A Natural, Healthy Coral Reef off the Texas Coast?

Photo courtesy of KHOU.com. "If you go about a hundred miles offshore, you can dive in crystal clear blue water as beautiful as anything in the Caribbean and behold a natural wonder so stunning fishermen a century ago nicknamed it the Texas Flower Garden. "
Photo courtesy of KHOU.com. “If you go about a hundred miles offshore, you can dive in crystal clear blue water as beautiful as anything in the Caribbean and behold a natural wonder so stunning fishermen a century ago nicknamed it the Texas Flower Garden. “

Yes! Not only do we have one, but one of the few thriving coral reefs left in the world!

It’s kind of a well kept secret here.

…And who would guess off the coast of Galveston?

Photo courtesy of KHOU.com
Photo courtesy of KHOU.com

Some say traveling to Texas “is like a whole other country” with the biodiversity this state has. We may not have the most gorgeous state in the union, but we do have variety. Many people travel the world to see what we have in our own backyard. Growing up in Houston, I had heard of the Flower Gardens, but never had gone there. Also, not that many people really knew that much about it.  Going to Galveston as a kid, and playing in the murky water, it is hard to image a natural, lush tropical coral reef just miles off shore.

Pretty cool, huh?

Just as a side note, the Nearshore project has been working on man-made coral reefs by sinking ships and other objects to attract marine life just off the coast of Port Aransas and South Padre Island. So now you can dive Texas.

Marine-Life-Galveston-new-LEAD
Photo courtesy of KHOU.com

Read the article from KHOU 11 News:

by Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News khou.com

 Updated Wednesday, Jun 11 at 10:46 PM

GALVESTON, Texas — When you think about Galveston, you probably picture sun and surf, maybe the Pleasure Pier or sometimes seaweed, but you probably don’t think about great diving.

Small wonder, when you consider what you see when stand on the seawall and look at the murky chocolate water splashing ashore. But if you go about a hundred miles offshore, you can dive in crystal clear blue water as beautiful as anything in the Caribbean and behold a natural wonder so stunning fishermen a century ago nicknamed it the Texas Flower Garden.

Photos: Go diving in the Texas Flower Garden

“A lot of people are surprised to find out that there is an exceptional coral reef off the coast of Texas,” said G.P. Schmahl, the superintendant of the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary. “When people come down to the shoreline in Galveston and other parts of Texas and see the kind of brown, muddy water, it doesn’t even occur to them that there could be a coral reef in these waters,”

In fact, the coral reefs in the sanctuary host a colorful collection of sea life divers travel the world to behold. Curious manta rays and spotted eagle rays approach divers. Colorful parrotfish share the ecosystem with moray eels. And the concentration of coral is larger than anywhere else in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean.

“What I love to see is divers who’ve never been there,” said Emma Hickerson, a NOAA research coordinator working on the sanctuary. “And the first time they come out of the water with these huge grins on their faces. And they said they have no idea what was out here. And mostly, they say, ‘Wow! There’s so much coral!’”

The sanctuary actually encompasses three separate areas, underwater salt domes that stand higher than the surrounding ocean floor. Snapper and grouper fishermen who saw the colorful sponges and other marine life under their boats are credited with discovering the ecological wonder in the late 19th century. The area was designated as a national marine sanctuary in 1992 and it’s now managed under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“People will travel the world to see what we have right here off the coast of Texas,” Hickerson said. “So people will travel the world to see manta rays, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, spotted eagle rays, and we’ve got them right here at the Flower Garden Banks.”

At a time when coral reefs around the world are in decline, Flower Garden Banks is thriving largely because it’s so remote it attracts comparatively few divers. National Marine Sanctuaries researchers who routinely visit the site in a specially designed $3.8-million vessel say they’ve found fragments of clay pigeons on the reef indicating visitors have shot skeet off of their boats in the area. But they say most of the thousands of divers who visit every year take care to avoid disturbing the ecologically sensitive site.

“The Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary is what the Great Barrier Reef used to look like.” said Bill Kiene, a NOAA scientist working with the sanctuary. “It is actually one of the healthiest coral reefs in all the western hemisphere. And it’s very close to Galveston.”

But even for experienced divers, an expedition to Flower Garden Banks can prove challenging. Strong currents churn through the gulf waters surrounding the reefs, which lie about 60 feet beneath the surface.

Still, the dive can be especially rewarding on the one night in August – seven to ten days after the full moon — when the coral spawn.

“It looks like an underwater snowstorm.” Hickerson said. “Every year we get witness the birth of a new reef. It’s a most spectacular event to see.”

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Sylvan Beach Park ~OR~ Who would go to the beach to use the internet!?

I just had to add this since this is my hometown in LaPorte, Texas….

Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches

Beautiful Sylvan Beach Park Beautiful Sylvan Beach Park

Sylvan Beach Park It’s super clean!

Sylvan Beach Park Lots of Grassy Space

Last month, when my mom and dad were visiting for my nephew’s birthday, I managed to reach whole new echelons of busy.  I’m not going to go into detail here, but suffice it to say that I have four jobs, and they’re all over the very large Houston metropolitan area.  Happily, one day during my parents’ visit, I had a five hour gap between jobs C and D.  I met the family in town for lunch, and then we poked around on my brother-in-law’s cell phone to see what we would do with the rest of my little pocket of time.  Long story short, we found a beach really close to my late-afternoon job and made a bee-line for it.

