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Anders discusses ‘Island Life’ during lecture at Shell Point

By Staff | Sep 22, 2010

Following her presentation on "Island Life" last Friday, Kristie Anders, left, mingles with residents of Shell Point.

There aren’t too many people who can claim they often have a rough commute to work, but for Kristie Anders, Education Director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, her journey can sometimes be — quite literally — an adventure.

Anders, who lives on North Captiva and commutes by boat every day to her job on Sanibel, spoke before a small crowd at Shell Point last Friday morning, discussing the pleasures and perils of "Island Life."

"Sometimes in the morning, it feels like I’m the only soul out there," said Anders, whose PowerPoint presentation included some pictures she took along her daily route, past the historic fish houses and intricate mangroves bursting with wildlife.

She told the audience that about 20 people fly in and out of North Captiva every day, fairly busy for an island which claims only 80 year-round residents.

"One man on the island flies in to Fort Myers to pick up The New York Times every Sunday for him and some of his neighbors," she said. "And he uses less gas that it would take to drive a car to the mainland."

For comparison, Anders showed two consecutive images. The first one was an aerial photograph of North Captiva during the late 1940s, with lush vegetation and untouched beaches. The second image was another aerial taken in the early 1970s, which showed the island divided into approximately 600 lots of various sizeds. Still, North Captiva is not as developed as it could have been, said Anders.

The greatest portion of her lecture focused on living on North Captiva before, during and after Hurricane Charley, which passed directly over the tiny island in August 2004. She noted that the day before the storm struck, sharks — which had been tagged by marine biologists — left the bay. But she and her husband, Red, elected to ride out the weather event.

"Hurricanes are like dice games," she explained. "You’ve just gotta roll ’em and see what comes up."

The Anders’ rode out the storm at the North Captiva Fire Station, which provided protection for several other island residents and five cats.

"My husband brought a machete with him," she recalled. "He knew that it would be more useful to us after the storm than a lifejacket."

After Charley passed, the Anders’ were pleased to discover that their home had been spared any substantial damage. A neighbor’s home four doors away had its entire second floor torn off, but the napkins and place settings on the dining room table were still in place when they returned.

"We were without power for 49 days, and one day after the power came back on, somebody ran over the transformer," she said. "So then we were without power another three days."

Anders was very complimentary of the North Captiva community, which rallied together following the devastating storm. She also thanked the National Guardsmen who were assigned to "protect" the island.

"They came in wearing their flak jackets and carrying their M-16s," she noted. "We were like, ‘Really? It’s okay… this is North Captiva. Everything’s gonna be fine here."

Eventually, the National Guard crew grew fond of their assignment.

"There was no power, so everybody was grilling things that they had in their freezers. We were cooking steaks and lobsters every day," Anders added. "We thought that the better we fed them, the longer they would stay."