Moon
Venus & the Moon, Chocolate Hole, St. John 5:50 AM

I have two cisterns. If the first one runs out of water, I buy a truckload of water trucked to me from the WAPA desalination plant in Cruz Bay. The second cistern is left to collect rainwater and serves as a backup.

Access to the cisterns is provided by two, two-foot square concrete slabs covered with Mexican floor tile. They’re heavy and not easy to lift up. In order to check the water level without undue stress on the body, I drilled a small hole in each cover into which I could insert an aluminum rod. The rod would extend down to the bottom of the cistern and when retracted I would see how much of the rod was wet and thus have a good idea as to how much water was left in the cistern.

I usually don’t leave the rods in the cistern, preferring to store them in my pump room But this time I left both rods in place for an extended period of time. When I finally removed the rods to check levels, I found that one was clean and shiny and just like new and the other was pitted, corroded and discolored. Which rod do you think was which?

I would have guessed the clean one to be from the cistern containing the natural pure rainwater and the pitted one to come from the evil WAPA reverse osmosis plant.

But no, it was the other way around. It was mother nature’s rainwater that was corroding the aluminum bars. The bar in the cistern filled with WAPA water unchanged.

The explanation, I’m sorry to say, seems to be acid rain. Rainwater made acidic by exposure to pollutants spewed into the air from automobiles, power plants and factories.

Bummer!

98L
Speaking of rain today’s forecast calls for a 70% chance of rain and to the south of us is a weather system called 98L with a coincidental 70% chance of development into a tropical cyclone by Sunday. Computer models have it moving our way.

“Strong thunderstorm activity continues in 98L today, despite strong wind shear to its north, around 30 knots. This wind shear is expected to decrease over the next few days, providing a window for the wave to develop over the weekend. Most of the models are expecting 98L to to strengthen to a tropical storm by Sunday. The GFS and the GFDL even go as far to say that 98L could reach Category 1 hurricane strength. In terms of track, all of the models are forecasting a recurving pattern. The ECMWF pushes the potential cyclone farthest west, possibly reaching Hispaniola. The HWRF carries the system northwest over the next three days, and across Puerto Rico. The GFS has a similar solution this morning, as well. The model with the eastern-most forecast is the GFDL, which expects 98L to track north-northwest, scraping the eastern side of the Lesser Antilles, and avoiding land thereafter.” Weather Underground

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Parrot Again

st john birds: parrot
The parrot came again this morning. He or she was visited by another parrot for a while. This morning, though I was able to record its lovely loud morning call, which I want to share.

I’ve gotten a little more information about our parrots from my Facebook friends: There’s at least five of them in the vicinity and according to Radha Speer they are likely Conures (KAHN-yurs), possibly native to St. John and St. Thomas.

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The Parrot that Comes to Visit


Every day this week, I’ve had this early morning visitor. A beautiful bird it’s true, but there’s always something annoying about it. The last time it came around was when my mangoes were in season and it was a regular mango teef. Took big bites too. It could finish a mango in no time at all. It disappeared when the mangoes were gone, but it came back, as I said about a week ago. Comes at the break of dawn and lets out a screeching call that could wake up even the heaviest of sleepers.

I wonder where it came from. There is an indigenous parrot in the Caribbean, but this one isn’t one of them. I suppose it escaped from captivity and has adapted to life in the wild.

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Columbus Day

Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October, in honor of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas.

On October 12, 1492, the explorer Christopher Columbus, in command of three sailing vessels that had set out from Spain, made landfall on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas. The voyage was financed by the King and Queen of Spain, who Columbus had convinced that China and the East Indies could be reached by sailing to the west. If feasible, this would give Spain access to these rich lands without having to contend with the dangers and difficulties inherent in overland journeys.

Columbus, ignoring what African mathematicians had proven to be the length of such a voyage, arrived not in the rich courts of imperial China, but on the island now known as San Salvador in the Bahamas, occupied only by simple Taino fishermen, farmers and artisans. Continuing his voyage in his search for gold brought him to Cuba and Hispaniola, but nowhere did he find any indication of the riches he had promised his backers.

Columbus did, however, bring six examples of the indigenous Taino population and presented them to the King and Queen at the Royal Palace in Barcelona.

Although according to Columbus himself,  “the inhabitants of both sexes go always naked, just as they came into the world…” the six Taino representatives were presented dressed up in painted palm leaves and feathers, gold adornments and necklaces made from the teeth and claws of rare animals. Why the disparity in dress?

The explanation seems simple: Columbus’s first voyage, contrary to his hopes and dreams, was an economic disaster. He hardly found any gold, he had lost a majority of his ships, and he was unable to bring back any tangible proof of the enormous value of his discoveries, nor to justify, in any way, the expenses of this adventure or the advisability of continuing it. To dress his captive in such a way was no more than a convincing publicity stunt.

Columbus was given a second chance and returned to the “New World” with a Spanish fleet which carried more than 1500 adventurers, the majority of which were soldiers with battle experience in the wars against the Moors of North Africa.

