One fine day in 2012 sun-seekers at Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida, saw something that they never expected to see. At first the beachgoers thought that it was just seaweed beneath the surface, but then they realized the floating dark forms were actually sea creatures.
For many locals and tourists alike, a day out at Fort Lauderdale Beach is the perfect way to spend a warm day. But a few years ago some sun-worshippers got a bit of a shock when they spotted something in the water, very close to the shore.
At Fort Lauderdale Beach it wouldn’t be unusual to see hordes of teenagers enjoying the spring break vacation. After all, every year high school kids flock to the area to let off steam and party. However, on one weekend in May 2012 the beach had some visitors of a very different kind.
It was a beautiful spring day and beachgoers were soaking up the sun as the crystal clear turquoise water lapped gently at the shore. But then, out of the blue, some people began to notice something strange lurking in the water.
One person who was there that day was Craig Hossack. He decided to record what happened next, and his epic footage ended up being picked up by Local 10 News. Clearly, what was on the video was pretty remarkable.
Hossack’s footage captures the moment that a bunch of swimmers are enjoying the shallow waters and south Florida sunshine. The video shows them frolicking in the warm ocean and peering at something just below the surface. At first, it’s not entirely clear what the fuss is all about.
But just beyond the shoreline a few dark shadows are clearly visible. The shapes look like they might be rock formations or perhaps clumps of seaweed. However, the people in the water seem far too interested for that to be the case.
Amazingly, it turned out that the series of large objects just beneath the water’s surface was a group of visiting manatees. Although the creatures were known to inhabit Florida’s waters, Fort Lauderdale Beach regulars were not used to seeing them so close to the sand.
The visiting sea cows delighted beachgoers that day, bringing flocks of people to the shore to have a look. Hossack, who filmed the footage of the manatees, recalled being amazed when he first saw the creatures sticking their snouts out of the water. “This is awesome, you don’t get to see this every day,” he told Local 10 News. “And for them to be so close, that’s what really took me by surprise.”
He described how there were five manatees visiting the area that day. Hossack also told the Sun Sentinel how four young ones were all “bumping noses” and fighting for their mother’s attention as they floated by the beach.
It was clearly an amazing sight to behold for everyone who was there. An no one was more impressed than Hossack’s wife Gina, who witnessed the playful troupe swimming near the shoreline for 30 minutes. “It’s like they enjoyed the audience,” she told Local 10 News.
And that audience soon grew in number as word of the special visitors spread. “The lifeguards tried to keep everyone back because everyone just wanted to be a part of it,” Gina added. However, it was clear that a number of Fort Lauderdale Beach regulars were a little wary of the creatures, given that they don’t usually frequent the area.
Some people were happy to stand in the water next to the mammals, while others were clearly more comfortable giving the creatures some extra space. After all, Florida’s tourism website reminds people to exercise “manatee manners” whenever they come across the animals.
Broadly, showcasing “manatee manners” means treating the sea cows with respect. Consequently, touching the creatures is strictly off limits. The rules are designed to save the mammals from “harm, harassment and disturbance,” according to Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, where a huge concentration of manatees reside.
One thing that humans are supposed to do when they come across manatees is to allow the animals plenty of room. You’re also not supposed to poke the creatures, feed them or corner them. And very importantly, separating a mother from its baby is prohibited too.
Bearing in mind sea cows must come to the water’s surface around every five minutes in order to breathe, it’s highly important not to block the animals’ path. That means that people in kayaks or those using paddle boards must make sure not to trap manatees beneath them.
Interestingly, although manatees reside in the water, their nearest relative is actually the elephant, which might come as bit of a surprise. But it makes sense if you consider that both mammals are rather cumbersome. Elephants are also herbivorous, while manatees feed mostly on plant matter, too.
In the same way you’d see a herd of elephants spending hours a day drinking or munching on leaves, manatees too spend a large portion of their time feeding. The creatures eat for between six and eight hours a day, while they spend between two and twelve hours sleeping.
And while it was more likely that a manatee would be spotted in Florida than an elephant, people on the beach in Fort Lauderdale that day were still totally mesmerized by the creatures. And no one more so than Gina Hossack.
“That for me was like a gift, you know, because who gets to see that?” she told Local News 10. “It was like a miracle to see that, it was beautiful.” Moreover, although she and her husband would dearly love to see the creatures again one day, Craig Hossack isn’t holding out much hope. “That will never happen again in my lifetime,” he said.