Aliens, Manatees and the Kennedy Space Center

A light pressure gradient over Florida with development of onshore breezes in the afternoons has been keeping beaches mostly cloud free the first week of June, 2015. These less than favorable thermodynamic conditions have led to a weak start to rainy season in Florida with only 20 - 30% chances of rain over inland areas most days. It has been our hottest-ever spring and in most places the driest.

Read more about Florida's Hot and Dry Spring-Summer 2015 here:

May 2015 Hotter and Drier than Normal

During a visit to Kennedy Space Center and Playalinda Beach on Saturday I decided to fly my alien kite as an homage to the aliens that I suspect are kept on the vast Kennedy Space Center property. The security zone for Kennedy Space Center stretches 20 miles in all directions. For conservationists and wildlife lovers the security zone has been invaluable as many square miles of the Merritt Island area have been preserved due to the presence of the space center, for security reasons rather than any altruistic bent by the U.S. Government toward preserving wildlife.

It was another mostly human-free day at the beaches with only a few pelicans, some shorebirds and sea gulls for company. Above, the skies are littered with contrails as hundreds of jets pass overhead every hour. I often look up wondering where all those jets are coming from and going to. . .

The persistent dry weather pattern over Florida may start to break down on June 10 when a week trough (relatively lower pressure) moves into the eastern USA even though the bulk of the energy will remain far north of Florida.

The southern side of the trough may pinch off over Texas and the western Gulf of Mexico mid-week creating a moist west-southwest flow over Florida. The dynamics will looking something like the diagram above with both the east and west coast sea breeze moving inland and colliding over east central Florida late in the day, leading to increased rainfall.

Maybe. . . however, this could be another false start to rainy season. Long range computer forecast models predict another hot and dry weekend ahead June 13-14.

Below: Don't try this shot without special filters and sunglasses. Even then I could see spots for a few minutes after aiming my Canon Rebel EOS 5xsi directly into the sun to get the shot of the kite blocking sun. SLR or Single-lens reflex cameras use mirrors and prisms to reflect light so one captures exactly what they see. This is different from viewfinder camera where the image can be significantly different from what one perceives. Reflecting direct sunlight into one's eye is ill-advised.

Below: The Space X launch facility at Kennedy Space Center has taken on a futuristic look with giant towers maybe 200-feet tall all around the old Space Shuttle launch sites.

The towers, relics from the old Titan Launch Pad look all the larger with the space shuttle launch gantrys missing. The towers were built in the 1990s to support the U.S. Air Force Titan 4 rocket program. Read more about this very interesting-looking installation at:

Titan Launch Pad Tower Blown Up at Cape Canaveral

The towers function to redirect lightning in the immediate area of the SpaceX launch pad.

This shot, from miles away was made with a long lens. I did manage to capture a little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) coming in for landing on a virtually dry pond in the Canaveral National Seashore, Playalinda Beach area.

Below: Goofing around with one of the many radar domes found within the Space Center property around Mosquito Lagoon, east of Titusville, Florida.

Do they keep the aliens here?

As some movie writers have hinted the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center is more likely the holding area for any aliens we currently possess. The building is visible for miles in the distance.

Below: The VAB sunlit while photograph is made from the shadow of a cloud. The VAB is one of the world's largest buildings by volume at 129,428,000 cubic feet (3,664,883 cubic meters) and can be seen from just about anywhere in the Canaveral National Seashore, Playlinda Beach area.

For size comparison the Vehicle Assembly Building is equal to the volume of 3.75 Empire State Buildings. Its volume is nearly double that of the Pentagon (77,025,000 cubic feet). The Statue of Liberty is 305 feet tall (93 m) versus the VAB which is 525 feet tall (160 m).

For now, I got no real alien photos so we'll have to settle for my alien kite photos.

The orange-ish color of the sand is a result of coquina rocks offshore dissolving and washing in with the waves. Coquina are a sedimentary rock that are composed of fragments of shells and other invertebrates.

I braved the ocean for a couple of bath-water like swims. The ocean temperature was nearly 90° F (32° C). Then I spent a few minutes in the sun reeling in the alien kite. Mostly I try to stay under an umbrella and covered with SPF 70+ sunscreen, especially on these hottest days of summer.

Below: My view from under my umbrella.

Below: A water thermometer in the Haulover Canal indicating current temperatures of the water (not the air).

The Haulover is populated with hundreds of Manatees (Trichechus manatus) and they congregate near the center of the canal on most days.

The white spots on the manatees tails are scars from collisions with boat propellors.

Haulover Canal

Native Americans, explorers and settlers hauled or carried canoes and small boats over the narrow strip of land between Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River. Eventually it became known as the "haulover."

This huge manatee was missing a quarter of his tail from a boat collision.

Connecting both bodies of water had long plagued early settlers of the area. Spaniards visited as early as 1605 and slid boats over the ground covered with mulberry tree bark. Early settlers used rollers and skids to drag schooners across. For Ann was established near the Haulover Canal in 1837, during the 2nd Seminole War (1835-1842), to protect the haulover from Indians and carry military supplies from the lagoon to the river.

In 1852, contractor G.E. Hawes dug the first canal using slave labor. It was 3 ft. deep, 14 ft. wide, and completed in time for the 3rd Seminole War (1856-1858). It is interesting to note that as a percentage of gross national product the Florida Wars (Seminole Wars) were the most expensive in human and monetary terms ever waged by the United States.

Steamboat and cargo ships used the passage until the railroad arrived in 1885. By 1887, the Florida Coast Line Canal and Transportation Co. dug a new and deeper canal which is what we visit today, a short distance from the orignial.

The Intracoastal Waterway incorporated the Haulover Canal as a federal project in 1927 to be maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since then the channel has been dug wider and deeper, and a basin was added to launch boats.

Click on this or any image at

Phillip's Natural World

for a larger view

There is no swimming or fishing allowed in Haulover Canal, though on this weekend there were several boaters casting lines. The ban on swimming and fishing is due to the presence of so many endangered manatees.

Below: Shielding the sun. What did I do with my hat?

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Below: At least the sign doesn't say "no photos." This is warning posted at the Hwy 3, Courtenay Parkway North Entrance to the Security Zone of the Kennedy Space Center (near Oak Hill, Florida). Heading south to the right is the Mosquito Lagoon. The Indian River is on the left.