The view from the bridge

By Dr. S. David Webb

Looking Back with Pride

As we wrap up ARPP field operations in time for the millennium, we can share a sense of pride in our many accomplishments. There will be scientific reports and repercussions for years to come. Certainly the ARPP has proven that Florida’s submerged resources really can support good paleontology and archaeology. And our field teams have devised the definitive package of portable, practical devices and methods that produce the records and specimens that the museum must hold as vouchers for the future. We also proudly hold up our safety record – 15 years and all is well.

In looking back over these years I realize that the ARPP experience operates at many levels. This column usually addressed science and safety. But there is a third, more elusive current that runs strong. It is the shared camaraderie and sense of achievement that runs subliminally through our collective memories. It can only be captured - if at all - in stories, tales, and songs. We have created our own folk culture that lends color and texture to our commonly shared experiences, perhaps not so unlike the Paleoindian culture we strive to see. As scientists, we write about “Hypothermia”, but we also remember it at a more personal level when we tell stories of “the big shakes” (hypothermia) and how Joe Latvis spilled half a cup of coffee down his hand shivering from the cold following a particularly “bracing” February dive.

Giving Thanks to Many Friends

During our last full field season this past October we held our final Open House. It was a fine Saturday afternoon barbecue down at the Taylor County Boat Ramp. It’s odd to refer to that place as the county boat ramp, since, by the time of our gathering, Hurricane Earl had removed the two floating docks that seemed so permanently part of the ramp. Many of us still call it Williams Fish Camp, but that was also removed by powerful forces about a decade ago. Anyhow we had a wonderful day at the downstream picnic ground on the Taylor county side. And it is a great tribute to our stalwart friends that they came at all, considering how uncertain the weather was all last year, truly an El Niño year.

As I sat there looking out across the full estuarine breadth of the Aucilla, I began to make a thank-you list. I wanted to acknowledge all the people who have befriended our project. That’s when it hit me how steeply the number of friends and supporters has added up over the years (and decades). I tried grouping the list of friends in various ways, by geography and also by chronology. I soon realized what a daunting task I had undertaken. We have enthusiasts that have stayed with us forever, and yet we make fine new friends every year. By the time I stood up at the barbecue I realized that my intended thank-you list would be far too long. More appropriately, I thanked our three most vital recent supporters, namely Jack Satterwhite, J.R. Walker and Mrs. Francis Rollins from Perry.

Since the barbecue I have continued to shake down my memory banks and add up the numbers of valued family, friends, and supporters. And the fond memories and thank-you lists just keep unfurling. If I pick just one person to thank explicitly for keeping this project afloat for all these 15 years it is Joe Latvis. Another special thanks is stirred by recalling an earlier open house, certainly our most stately one, in May, 1995. That is when Governor Lawton Chiles came, a most charming guest, and he truly enjoyed the whole operation at the Latvis/Simpson site. We wondered later whether his visit influenced his support, a month later, of the Florida Legislature’s Special Category Budget for Heritage Preservation. To the late Governor Chiles and our many other friends we of the ARPP thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your support over these many wonderful years.