Sunday, 21 September 2014

Clean Up Barbados Day 2014 : The Invasion of the Sargassum Seaweed

My island has been fighting against the ravages of the Sargassum seaweed for many a month now.

Sargussum seaweed washing up en masse on a beach
Image borrowed from

During May to September, the sea brings the Sargassum seaweed to our shores, but a couple of years ago (2011) our Atlantic coast beaches were invaded by huge deposits of the mat-like substance which began washing up as a result of the change of weather and temperature patterns.
It posed serious problems for our local ecosystems and our tourism and fishing industries.
Fishermen had never seen anything like it in all their years of fishing.
Never before had we seen such a huge accumulation of the seaweed in the region.

This year (three years later) seems to be a repeat of the phenomenon, and our beaches have been inundated by the seaweed once again.

Yesterday was Clean Up Barbados Day 2014,  International Coastal Cleanup in Barbados, which is an annual event, I thought I would visit one of our popular beaches to capture the cleanup effort which was coordinated by the local Barbados chapter of CYEN (Caribbean Youth Environmental Network) and the Future Centre Trust.
The theme this year was "Coast to Boast About:Cleaning with a Meaning."
Across the island all areas are targeted including gullies, roadsides and beaches.
The days beaches were:
 Long Beach,Christ Church
Maxwell, Christ Church
Batt's Rock, St. Michael
Browne's Beach , St. Michael
Brandon's Beach,St. Michael
Brighton, St. Michael
Pile Bay, St. Michael
Six Men’s, St. Peter
Morgan Lewis Beach, St. Andrew

The Sargasso Sea
Sargassum is a free floating algae that grows in the Sargasso Sea, a large body of warm water in the mid-Atlantic.
This remarkable body of water is like a tideless pool encircled by sea oasis....a sanctuary....a dead sea in the middle of a whirling ocean....its name derived from the curious amber-coloured weed that grows there.
There are many types of algae floating in the oceans worldwide, but the Sargasso Sea is unique in that it has a species of sargassum that are "holopelagi" - algae that floats freely around the ocean and reproduces vegetatively on the high seas. Most other seaweeds reproduce and begin life on the ocean floor.
All other seas in the world are defined with a land boundary, but the Sargasso Sea is defined only by ocean currents. It lies within the Northern Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. Its western boundary is The Gulf Stream, while being defined to the north by the North Atlantic Current, the east by the Canary Current, and the south by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. 
The Sargasso Sea has a mat of Sargassum approximately 3,520,000 km² in size; an area three times the size of South Africa!

According to Wikipedia, it was originally named by Portugese sailors as “Sargaco”, due to the resemblance of a rock rose species that grew in their water wells at home.

Under normal circumstances, the currents surrounding the Sargasso Sea work to keep the Sargassum located in the Sargasso Sea, but during this time of the year with strong prevailing winds and storm/hurricane activity, the weed is broken off from the larger mats and dispersed throughout the region by the spiraling currents. The weed is then carried along until it is swept towards the Caribbean islands where local currents wash it ashore. It is a natural phenomenon that occurs cyclically.

I must point out that there are usually small amounts of the weed on our shores from May to September but the large gobs that have been washing up recently are ugly and demand major attention.
Barbados is a tourism-driven economy, and having this unwanted visitor on our beaches is a headache. 
The Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), a department of the Ministry of Environment and Drainage, is  responsible for the management of Barbados' beautiful coastline.  The seaweed's presence is a national worry and daily deployed clean-up crews can hardly keep up.
Yesterday being my jaunt day, I decided to visit Browne's Beach and check in on the cleanup activities.
 Arriving on the beach, everything seemed normal....a lively volleyball game was ongoing.
Pleasure boats were loading up with passengers.

The volunteer cleanup crew from the Children's Variety Club had already cleaned a stretch of the  beach......
........and bagged the seaweed.
However, further down the beach, the Sargassum weed was still there with its pungent smell.
The seaweed is okay when floating in the water, but once it comes ashore, it is slow to decompose resulting in a foul smell.....not a pretty sight or smell for beach goers.
My girlfriend who goes to the beach after work most afternoons mentioned the awful smell and the flies that are attracted to it.

This slimy  free floating algae has been washing ashore our north, south and eastern coasts in gobs.
This species is a macro-algae called Sargussum fluitans (sargassum seaweed), a free-floating algae found on the open sea surface of the Sargasso Sea. In our region it is usually found with Sargasso weed (Sargassum natans) that is native to the Caribbean.
 The Sargussum weed spends its entire life afloat and drifting with ocean currents.  The seaweed mats are home for a variety of animals including crabs, shrimp, and also many species of fish, some of which have adapted specifically to the floating algae.
The Sargasso Sea is a spawning site for white marlin, porbeagle shark and dolphin fish.
The mats provide protection for juvenille sea turtles and are sanctuaries for sea birds as well.
Humpback whales migrate annually through the Sargasso Sea as well as other commercial fish like tuna. The birds that migrate through the Sargasso Sea depend on it for food.
 The floating seaweed mass also plays a major role in the migration of the European Eel and the American Eel. The larvae of both species hatch there and go to Europe or the East Coast of North America. Later in life, they try to return to the Sargasso Sea to lay eggs.
It can't be stated enough that the Sargasso Sea is a special and much needed ecosystem.
The weed is harmless in the water but once ashore is rather unattractive as it  starts to break down giving off a decaying smell.
It grows and multiplies in the sea as it drifts to and fro with no roots to adhere to anything.
The weed has a number of air bladders that resemble grape-like berries on its branches that help it to stay afloat.
No one seems to fully know the origin of this strange  rootless plant.
Our once spotless beaches have been taken over.

