Monday, September 28, 2015

The Queen Conch

As I am sitting down to write three mini-episodes I am reflecting on the animals and plants make the Florida Keys such a magical and unique place. The Keys are home to a large and diverse ecosystem, but for me personally the animals I think embody the Florida Keys are cassiopeia jellyfish, dolphins,  and of course conch! Of all the animals I would like to study in the series, it seems fitting to begin with the conch because Key West is the Conch Republic, after all!

I can remember finding Queen Conch from the beaches to the snorkeling trips we took into the back country. Every time we found one it was such special treat! If you waited just long enough, you would see the remarkable blue and black, or yellow and black eyes emerge from the shell. Just like these:

Photo by Brianna Larson
My Mother used to take my brother and I out with Captain Victoria and I loved it when you stumbled upon a Conch. It would be crawling along the sea bed, and it was really only noticeable by the crown of the shell because if the Conch did it's job right it's shell was covered with sand and sometimes plants to help it blend in with the sea floor. We would pick it up excited to see if the Conch was still housed inside of if it was a vacant shell. Sometimes you would turn the shelf over to be met with not the peaceful eyes of a Conch but the eyes, claws and legs of a hermit crab! If there was a Conch inside the snail would retreat into the shell, using their nail as the front door and they just dead bolted it! My mother and Captain Victoria taught me that the Conch's nail was called an "operculum".  The little Conch in the picture above is too young to have a fully formed operculum and can't lock themselves away all the way yet. Overtime a Conch was found big or small it was a treasure we all shared. It reminds me now what a delightful treat it can be exploring the Florida Keys, and how if you are patient enough the wonders of the Florida Keys' ocean will reveal themselves.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My Donation Letter

My name is Kate Schiffman and my dream is to make a TV series for children about the aquatic world. I have a deep-rooted infatuation of the sea and specifically the Florida Keys that has been fostered throughout my life by Captain Victoria. Victoria has fondly remarked that I “grew up on her boat” because I was lucky enough to come to Key West year after year and take her wilderness adventure tours. This love I have for The Florida Keys manifested itself in the form of an idea last year: to record Captain Victoria's vast knowledge of her marine world and share her love of, affection for, and connection to the aquatic world of the Keys West by creating an educational series for children young and old.

Over two decades have passed since I spent my first summer with Captain Victoria. I am now a Montessori preschool teacher in Madison, Wisconsin. Recently, I have begun taking classes to complete a Marine Science degree, and in creating this television series, I will connect my passion for the sea with my love of educating.

Captain Victoria's connection to Key West's natural world is almost palpable and she delights in educating as many people as she can about her world and sharing her expertise. Individuals who charter her are left with both an understanding of the importance of the ocean's ecosystem and fondness for the plants, animals, and creatures that live there. My television series will recreate the wonderful, almost magical experiences Victoria shares on her charter boat tours and bring these experiences to a large audience. It is my hope that in sharing Victoria's life passion, children (and adults) will develop a lifelong bond with the ocean (as I have) and become caretakers and adventurers of the sea.
We are in the beginning stages of filming this series as an independent, grassroots venture on a shoestring budget. It is our vision that our pilot short film will evolve into a larger educational series exploring marine ocean life. We are hoping to raise over $3,000.00 before October so we can afford to make a pilot episode and trailer. Please consider donating to help make our dream a reality. Small and large donations alike are equally welcome. Donations can be given on Indiegogo under the name of Tidal Tales: Featuring Captain Victoria, or click the link below:

Kate Schiffman