Have you ever wondered why Gulf Coast sand is white and squeaks sometimes? Or what the inside of a sea turtle nest looks like? Thanks to a new exhibit at the Destin History and Fishing Museum, all those questions and more can be answered.
In collaboration with Henderson Beach State Park, the University of Florida IFAS Extension and the Emerald Coast Tourist Development Council, an exhibit about beach ecology was created to educate locals and visitors about our local beaches.
“When you’re looking at Destin being a tourist destination, it’s important for people to know about the things in nature that have helped make people want to come,” said Kathy Marler Blue, the museum’s executive director. “The bay and beach ecologies have to be protected because that’s a big part of Destin.”
The exhibit features a small “beach,” complete with a wrack line and sea turtle nest.
What’s a wrack line you ask?
“The wrack line is where the high tide came up and left a line of seaweed,” said Doe Schuster, an interpretive parks volunteer at Henderson Beach State Park. “Birds and crabs will pick through it all and find stuff to eat.”
Schuster collected a variety of real things from the beach’s wrack line to make the exhibit as realistic as possible. Among the turtle grass and sargassum are things like barnacles, empty egg cases that are known as mermaid's purses, and some fish bones.
“Most wracks won’t have that much stuff, but I wanted to give everybody and idea of what you might find,” Schuster said.
The exhibit has been in the works for three years, and finally came to fruition in the past few weeks. Although the exhibit is mainly about the beach ecology, Schuster wanted to include sea turtles since they are a huge part of Destin’s beaches.
“Now people will know that’s what a marked (turtle) nest looks like and the penalties for messing with one,” Schuster said. “The babies are only about the size of an Oreo cookie with flippers, so any disturbance to the nest can be really bad.”
Schuster and Henderson Beach State Park’s administration assistant, Theresa Morea, handpainted all of the baby turtles featured in the exhibit. Park Service Specialist Evan Waters built the nest part of the exhibit so guest can get a look at what the inside of a sea turtle nest looks like.
Blue said she hopes to eventually add a technology element to the exhibit that will show a sea turtle nest hatching.
“It looks like their boiling out,” Schuster said.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and military, $3 for children and students age 7 through college, and free for children age 6 and under.