Mermaid of Hilton Head

You may have already heard, but we have a new mermaid resident on the island. The Mermaid of Hilton Head (www.mermaidofhiltonhead.com) chose our island to help with conservational efforts since our wildlife is so rich here. The Mermaid of Hilton Head has published a children's book about sea turtle conservation and rumor has it more books are in the making. 

She has also teamed up with Sea Monkeys Watersports from Hilton Head Harbor Marina to bring to life her Mermaid Encounter Boat Tours where she can be found swimming in the wild.

When she's not in (or on) the water, she can be found on the beaches of Hilton Head helping make your mermaid dreams come true. This is the first summer Hilton Head Island will have a mermaid photographer who will help you become a mermaid and get you photos of you or your little ones in a mermaid tail that you can treasure forever.

The mermaid's primary focus is conservation. She incorporates ocean conservation education into all aspects of her business. Let's be honest: is there anyone better to learn about the ocean from than a mermaid? 

She will be making an appearance in the St. Patrick's Day parade on Hilton Head Island on March 12, 2017. You're not going to want to miss out on an opportunity to meet our local mermaid!

 The Mermaid of Hilton Head in Broad Creek

The Mermaid of Hilton Head in Broad Creek

 The Mermaid of Hilton Head

The Mermaid of Hilton Head

Golf Course Updates

Are you planning a trip to Hilton Head in the near future? If so, your trip would not be complete until you have gone golfing on one of our gorgeous courses! Unfortunately, most of our courses are still recovering from the damage and downed trees from Hurricane Matthew so check this out before planning your golf outing:

Palmetto Dunes - Arthur Hills - Temporarily Closed

Palmetto Dunes - George Fazio Course - Temporarily Closed

Palmetto Dunes - Robert Trent Jones Course - Temporarily Closed

Palmetto Hall - Arthur Hills - Temporarily Closed

Palmetto Hall - Robert Cupp Course - Temporarily Closed

Port Royal - Barony Course - Temporarily Closed

Port Royal - Planter’s Row - Temporarily Closed

Port Royal - Robber’s Row - Temporarily Closed

Sea Pines - Harbour Town Golf Links - Temporarily Closed

Sea Pines - Heron Point - Temporarily Closed

Sea Pines - Atlantic Dunes - Temporarily Closed

Shipyard - Brigantine/Clipper/Galleon Courses - Temporarily Closed

Indigo Run - Golden Bear Golf Club - Open

Hilton Head Plantation - Bear Creek Golf Club - Temporarily Closed

Hilton Head Plantation - Country Club of Hilton Head - Temporarily Closed

Hilton Head Plantation - Oyster Reef Golf Club - Temporarily Closed

Bluffton/Palmetto Bluff - Hampton Hall Golf Course - Open

Bluffton/Palmetto Bluff - Hilton Head National Golf Club - Temporarily Closed

Bluffton/Palmetto Bluff - Old South Golf Links - Open

Hilton Head Strong

Hilton Head Strong

Hurricane Matthew wasn't fun for anyone and gave Hilton Head a big bruise to recover from but we are on our way! On October 8 between 2-4am our beloved island got hit by Hurricane Matthew who was at that time a category 2. Our piers and marinas were destroyed, we had devastating flooding, and trees down everywhere! We couldn't get back on to our island, and even if we could, we wouldn't have water or power. Everyone had mixed feelings of loss, devastation and frustration, which tend to make a bad combination but we handled it like champs! We all came together to give our island some tender loving care and help bring it back to its normal, beautiful self. We still have a long way to go, but they recovery efforts are progressing and we are almost back to living the island life yet again.

Most shops and restaurants are open as of now as well as other important places such as grocery stores, the winery, and the Rum Distillery. We still have some beach parks closed such as Bradley Beach, Folly Field, Islander's Beach and Mitchellville Beach Park. Chaplin Park (where you park for Burke's Beach) is still closed as well. If you're looking to get out on the water, you may be waiting a bit. Palmetto Bay Marina is closed and is currently under construction, so no boats will be leaving from there for a few months as of now. Also, there is an advisory in place for boats due to debris so definitely call any business of interest to see if they are taking tours out on the water prior to adding it to your itinerary. 

