Bottle With Travel-Loving Tennessee Man’s Ashes Bobbing Along Florida Keys

We all have our own ideas of what happens after we die. For the late Gordon Scott Smith of Tennessee, his goal was to ensure that his lifelong love of travel carried on into the afterlife. Or, you know, at least ensured his cremated remains saw some scenic places. Scott’s widow, Beverly Smith, carried out her husband of 27 years wishes by putting his ashes, two dollars, and a note in a bottle, and setting it afloat off of Big Pine Key, Florida, in March, 2012, reports WCVB. The money was so recipients could make phone calls to Smith with updates on Scott’s whereabouts.The bottle washed ashore further south in the Florida Keys, in Islamorada. It was discovered by a man named Ross, who called a delighted Smith to give her an update. He also left a note of his own.

Ross then took Smith’s ashes six miles out to sea, and set the bottle afloat. Over the weekend, Judi Glunz Sidney, co-owner of a resort in Key Colony Beach, 28 miles south, found it onshore. She also called Smith, and transferred Scott’s ashes to a rum bottle (“You know, added a little fun to his trip.”). The bottle was then launched off of Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon, so Scott can resume his travels. Here’s to going out in style.

Mission Aquarius: Journey To The World’s Last Undersea Research Station

For 50 years, the underwater Aquarius Reef Base in the Florida Keys has been an important center for oceanic exploration. Today, it is the last remaining undersea research station in the world. But funding for the program is about to be cut and unless a new source is found, Aquarius will soon be shut down.

To bring attention to this issue, One World One Ocean and MacGillivray Freeman Films are teaming up for Mission Aquarius, a six-day underwater expedition and media campaign headed up by Dr. Sylvia Earle, an oceanic research pioneer and National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence. By documenting the expedition, these parties hope to bring attention to the accomplishments of the Aquarius Reef Base, as well as highlight the importance of oceanic research and the challenges facing the world’s oceans.

“We know more about the moon than we do about our ocean, which sustains all life on this planet,” Earle said in a release. “Only by making undersea exploration and research an international priority can we learn what we need to know about the ocean to protect it and protect ourselves.”

Mission Aquarius, which runs from July 16 to 21, will provide a fascinating glimpse at life 60 feet under the sea. Individuals will be able to dive into real-time footage on Ustream.TV, explore related content on One World One Ocean‘s website and sign an online petition to signal their support for continued program funding.

Daily Pampering: Little Palm Island’s vacation of a lifetime

There once was a man from Nantucket, whose dreams were a list for the bucket. He saved and he saved and plans he made, until it came time to toss his budget. How much did he save? $25,900. Where did he go? He left Nantucket… and headed straight down the Atlantic to Little Palm Island.

The little island that could just off the coast of the Florida Keys put together a “Carpe Diem” getaway that recognizes the empowerment of bucket lists, and offers travelers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that includes:

  • Five nights in the Island Grand Suite
  • Roundtrip private jet service to Marathon airport
  • Sky Diving trip where guests will make a tandem skydive from two miles high over the incredible Florida Keys
  • Four-hour Shark Fishing adventure where guests will primarily target lemon, blacktip, spinner and bull sharks of up to eight feet.
  • In-water Madrugada massage where guests wade through the Caribbean waters to a private area where they receive a customized massage surrounded by the ocean.
  • Private Island picnic where guests will be flown on a Cessna 206 Amphibious Seaplane to a private island for the ultimate three hour getaway.
  • One Day SCUBA Resort Course where guests will experience a two-hour pool-side lesson with a certified SCUBA instructor followed by an underwater exploration of Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary with the instructor guiding the way.
  • Private Chef’s Table dinner where Chef Luis Pous attends personally to the couple, preparing and presenting a five-course tasting menu paired with the chef’s selection of wine
  • Full gourmet breakfast, up to three courses for lunch, up to four courses for dinner and non alcoholic beverages daily.

This “Carpe Diem” package is priced starting at $25,900, double occupancy, from now until December 20, 2010 and is inclusive of tax and service.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Hidden Treasures: Daffy Doug’s in the Florida Keys

It may not look like much from the outside: a block building with the typical tropical scene painted on the side. But once you enter Daffy Doug’s you will wonder why you’ve never stopped there before.

At first you think this little building on US 1 at mile marker 50 in the Florida Keys is just a tourist trap like any other. While it does have souvenirs (at a surprisingly un-tourist-trap price), it is also a well-stocked grocery store and a dollar store with all your household essentials.

Just when you think you have seen it all, keep walking. The far side of the building is the fishing section with a larger array of rods, reels and tackle than the local tackle shop has.

The best part of Daffy Doug’s is that you never know what they will have available; their stock is ever changing.
When you go to Daffy Doug’s, buy a few gifts for the family back home, pick up the kitchen utensil you need but refuse to pay a premium price for, get a cold drink, wander the fishing section, but by all means, do not leave without buying a mango. At $1 a piece (like most things in this unusual dollar store) they are the best in the Keys.

Connie McBride is a contributor.

Beat the heat at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

Sitting at the southernmost tip of Florida, the Keys are a chain of islands that mark the border between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The waters that surround the more than 1700 islands are famous for their warm temperatures, stunningly blue colors, and diversity of wildlife. It is because of all those things, and more, that the waters are protected, making up the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Last week we told you how you could explore that sanctuary aboard a personal watercraft, but for those looking for a less adventurous, not to mention less expensive, option, you can simply drop by the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, located in Key West.

The Discovery Center is operated by NOAA and offers up three things that are often in short supply in Key West, namely free parking, free admission, and plenty of air conditioning. The Center has plenty of other things to offer beyond that however, giving visitors a chance to see what life is like in the Keys both above and below the water. The numerous displays on hand show the diversity of both the flora and fauna throughout the region and describe in detail how those natural elements co-exist to create such an amazing environment.

One of the most prominent of these displays is the Mote Marine Laboratory’s 2400 gallon “Living Reef” aquarium, which gives us a glimpse of the brightly colored and energetic marine life that thrives in the waters just off the coast of the Keys islands. These fish go about their lives just as they would in the open ocean, while we get to watch on from the other side of glass.
Not far from the Living Reef display is a much smaller, but more sobering one that comes in the form of a tiny aquarium that contains the beautiful, yet destructive lionfish. Native to the Pacific, the lionfish has become an increasingly troublesome invasive species in the Keys and throughout the Caribbean, as it eats everything it encounters and has no natural predators to quell its advance. Marine biologists at the Sanctuary have been studying the fish for some time and are formulating plans on how to manage these invaders, but they fear that it could become a major threat to the Keys ecosystem in the years ahead.

Another popular display at the Eco-Discovery Center is its mock-up of the Aquarius underwater ocean laboratory. The real Aquarius Lab is one of the few underwater research stations in the world and is located in the Keys as well, but the Center’s simulated one is as close as most people will ever get. Looking through the lab’s portholes makes it seem that you really are far beneath the surface of the ocean, complete with divers drifting by the windows as they go about their work.

If you drop by the Discovery Center, be sure to check out their 17 minute long film entitled Reflections. The movie, which was shot completely in High Definition, chronicles life in the Keys through the eyes of a young girl who grows up with a unique appreciation for the place she lives in. The underwater scenes are breathtaking and will delight and captivate visitors of all ages.

Located at the end of Southard Street in the Truman Waterfront, in Key West, the Eco-Discovery Center is easy to find and a great way to beat the tropical heat. It also happens to be very close to Fort Zachery Taylor, a popular Florida State Park. While you’re in the area, it may be worth swinging by that historic site as well.