Sunday, July 11, 2010
Captiva Cruises features an historical adventure to the Mound House on Estero Bay. During this cruise passengers get a chance to learn about the ecology and history of the area as well as participate in an historical tour and educational experience at the Mound House. The next trip is Friday July 23."History teaches everything including the future." - Lamartine
Mighty warriors braved the heat, mosquitoes and other formidable predators to create a thriving civilization in Southwest Florida.
Then they disappeared forever.
It is believed death came to the mighty warriors in the form of disease and political separation from their culture and people.
But no one truly knows.
The extinction of the Calusa Indians remains still pretty much a mystery.
But for those curious souls who like to learn more and try and piece together the lives of the Calusas can take a mini voyage seemingly back into time with Captiva Cruises. The business features a unique cruise to the historic Mound House on Estero Bay.
The day cruise which departs from Punta Rassa highlights the local waters and its history before reaching Mound House where Theresa Schober, Director of Cultural Resources, will conduct a tour and sneak peak of their new underground archeological exhibit.
Captiva Cruise educator Richard Finkel narrates the cruise to the Mound House. Along the way, Finkel will share information about the history and ecology of Punta Rassa, Pine Island Sound and Estero Bay.
Finkel, a nature enthusiast - never misses a chance to point out a pod of dolphins - which passengers will likely see along the cruise - or a bird soaring above the boat.
"Everything ties back to the body of water that we travel on," Finkel said.
On a recent historical tour to the Mound House wildlife of all sorts including dolphins and osprey popped out of the sea and air. The about 40 passengers hooted and dashed to the edge of the boat at the sight of some Atlantic Bottle nose dolphins. Finkel joined in the enthusiasm and shared some tidbits about the sea mammals.
"I am like a little kid when I see dolphins," he said.
During the rest of the cruise Finkel chatted about the importance of the estuaries which act like nurseries for many types of wildlife and about the area’s history including the Mantanzas bridge the role the waters played for the Calusa Indians - the people who once ruled Southwest Florida many about 2,000 years ago.
Once docked at the Mound House, Theresa Schober, Director of Cultural Resources, greets passengers. Schober, a friendly woman brimming with equal measures of enthusiasm and knowledge of the Calusas’ beckons the passengers to shore and begins a program that includes discussion of the Mound House - called that because it the land is built high from layers and layers of shells. The Calusas’ often used shells to build their homes and civilization upon. The higher the mound usually denoted a person of greater importance and power lived there, according to Schober.
During the program attendees get a chance to actually handle instruments and tools like the Calusas would have used. And there is even a chance to try and nab a pretend deer in the way the Calusas would have centuries ago. There is time for questions and even crafts before departing back to Punta Rassa.
But perhaps the most interesting element of the tour is the sneak peek of their new underground archaeological exhibit.
The once inground pool built by former proprietors of the property has recently been converted into an underground exhibit that showcases the different layers and strata of shells from the Calusa mounds.
Some of the shells are considered to be 2,000 years old. The new exhibit stirred the crowd’s imagination and sense of wonder.
"I think it’s fascinating," said Rebecca Moss. "The Calusa are so mysterious."
This new exhibit at The Mound House offers a rare opportunity to walk in an actual Calusa shell mound to observe its construction, its layers and to see this cross section of two thousand years of Southwest Florida history.
The cruise back to Sanibel seemed to be a think tank for the passengers. Some chatted with Finkel about the tour while others chatted amongst themselves.
But an overall sense of knowing something new and different pervaded the ruffling breeze aboard the ship.
"I have a much better understanding of how the shell mounds were created and how the Calusas lived," said Phil Urion.
His partner Stella Farwell - also a local artist loved working with the Calusas’ tools and shells during the program at the Mound House.
"I think the hands-on approach gives you the appreciation for the skills they use," she said.
The next trip to Mound Key will depart from Punta Rassa at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 23.
Reservations are required, as space is limited. Cost for the historical cruise is $45 per person which includes a donation to The Mound House Cultural Resources Center. This Cruise into the Past return to Punta Rassa at 1:30 p.m.
Also history buffs take note there will be on the water history cruise on Saturday, Aug. 14. The cruise, which will depart from Punta Rassa at 9 a.m., will focus on the cultural history of Southwest Florida.
Finkel will team up with Schober to highlight some of the significant sites and historical accounts of the diverse cultural legacy within our coastal environment.
The tour will last until 11:30 a.m. and costs $35 per person.
For more information or reservations, call Captiva Cruises at 472-5300.
By ELLA NAYOR