Harbour Town in the Sea Pines Resort is open, and most of those shops and restaurants are open as well. The lighthouse is up and running, however, again, the pier is under construction so there is no access allowed at this point, and most of the boats are docked elsewhere at the moment. 

Recovery is going smoothly however if there is a place you are interested in specifically, call them directly to see if they are open and running normally. We are an island in healing right now but we are strong. Thank you to everyone for your support and positive vibes!

Jellyfish Season

We are all familiar with that moment we are in the ocean and you hear some one say they just saw a jellyfish. Then the dilemma begins: should you get out of the water and let the potential jellyfish sighting win? Or should you stand your ground and stay in the water with the risk of getting stung? 

Well this is a serious dilemma, but with some education, the decision should be easier! We have several different kind of jellyfish here in the waters of Hilton Head. The most common jelly is the Cannonball Jellyfish. Cannonball jellyfish have a brown/pink pigment and are not completely see through like other jellyfish (Pictured Below). They also do not sting. If they feel threatened, they can release a toxin that will sting your eyes so never touch your eyes after you've touched a Cannonball Jellyfish until you wash your hands, however they will not sting your skin. 

In the spring, the adult cannonball jellies will lay their eggs and we will see them washed up on shore very frequently during these months. Right now, the eggs have hatched and we have a plethora of baby jellies in our water just in time for our new baby sea turtles to grab a snack! Cannonball jellies are also a food source for humans. In Georgia, these jellies are dried and shipped out to parts of Asia where they are a delicacy. 

 Cannonball Jellyfish with hermit crabs on board. 

Cannonball Jellyfish with hermit crabs on board. 

The jellyfish you need to be aware of are the sea nettles. They are orange in color and more see through than cannonball jellies. They will sting, and while these jellyfish are not human killers, their stings will hurt. The best thing to do when you get stung initially is take a credit card and rub it on the sting in the direction the hair grows to remove the stingers, then rinse the sting with warm water. Aloe is always a good option for after care, however you should always seek medical advice. The nearest lifeguard station can help you clean out your sting.

We also have Portuguese Man O' War  and Sea Wasps in our waters which are rarely ever encountered, however they do migrate up this way and they are no joke. These species are very venomous. Similar to bee stings, if you are not allergic then you should just focus on tending to the wound. If swelling occurs or if the sting sight is not healing, definitely seek professional medical attention. 

Therefore, if you're in the water and you hear someone say they've seen a jellyfish, ask the right questions! What does it look like? Where was it? Do your research before you let it ruin your relaxing day on the beach! 

Sand Dollars - Know the Difference!

Sand dollars are closely related to sea urchins, sea cucumbers and starfish. They are also called "sea biscuits" or "sea cookies" depending on where in the world you are from. Sand dollars, while alive, are covered with cilia, or small hairs that give them a velvet-like appearance. These hairs actually move and help them dig in the sand and glide across the ocean floor. They also help them eat! The sand dollar's mouth is in the center of it's characteristic star on the bottom. Once the sand dollar finds a good meal, it holds onto it with it's cilia and moves it towards it's mouth. Sand dollars will eat plankton as well as other microscopic organisms and even fish eggs!

Sand dollars have a unique talent when they are young. If they feel threatened by a predator they are able to clone themselves! This doubles their odds of escaping and also halves their size. Once they are adults though, they lose this ability however they also don't have near as many predators as adults. 