Our Birthday Boy Our Birthday Boy

Sylvan Beach Park is a lovely, quiet little beach on Galveston Bay (on the mainland side)…

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Time Ticks after the Typhoon Tragedy

Typhoon-Haiyan-philippines-super-storm-05
Typhoon Haiyan super storm slams Philippines.
Photo courtesy of http://static2.parade.com

The clouds are angry; the wind and torrential rain are beating on your simple home. You figure that you are quite inland, so your area may avoid some floods. However, the winds and rains continue to pummel your home, and you glance toward the direction of the sea and notice the tidal surge is heading your way. You are recovering from surgery after having a baby a few months earlier. Your husband is in the military and is away on duty. You look at your four children and pray to God for help and inspiration. Soon you venture outside in the pounding rain and see a man heading for the hills. You ask him to help your children. He wades through the flooding streets, and takes them to the town water tower and helps lift them up to safety. You follow behind painfully slowly, and he lifts you up too.

Over the next couple of days the waters recede back into the ocean, and all you see is total devastation. Your entire neighborhood is flattened. There is no sign of life. As the days roll on, you smell the decay. You’ve got to get out of there for your children. Your children cry from hunger and thirst. You’ve got to get out…

It has been almost a week. You made your way to another town where you will be boarding a boat to another island. The ride will be slow and long. You will arrive in two days. You and your children and the good Samaritan survived. The rest of your neighborhood perished. You look at your children and pray…

This is the true story.
One of the nuns from my son’s Catholic school was telling me this story about her sister back in the Philippines. According to her, over 75% of the residents of the town have passed away.

Not only did the people in the Philippines endure a record setting typhoon that made Katrina pale in comparison, but now the struggle continues as food, water, and bare necessities are virtually impossible to find.

We here in the USA tend to be very generous. However, if you choose to give to help the people there, be careful as there are many scams already happening. My elderly mom has received many phone calls to give to this or that relief fund, but I told her I would research the best place. I decided to give through the Catholic diocese since all of the nuns at the local Catholic church are from the Philippines and maintain close ties to home. Since my husband and his family are from the Philippines, we know several people from the local Phil-Am organization. That would be another good place to check into since these people maintain strong ties to their original homeland.

As for the people in the Philippines, the road to recovery will be a rocky one. They do need our prayers and donations immediately.

Remember Golliad?

At the entrance of Presidio la Bahia
At the entrance of Presidio la Bahia
Presidio la Bahia
Inside the walls of Presidio la Bahia
Inside the La Bahia Catholic Mission
Inside the La Bahia Catholic Mission

While assisting on a field trip with my daughter’s class, I also had the opportunity to learn a little more about coastal Texas history. The town of Golliad is just over an hour away from Corpus Christi.

According to, texas-on-line.com, Golliad of Texas’ oldest towns and is an area was inhabited long before recorded history. “Early Spanish explorers list an Aranama Indian village at the site, then called Santa Dorotea. In 1749, Spain established a mission and, as was custom, a nearby Presidio (fort) for protection,” hence the name Presido La Bahia (the bay).

Just three weeks after the deadly massacre of Texans at the Alamo by Santa Anna, was the horrible massacre of Texans in Golliad. The Texans were completely outnumbered by the Mexican troops.Santa Anna told his troops to execute the prisoners at Golliad, so they were divided into three groups and shot in the field. The victims of these two horrendous massacres became martyrs that led up to victory at Harrisburg in Houston.” [Along with “Remember the Alamo”], “Remember Goliad” became a Texas Revolution battle cry honoring Col. James W. Fannin Jr. and his men who were massacred at Goliad. memorial services at grave of Colonel Fannin and his troops on weekend near March 27.”

With all of the bloodshed at the site, there are many ghost stories that surround the town. According to www.texastravelstop.com , “there are many stories of ghosts among the walls of the Presidio La Bahia. Some say they have heard the cries of children coming from the graves within the courtyard. Others have spotted a monk in a hooded robe roaming the grounds. Legend has it one must be deathly still while in its presence, as it is a mean-spirited apparition.”

Señora de Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga at Golliad State Park
Señora de Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga at Golliad State Park

Haunted or not, Golliad is probably my favorite haunts to learn a little more about Texas history. For one, it is so less commercialized than the Alamo. Also, the town is quaint and has a charm of its own. On the second Saturday of each month, they have Market Days which various crafters and artisians sell their wares. Many of the same folks at the Golliad State Park showing how the pioneers made their necessary materials also sell some of their wares at the Market Days.

Women spinning naturally dyed wool into yarn and later weaving it into cloth.
Women spinning naturally dyed wool into yarn and later weaving it into cloth.
Grinding dried corn into masa for tortillas.
Grinding dried corn into masa for tortillas.
A leather smith shows off a horse tail adornment.
A leather smith shows off a horse tail adornment.
Every citizen of Spain had to know how to make lace so that skill made its way to Mexico and Texas.
Every citizen of Spain had to know how to make lace so that skill made its way to Mexico and Texas.
Metal smiths forging metal into tools and decorative items.
Metal smiths forging metal into tools and decorative items.