Friday, September 28, 2018


After Bouchercon we headed up to Indian Rocks which is on the part of the island chain known as Pinellas. As we were heading up, something more deadly was heading down.

We thought we were doing well. Hurricane Florence was moving northwards to do her damage. Helene had turned back to Europe as we were still in the USA and Isaac had decided to turn south towards the BVI.  Ali was at home, waiting for us but while he brought a few trees down in and around our area, there was no sense of anything other than it being ‘a bit blowy’. Down south had it much worse than us. 


Hurricane Ali did give our local red top the opportunity of a headline that they must have been waiting for, a once in a lifetime chance. And they took it. The headline said

 ‘Super Ali went ballistic. High winds are atrocious.’

(if in doubt sing it!)

Well done them.


As we were saying hello to Bob and Miho at our accommodation, he told us that the red tide was a few miles up the beach. We looked blank and he explained that they had a ‘whole ton of dead fish right up on the beach’. He explained it was a natural phenomenon (I was ready to get all environmental as is my tendency),  it happens every few years but this one was a bad one, and it was tenacious. They didn’t think it was going to get as far as Indian Rocks but I could sense some concern. Of course it now has and the local economy has taken a huge hit. 

We arrived on the Wednesday. On Thursday, I found one dead fish on the beach, on the Friday there was a dead fish every four feet or so. We went back to photograph the sunset on the Friday night as had become our habit. Bob had provided a trolley and an umbrella, seats and a cool box. We sat on the beach for 90 minutes watching the sun going down and taking a few thousand photographs of spectacular cloud formations which, I was told by a patient who was a meteorologist, might have been the result of Florence doing her stuff over to the east/north ??

There was the usual thunder and lightning. Thursday night we had sheet lightening which all Scots are allergic to so we picked up our stuff and ran for it. HWMBI didn’t even put his socks on and got really bad blisters in his run for safety. For twenty minutes maybe half an hour, it was like living in a black and white film, all movement was staccato and monochrome. I thought it would be a great time to commit a murder.

By Friday night, on the beach looking at the dead fish under the sunset, I was moaning that my contact lenses were being irritated by the sun. So was HWMBI, and he doesn’t wear them. Then I asked for my inhaler as I started wheezing, so did he and he’s not asthmatic, then we noticed our fellow sunset worshippers were coughing and covering their faces. The smog of the red tide was rolling up the beach.It seems that the Florida Department Of Health had recommended people should steer clear of the beach and those living near the shore (i.e. up to a mile inland) should close windows and run their air conditioners with a high quality filter.

It is unheard of here, but Americans seem to be familiar with it. The red algae bloom kills just about everything. We did notice that the birds were not touching the dead bodies of the fish, but no doubt the live fish they were plucking out the sea were affected in some way and so the devastation works its way up the food chain.

The southwest coast of Florida has now been affected by the algae kareniabrevis( short Karen?) for 10 months. It has been of the coast of Florida since October 2017, and this bloom is the most persistent seen in a decade.

The problem seems to be when the conditions are favourable for the algae, it blooms to an extent that it cuts off all oxygen to any other life and then the production of a toxin that harms the nervous system of fish really starts to get hold.

The algae and the toxin produce a marine environmentwhere sea turtles and manatees getconfused and can eat contaminated sea grass.  Then they too fall prey.

There are many heart breaking sights in the world but not many are worse than the sight of a washed up carcass of a manatee. (92 have died since Feb 2018, 800 in 2013 and 50 in 2017).

There are good people doing rescue programmes esp. for the sea turtles. It can take two months to get the toxin out of a turtles’ system.
And why does it happen. Let me climb onto my environmental soapbox here. Red tide has been around since the late 1600’s in documentation.  It seems to be growing quicker, more frequently and more concentrated as CO2 in the atmosphere increase… so that will be global warming then.

What a depressing blog.


Here’s nice sunset  to finish with.

Caro Ramsay


  1. I imagine this would make an ideal subject for a science fiction story if it wasn't actually science fact happening now.

    Scary stuff (and not just the pictures of so many washed up, dead fish, all of whom have a look of open-mouthed shock on their faces).

  2. And very insidious. As it was so recent, there was no smell of rotting fish just a faint tinge of sharpness in the air that built as the day went on. And it can be deadly to humans.

  3. There's a reason I prefer eating chicken.

  4. Caro, thanks for the relief of the sunsets at the end. One can't take enough picture of sunsets. Or full moons.


    Eeeeeeekkkk! That algae! Or something like it, it seems is also affecting the icecap. Scarier than the dead fish.