When they are living they are darker in color, sometimes even purplish. When they die, they wash up on shore, dry out and become bleached by the sun. What you are seeing is their exoskeleton, or "test", which is all that remains. Sand dollars don't have a lot of predators in the wild. Sadly, their number 1 predator is people. Unknowledgeable people will take them from the ocean, and they cannot survive outside of the water for very long. Unfortunately, the people who take them don't have any intentions of returning them. In some places, including Hilton Head Island, it is illegal to harass the sand dollars, which includes removing them from the ocean as well as picking them up and throwing them back. Sand dollars are unable to flip themselves over so if they don't land on their bottoms, they will not be able to survive and will eventually die. Fines for harassing any wildlife, including sand dollars, can be up to $1,000. That is an expensive souvenir! 

On the top surface of a sand dollar, you will notice a flower or star shaped pattern of pores that create a circle around a perforated plate. Water is able to flow through this plate into a canal system that ends in many tiny projections, called tube feet. These emerge from the pores in the "petals". Through the thin walls of the feet are how the sand dollars absorb oxygen from their surroundings. 

On the bottom of a sand dollar, are more tube feet which help to funnel microscopic organisms along a network of mucous-filled grooves towards the mouth in the disc's center. The food and debris are strained and chewed here via a complex feeding apparatus of muscles, plates and sharp teeth. 

Sand Dollars may pack together in large numbers, sometimes standing on their edges in shallow water. Females will release eggs and males emit sperm through tiny pores on the top surface. Fertilization occurs in the surrounding water.

A sand dollar begins its life as tiny larvae that are free swimming. They look nothing like their adult counterparts! Eventually, they form a test and begin to look more like a sand dollar. Some species of sand dollar have slit-like holes in their test. These are called lunules. The function of these lunules in unknown. The species of Sand Dollar found on Hilton Head, like Sammy, are called Keyhole Sand Dollars, which have 5 lunules. 

Sand Dollars will die if they are out of water. As stated previously, they get their oxygen from the surrounding water, so like fish, they need water to breathe.  

*Some information from the Island Packet in an article written by Vicky McMillan

 

Independence Day Celebrations on the Island!

Are you spending the 4th of July with us on Hilton Head this year? If so, you will not be disappointed! There is a lot to do and a lot to see during this summer holiday! 

Fireworks will be held at Harbour Town in Sea Pines Resort over the Calibogue Sound at 9:15pm. There will be live music as well as a shuttle from select parking lots to help with the crowded parking situations. 

Fireworks will also be held at Skull Creek at 9:30pm and can be viewed from Skull Creek Boathouse or Hudson's. There will be a shuttle as well from the Boys and Girls Club on Gumtree Rd.  There will also be live music that begins at 7pm.

Shelter Cove will also host fireworks and a child friendly event with live music. Fireworks begin at 9:30pm and live music begins at 7pm and 8:30pm. There will be a free shuttle from Hargray parking lot from 5-11pm. 

There will also be an afternoon "Salute from the Shore" flyover the beaches. This will occur between 1-2pm over our beaches so keep your eyes out for those vintage military aircrafts as well as F-16s. The F-16s will fly over first, then the vintage military aircrafts will follow shortly after.

If you're super motivated and looking for a way to celebrate in the morning, there is a Firecracker Run! Starting at 8am in Shelter Cove Community Park and there are also post-race celebrations with live music, refreshments, and vendors. (Fees to partake in the race do apply. Contact Shelter Cove Community Park for more information.)

Whatever you find yourself doing for the holiday, remember to be safe! Happy Independence Day Islanders and Islanders at heart!

Hilton Head Sea Turtles!

We are about a month or so into sea turtle season on Hilton Head Island! With this being said, the adult female turtles come to land, usually at night, and lay their eggs at the beginning of the season, and then towards the end of the season the eggs will hatch! 

As of today, June 13, 2016 we have 164 nests! This sounds like a lot, however we only have a 60% success rate on Hilton Head. With 108 "false crawls", we have the potential for 40% more nests. A "false crawl" is when an adult female sea turtle comes into land to lay her eggs and gets scared or stressed about something and returns promptly to the water without laying the eggs. Since we can't talk to sea turtles and ask them what is stressing them out, we have to speculate that it is too much human activity. Daufuskie Island, Hilton Head's neighbor which we all know is less crowded has a success rate of 84% so far this year. 

