ARPP reenacts "A Naturalist in Florida"

By Joan Herrera

Members of the Aucilla River Prehistory Project crew assisted filmmakers from WUFT, Dennis Gaston (videographer) and Dennis Ogle (Engineer Sound Man), in reenacting scenes from the life of renowned naturalist Dr. Archie Carr. A joint project of independent producer, Letitia Langord, and WUFT, this one hour television documentary, based on Dr. Carr’s literary work “A Naturalist in Florida: A Celebration of Eden”, will air later this spring on UF’s channel five. The program will also be made available to all channels in the state of Florida and around the southeast.

On April 10th Dr. David Webb, Joe Latvis, Andy Hemming, Lance Carlson and I joined Dennis and Dennis at Rainbow Springs for filming. Dr. Webb made his acting debut, in the role of Archie Carr, skin-diving among waving fronds of rivergrass and discovering fossil mastodon teeth among the shoals. Joe Latvis, our head dive master, trusty underwater videographer and holder of innumerable other esteemed titles (many of which mean he gets to do everything the rest of us won’t) handled the filming of underwater scenes, while Dennis Gaston shot film footage from the shore. Lance and I acted as safety divers, watching the action, and making some effort to stay out of the scenes. Daytrippers swimming at the springs fit into the picture nicely, but our tanks and bubbles did not jive with the scene because this reenactment was from a time, before the advent of SCUBA gear, when local skin-divers, including Dr. Carr, used a window pane stuck in a piece of innertube as a dive mask. Dr. Webb used a “relatively” modern dive mask stuck in innertube for the reenactment. Andy was confined to the land crew with a cast he had to keep dry (as dry as possible) and he acted as boat tender.

After spending an extended time filming in the 72o water, Dr. Webb, clad only in swim trunks and looking rather blue, exited to the bank and spent the rest of his time trying to warm up. The rest of us, toasty in our wetsuits, continued down the run scouting for fossils and artifacts, and allowing Joe the chance to record footage of the spring’s plant and animal life. We saw turtles and several species of fish, including some large spotted gars.

Archie Carr is best known in scientific circles as a sea turtle biologist. He was a Professor of Zoology at the University of Florida and one of the main Biological Sciences Buildings on the UF campus is named in his honor. Carr Hall is home to the Archie Carr Sea Turtle Center and is located behind the Florida Museum of Natural History. The Center continues his work and has ongoing research projects around the world studying sea turtle biology and conservation. Dr. Carr was also well known as a naturalist and the author of several books. He worked in many areas around Florida and on the beaches of Costa Rica. Filming for this special on his life of was conducted at various sites around the state, including the Everglades, Cork Screw Swamp, Melbourne Beach, and Ichetucknee Springs. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is located just south of Melbourne. Some of Dr. Carr’s popular works are available in local bookstores and this legacy continues his mission by introducing new generations of readers to the wonders of natural Florida and instilling in them an increased awareness of the environment and conservation.

Since our time at Rainbow Springs, Dennis Gaston filmed an interview for the program with Dr. Webb at Ichetucknee Springs. Stay tuned for more information on when the special will be aired. Our filming on the Rainbow river was an exciting day and one I am sure we will never forget, especially Lance. We on the Aucilla Project were privileged to be invited to participate in the telling of the story of a great Floridian who made a real and lasting contribution to the conservation of endangered animals and natural resources both in the State of Florida and around the world.