By the time I walked back up the beach, the volunteers had filled more bags.....

.......and the beach was pretty again.
For how long though was another matter.
As I wandered back to find Beast, I saw this little crab hustling to wherever he/she was going to...probably knew that as soon as the beach was cleaned, that another wave of seaweed will settle once again on the beach and thus it would be better to move to higher crab!

Hopefully in the future, all the Caribbean region heads will take the time to come up with more innovative ways to fight the seaweed in the future....there just has to be a better way.
My two cents worth here: I would trap it in large boat drawn nets before it even comes shore.
It makes a great fertilizer for garden plants, and one local entrepreneur has made good use of the seaweed.

Sargassum weed entrepreneur Link here
A video of the first invasion in 2011 here. 
The south/south east states of the US as well.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Tooth be told

Yesterday it rained and rained and poured all day long.
It would have been nice to stay indoors, but alas I had an appointment which I had to keep.
I braved the waterlogged roads and the huge raindrops falling from the skies intermixed with thunder and a few streaks of lightning to make sure I kept my appointment.
These appointments are not to be missed, if not you will have to wait for a little while before you can get another one.
Gone are the days when a quick phone call would allow you to pop by for more.
An appointment made a month in advance is a date nurtured on your calendar, a reminder that you are fortunate to have it.
The cozy waiting area in my dentist office
Friendly service awaits through the glass door leading to the surgery
However my appointment this time around was a hurried one made only a couple of days ago when another piece of my tooth came off.  I was put on a cancellation list, and luckily for me someone cancelled their 11am appointment......I was the lucky winner of their time about winning the lottery.
I would have waited any amount of time to see my dentist....she is the most caring and gentle lady with those drills and syringes...... I drift off in total oblivion when she is working with my teeth.
A kindred dog lover and a product of my old alma mater I would not trade her for the world.
My tooth needs a root canal.  In the meanwhile a temporary filling has been applied to my poor tooth.
I will definitely be keeping my upcoming appointments....not a single soul will be fortunate to gain any of them........sorry folks.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A herby tale

During my kitchen renovations, I found myself so caught up with the work that I fell behind on a few promises made.
One promise was to my neighbour to plant a few herbal pots for her.
In between some painting and caulking the cupboard doors one day, I decided I should make good on my promise, especially since the rains were finally coming in after the long dry spell.
Into the garden I went and dug up some seedlings of all the herbs I had growing there, and walked the few steps over to her house.

She has a lovely downstairs patio where the herb pots will reside.

She loves to cook, and was happy that she will no longer have to buy fresh herbs for her culinary sensations.

I planted some of all kinds of everything so that she will be able to create new dishes with her new discovered herbs.

Klaus wanted to know whatever on earth was going on.
Checking up on the progress of the herbs recently, they have taken off and she has also added a few of her other favourites as well.
Time to plant more new pots.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Kindness and another plant nursery visit

It's amazing the kindness that still exists in this world of chaos and hatred towards humankind.
As you know I would give the last shirt on my back to anyone who needed it, and I think nothing of it. However, when the shoe is on the other foot, and I am the recipient of some kind deed, I am ever so grateful and sometimes as my friends put it "don't know how to say thanks and move on because I am always doing for others but find it hard to accept when they do a kind deed for me."

Recently I "inherited" another digital camera but no accessories.  Not knowing whether the camera was still operational and not wanting to just purchase the accessories, I needed to figure out if it was worth my while to even bother with the camera. Thinking to myself that it would be nice to just be able to borrow a charger to check the battery, I headed over to Freecycle Barbados (Facebook group) to state my plight.
Wouldn't you know it, no sooner had I posted about needing assistance with a charger , another member (Carla) posted that she had one and would love to charge my battery for me.
In another post I read of another member (Leslie) with a dish cover she no longer was the exact cover for my white French lucky was that?

Yesterday I decided to take the drive out to the south of the island where both items could be picked up.
Leslie had left the dish cover to be collected at one of my favourite plant nurseries (before they moved so far away from my beaten path.)
It was nice to be able to visit once again.

I saw quite a few plants that I used to have in the older days.

Plants that I should consider replacing.....

The orchids were in bloom.

More plants I used to have.

These miniature baby pink kalanchoe caught my eye.

Pots galore!!!!

Heavens to Mercury Troy!!!  I actually came away without purchasing any new plants....that deserves a hundred pats on my back.
Leaving this oasis of loveliness behind, I headed onwards to meet Carla, who turned out to be one of the nicest young people I have ever met.
Instead of allowing her to charge my battery, I asked her to test her battery in my camera, and voila it sprung to life.  Thanking her for her time and generous spirit, I ventured over to the supermarket across the street and left her with a mid morning snack as my thank you.

Stopping by to visit another girlfriend along the way, I was gifted with these.
 Thanks Susan!!!

Kindness, kindness, kindness all around.
Thank you everyone for everything.
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