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Explore San Carlos Bay with Sanibel Sea School

By Staff | Sep 21, 2016

Sanibel Sea School Co-Founder and Executive Director Dr. Bruce Neill speaks to a class on the school’s boat. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Sanibel Sea School is holding a four-week program for adults to help instill a better sense of place and time while exploring the rich history of San Carlos Bay.

“We want to truly reach out into the spirit of people and touch them in a good way,” Sanibel Sea School Co-Founder and Executive Director Dr. Bruce Neill said about creating a memory that is tied to the ocean. “That helps you love the ocean a little more and when you love the ocean a little bit more you help to protect it.”

He said they began offering adult series five years ago typically during season. The Sanibel Sea School wanted to offer an adult program in the fall because individuals do not appreciate autumn in the ocean.

The ocean has a very distinct fall because fish migrate south, as well as manatees migrating with the temperature changes.

“There is a whole change going on in our environment that we don’t fully appreciate,” he said.

Another reason the Sanibel Sea School is offering a fall program is because it’s that time of year when “the real community of Sanibel is here.”

“Even if you are a seasonal person and you are embedded in the community and are a productive member of the community you are here in the fall,” Neill said. “The adults that are here in October are sort of the core of the community and we want to celebrate them. We wanted to offer that to them to honor and acknowledge them.”

The topic of the classes is San Carlos Bay, which Neill said was cut in half by the causeway when the bridge was built.

“We have this marine feature called San Carlos Bay,” he said. “There is Estero Bay behind Fort Myers Beach. Then there is San Carlos Bay that is sort of Bunche Beach to Blind Bass. Then it becomes Pine Island Sound and then it becomes Charlotte Harbor. Those last three are kind of one large system called the Combine Charlotte Harbor Estuary.”

San Carlos Bay became the topic of the series because of its rich history of Ponce de Leon being brutally murdered by the Calusa Indians. Neill said giant battles have gone on in San Carlos Bay.

“No one that I know of crosses San Carlos Bay to come home, they cross the causeway. The causeway is the bridge that expands San Carlos Bay,” he said. “When you go over the San Francisco Bridge, no one crosses the San Francisco Bridge, they cross the San Francisco Bay on the Golden Gate Bridge. We lost the reality that San Carlos Bay is an entity. If you sort of ask people where San Carlos Bay is they say it is around the causeway. We ought to turn that around and recognize it is a really great part of the ocean.”

San Carlos Bay, Neill said is important ecologically, historically and has been an important part of civilization.

“Now because we put a road across it we have forgotten it. We ought to think I’m crossing San Carlos Bay to my little haven on this island. I like us to start thinking of it that way,” he said.

In an effort to change an individual’s way of thinking, the Sanibel Sea School will explore San Carlos Bay by boat for four educational classes led by Neill.

Ocean Discoveries for Grow Ups, a four week educational boat based camp, will be held with Neill from 9 a.m. to noon every Wednesday in October. The camps include The Canals Oct. 5, Mangrove Islands of San Carlos Bay Oct. 12, Blind Pass Oct. 19 and Sea Grass Flats of San Carlos Bay Oct. 26.

The four-week series is $75 per class.

“What we would like to help is this local group of people have this sense of place,” Neill said. “The sense of place is the bay that the bridge crosses.”

The program, he said is being held to help individuals nurture a sense of place, time and season.

For more information, or to register for the program, visit www.sanibelseaschool.org, or call (239) 472-8585.