The TainosColumbus described the Tainos in the ship’s log and in his diary as being “a very loving people and without covetousness,… They are adaptable for every purpose, and I declare to your Highnesses that there is not a better country nor a better people in the world than these.…They are so ingenious and free with all they have that no one would believe it who has not seen it; of anything they possess, if it be asked of them, they never say no; on the contrary they invite you to share it and show as much love as if their hearts went with it…”

The 16th-century Spanish historian, social reformer, Dominican friar and first officially appointed “protector of the Indians,” Bartolomé de las Casas, described the subsequent treatment of the natives of the newly “discovered” lands:

“…God made all the peoples of this area…open and as innocent as can be imagined. The simplest people in the world, unassuming, long-suffering, unassertive, and submissive. They are without malice or guile…Never quarrelsome or belligerent or boisterous, they harbor no grudges and do not seek to settle old scores; indeed, the notions of revenge, rancor, and hatred are quite foreign to them…They own next to nothing and have no urge to acquire material possessions. As a result they are neither ambitious nor greedy, and are totally uninterested in worldly power…They are innocent and pure in mind and have a lively intelligence…

“It was upon these gentle lambs, imbued by the Creator with all the qualities we have mentioned, that from the very first day they clapped eyes on them the Spanish fell like ravening wolves upon the fold…The pattern established at the outset has remained unchanged to this day, and the Spaniards still do nothing save tear the natives to shreds, murder them and inflict upon them untold misery, suffering and distress, tormenting, harrying and persecuting them mercilessly.

“They forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They even laid wagers on whether they could manage to slice a man in two at a stroke, or cut an individual’s head from his body, or disembowel him with a single blow of their axes. They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. Others, laughing and joking all the while, threw them over their shoulders into a river, shouting: ‘Wriggle, you little perisher.’

“They spared no one, erecting especially wide gibbets on which they could string their victims up with their feet just off the ground and then burn them alive thirteen at a time, in honor of our Savior and the twelve Apostles, or tie dry straw to their bodies and set fire to it…The way they normally dealt with the native leaders and nobles was to tie them to a kind of griddle consisting of sticks resting on pitchforks driven into the ground and then grill them over a slow fire, with the result that they howled in agony and despair as they died a lingering death.

“It once happened that I myself witnessed their grilling of four or five local leaders in this fashion (and I believe they had set up two or three other pairs of grills alongside so that they might process other victims at the same time) when the poor creatures ‘howls came between the Spanish commander and his sleep. He gave orders that the prisoners were to be throttled, but the man in charge of execution detail, who was more bloodthirsty than the average common hangman (I know his identity and even met some relatives of his in Seville), was loath to cut short his private entertainment by throttling them and so he personally went round ramming wooden buns into their mouths to stop them making such a racket and deliberately stoked the fire that they would take just as long to die as he himself chose. I saw these things for myself and many others besides.

“…It is reported that the butcher-in-chief arranged for a large number of natives in the area and, in particular, one group of over two hundred who had either come form a neighboring town in response to a summons or had gathered of their own free will, to have their noses, lips and chins sliced from their faces; they were sent away, in unspeakable agony and all running with blood…”

Happy Columbus Day!

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Moon Jellies

St. John Sea Creatures: Moon Jelly
Moon Jelly Aurelia aurita

Seems to be the season for these creatures as I saw a quite a few on yesterday’s snorkels at Blue Cobblestone Beach and Yazwi Point.

Some Moon Jelly Facts:

They consist almost entirely of water and unlike most animals, they have no bones, no brain and no heart.

Their sting is generally harmless to human beings, however some sensitive individuals may feel a mild irritation.

They are eaten by sea turtles, especially the Leatherback and for this reason it is dangerous to put plastic bags in the sea as they may be mistaken for jellyfish and eaten by the turtles, which could choke them.

More Photos from yesterday’s Yawzi Point Snorkel

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Great Egret on Great Cruz Bay Road

St. John Birds: Great Egret
Great Egret

Great EgretFor the last few days, I’ve been seeing this tall white bird standing motionless on the side of Great Cruz Bay Road in more or less the same spot. Being that he or she was being so cooperative as a photographer’s model, I went home, got my camera.

I’ve seen these birds many times on St. John, usually in shallow waters near shore or in salt ponds, but I wasn’t too sure of its exact name. I thought it was a Snowy Egret (wrong) or a Great Heron (close but no cigar) It is in fact a Great Egret, identified by its black legs and yellow beak. The snowy egret has a black beak, black legs, but yellow feet. The Great Heron needs to be qualified. It’s either a Great Blue Heron or a Great White Heron.

Wikipedia to the rescue: “The Great Egret (Ardea alba), also known as Great White Egret, Common Egret, Large Egret or Great White Heron”

I also found out some other cool stuff. It stands still like that waiting for prey to come by. This could be fish if it were standing, but in this case I surmise that the egret was looking for lizards. When one comes near enough, the egret makes a lightning quick strike, spearing the poor lizard with its sharp beak.

The Great Egret is doing well as a species, but was almost wiped out in the late 1800s when their feathers became popular as a hat decoration, but was probably saved from extinction when the National Audubon Society chose the Great Egret in flight as its symbol.

Call of the Great Egret

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A Late Afternoon Rain Squall

Rainbow over Chocolate Hole
A late afternoon rain squall brings a double rainbow over Chocolate Hole

Hi Visitors,

This will be my first blog entry after taking a little low season break. Many restaurants have done the same, Caneel Bay Resort is closed and all over the island one hears this one or that one taking some time off to travel, take care of personal business or just plain cool out. The last few weeks the weather has been suburb. Clear blue skies, hardly any African dust, warm sunny days and perfect water temperature for swimming, at least for babies like me, that get cold easily.

Yesterday was one of those days, sunshine mixed with short scattered rainsqualls. A late afternoon squall even brought me a beautiful double rainbow, which I was able to photograph.

Most island residents are happy to see some rain. It keeps the hillsides green and cisterns full.

As they say here on St. John, “good t’ing!”

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