Saturday, January 12, 2008


Learn about maritime heritage


Tallahassee Democrat
By Bonnie Holub
January 12, 2208

Some people fish for tarpon — the silvery, scaly kind — and other folks dive for Tarpon, an ocean-going vessel that now lies beneath the sea near Panama City Beach.

The steamer SS Tarpon and her skipper, Capt. Willis Green Barrow, were famous along the northern Gulf Coast of Florida in the early 1900s. Making weekly trips delivering passengers and cargo to the ports of Mobile, Pensacola, St. Andrews Bay, Apalachicola and Carrabelle, Capt. Barrow was extolled for his relentless dependability in spite of threats from storms and hurricanes, claiming, "God makes the weather, and I make the trip."

On Sept. 1, 1937, God's weather ended Barrow's trip. Laden with flour, sugar, canned goods, iron, beer and barrels of fuel oil, the Tarpon's freeboard, or distance between the waterline and deck, measured less than 5 inches. Gale-force winds and a leak in the bow proved too much for the ship to weather and sent the Tarpon, her captain and 17 of 30 other people on board to the bottom of the bay. Today, scuba divers explore the remains of the Tarpon in one of nine Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserves. The preserves, or underwater parks, feature shipwrecks and other sunken historic sites.

Folks at the Big Bend Maritime Center in Panacea invite you to learn more about Florida's historic shipwrecks, underwater preserves, lighthouses and fishing families of the Big Bend by participating in a five-part public discussion series called "The Maritime Trail." The discussion series sets sail on Thursday, Jan. 24, with a documentary about the contemporary life of fishing families in Cortez and Cedar Key. The film, "In Their Own Words: Perseverance and Resilience in Two Florida Fishing Communities," is a collaboration of maritime anthropologist Michael Jepson and photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr. It explores how these communities have responded to dramatic changes in their traditional way of life.

Other dates, topics and guest speakers in the series are:

Feb. 28: "Folklife and Maritime Heritage"
Tina Bucuvalas, Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation

March 27: "Shipwrecks of the Big Bend"
Debra Shefi, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research

April 24: "Prehistoric Human Evidence in Apalachee Bay"
Michael Faught, Pan American Consultants

May 22: "Lighthouses of the Big Bend"
Andrew Edel, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Each program is from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Tallahassee Community College Wakulla Service Center in Crawfordville. During the first half-hour, participants are invited to socialize and enjoy refreshments. The series is free, and no reservations are required.

"The Maritime Trail" discussion series is made possible by a grant from the Florida Humanities Council.

For information about the series, contact Bill Lowrie, executive director, Big Bend Maritime Center, at 962-4138 (daytime). For directions to Tallahassee Community College Wakulla Service Center, call 922-6290.


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