During January, the water temperature along the Gulf Coast dropped to a cool 60 degrees. Like me, our local sea cows (officially known as West Indian Manatees (Trichechus manatus)), aren’t fond of cold water. Though they appear quite blubbery, manatees do not have a thick layer of fat, most of their chest cavity contains their massive lungs.
Therefore, these floating potatoes migrate seasonally to warmer waters, often up rivers to one of Florida’s over 700 springs. I don’t blame them, those natural upwellings average 72 degrees year round.
Fortunately for the manatees residing in the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Electric’s Big Bend power generating station releases warm water every day. Even better, this output raises the local water temperature to a balmy 78 degrees.
I finally had a chance to visit the adjacent manatee viewing center this past weekend. Considering it was a chilly and breezy day, the manatees certainly were more comfortable than I was! While I’ve encountered manatees before this was my first time with such a large number of them.
As you might imagine, it wasn’t the most action-packed morning. Manatees can rest up to 12 hours a day. The highlights of the visit were watching Sheepshead fish eat algae off the backs of manatees and giggling over the constant stream of bubbles from manatee farts. Riveting, let me tell you!