This is a waterspout accompanied by a lighting strike, photographed over Lake Okeechobee in Florida. A sister of the tornado, waterspouts are generally less powerful. They occur when high layers of cool air blow across a body of water while warm moist air sweeps up from below. They appear as thin columns with the funnels sucking up water.

Waterspouts can vary in size from a few feet to more than a mile in height, and from a few feet to hundreds of feet wide.

These water twisters can move anywhere from 2 to 80 miles an hour. Winds within the waterspout can spiral around at 60-120 miles an hour.

Waterspouts, like their land counterparts, can pick up and transport some interesting objects. They have sent showers of tadpoles in New York, and even toads in France. One in Providence, Rhode Island, rained fish down on the people, who promptly collected and sold them!


For a video of a waterspout, see here:

Photo courtesy of Fred K. Smith,

Counting souls: Archaeologist investigates dead of 1928 storm

PORT MAYACA, FLA. — They are the ghosts of Port Mayaca. On that long-ago day in 1928, when the big water took them, the world was a different place.

Most of them didn’t have a telephone, or a car, or even a radio when the storm hit. And few could have imagined the orange box on a stick, filled with strange noises and images, bolted to a tire, that a young archaeologist named Shawn Patch would roll across their graves 85 years later.

Last week, Patch was using a futuristic tool to solve a great mystery: How many are buried here?

Cemetery Director Art Ivester’s wondered as well. Now, armed with a $5,000 state grant, he’s brought in ground-penetrating radar that, after 85 years, might - might - solve the mystery once and for all.

When the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane, most likely the second-biggest killer event in American history, washed out Lake Okeechobee, killing as many as 3,000, desperate authorities who were worried about epidemics buried the dead wherever they could, or burned them in horrific pyres. Read more.


Perhaps the largest environmental challenge Florida is facing is the need to restore the Everglades. This is a problem that goes well beyond South Florida.

The headwaters of the Everglades is the seemingly insignificant swamp in southern Orange County. From there The water flows into Shingle Creek and then into Lake Tohopekaliga. The flow continues south into Lake Kissimmee and the Kissimmee River (which due to dredging that resulted in the loss of thousands of acres of wetlands now resembles a canal rather than a river).

The Kissimmee River empties into Lake Okeechobee where the water is then diverted from its natural flow and much of the water is directed to either coast of Florida, which has lead to several environmental disasters and the loss of many fragile coastal habitats. 

While restoration is a daunting task I am hopeful since the passing of Amendment 1 that we can get the ball rolling on this daunting task.



The western part of this county, it’s not like the east side. The farmland, Everglades, and Lake Okeechobee won’t allow for sprawl; and people, well, they don’t move here. This is still Florida, but there aren’t any beaches. Here, you can watch the sun slide behind the horizon because there’s not much to get in its way. And the nights, they’re quiet like you’d expect. Sure, there’re a few cars on the main road, but most everyone is home by that time. 

There’s something ominous about the vast sugar cane fields and small farming towns that make up this part of Palm Beach County: when you’re out here, you feel isolated, but never alone. Conversely, out here there’s hope to be found amongst the land, but maybe more accurately it’s relief—relief that there’s something much bigger than you. 

* * *

Brian McSwain was born and raised in New Orleans, but currently resides in South Florida. While a psychology graduate student, he spends the time he should be using to study on photography. Find him on Tumblr at, follow him on Instagram and see his work on Flickr.


Coral Castle, Homestead, Florida

Right from Florida City on State 205 is ED’S PLACE (10 c.), 1 m., a house of oolitic rock equipped with huge rock furnishings; it has massive chairs weighing from 700 to 1500 pounds, a 3,000 pound rock couch, tables, beds, and rocking chairs.  A map of Florida has been hewn from a one-ton slab, in which a punch bowl filled with clear water represents Lake Okeechobee.

 - Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State (WPA, 1939)

The Coral Castle is hard to miss.  It sits alongside the South Dixie Highway (US Highway 1) in Homestead, Florida, south of Miami.  Its thick gray stone walls look almost otherworldly next to the stucco apartment blocks and strip malls that make up the neighborhood.

The Coral Castle is famous, in its way.  It has been a backdrop for B movies, and Billy Idol filmed a music video there.  A 1981 episode of Rod Serling’s In Search of… sought to explain its construction. 

Over the years, people have mythologized Edward Leedskalnin, the eccentric Latvian immigrant who built the place single-handed.  The Coral Castle came to seem like a monument to true love, quite possibly constructed with the aid of magic. 

The Coral Castle is kind of beautiful.  It is a uniquely American place, and its history is fascinating.  But it was built without supernatural assistance, and it is a monument to loneliness and obsession rather than romance.

Keep reading