This is some eye opening data. We need to spread the word to keep the lights off when it is dark on beach front properties and even a row or 2 behind. The law says lights out after 10pm, but the lights on any time after dark can alter their paths or cause stress so be better than the law! Also, if you are lucky enough to see a sea turtle it is common sense to want to get a photo but remember: no flashes! Try to stay quiet around them as well because a lot of noise may also cause stress. Keep in mind these sea turtles don't have access to the internet or TV. They don't know what we are. We could be a scary predator for all they know. Just because we know we have good intentions doesn't mean they know that - they aren't mind readers either. 

If you see a sea turtle in general but especially if you see one being harassed please report to Beach Patrol immediately! (843-785-3494) This is illegal and dangerous for the turtle population as they are very sensitive. Yes, sea turtles can weigh in at 400lbs but their large size doesn't make them any braver. Please be smart and be respectful.

 Mama sea turtle tracks during a sunrise on Hilton Head Island, SC. Notice 2 sets of tracks which mean this turtle has already returned to the water. One set to the nest, one set back to the water.

Mama sea turtle tracks during a sunrise on Hilton Head Island, SC. Notice 2 sets of tracks which mean this turtle has already returned to the water. One set to the nest, one set back to the water.

Dolphin Spotting Season has Arrived!

Dolphin spotting season has returned! The water temperature is quickly warming up. With the current temp of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, the dolphins have been more active, which means they have also been more curious! Our dolphins on Hilton Head have never been skittish around boats, however with the warmer weather and warmer water they have been more active and more playful, getting much closer to boats! This is an awesome experience for dolphin watchers! It is important to remember that while they are so close you could probably touch them, this doesn't mean you should. Nor does it mean you should feed them. This is actually illegal and can be punished by a $2,500 fine. Don't be fooled by those cute smiling faces! They are avid hunters and have no problem catching food for themselves!

While Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins (the Hilton Head dolphins) don't have a specific breeding season, we have been seeing more baby dolphins, or calves recently. This is great news for us! Seeing calves mean that our dolphins are happy and healthy! We have 200-300 residential dolphins around the waters of Hilton Head. This means they are here all year round, even in the winter! In addition to them, we have about 400-600 nomadic dolphins that pass through or take a Hilton Head vacation of their own. 

If you do happen to go out on a dolphin watching tour while you're here, look for strand feeding! Strand feeding is a way of hunting where the adult dolphins throw themselves up on a muddy bank (oyster-free) and push fish up on land. While they are basically stranding themselves, they also make it so the fish have nowhere to go. This makes for a good meal and luckily our dolphins are talented athletes, who are very good at wiggling back into the water. It takes a lot of strength to strand feed, so the younger dolphins typically just stay back and watch. Also, calves stay with their mothers for the first 2-3 years of their lives so until they build up the muscles and the confidence to strand feed, they have their mothers taking care of them. 

When you come to Hilton Head Island for you vacation this year, be sure to climb on a boat and introduce yourself to our dolphins! They will love to meet you!

Beach Restoration

As much as we would all love to be in denial about Hilton Head's Beach Restoration Project, we can be no longer. It is here. There seems to be a lot of confusion about Beach Restoration, so we are going to attempt to clear it up for you!

It's Purpose: The purpose of Beach Restoration is to build up the sand dunes. Hilton Head Island goes through this every 10 years, so you can imagine how much our beaches change within those 10 years. Beach Restoration restores our beaches and builds the dunes back up. Some people believe this prevents erosion, however it does not. It slows the erosion process down and hides it from us so we just don't see it happening. As agonizing as this all may be for tourists and residents alike, it helps protect the island during tropical storms, so we DO need it.

How it works: The process of Beach Restoration is to take sand from the deeper part of the beach/ocean and pump it on to shore. This is done using a submersible pump system attached to a barge that pumps the sand out. The other end of the pump system is on the beach receiving the sand. Once the sand is on the beach, a bulldozer comes along and builds up the sand on the dunes as well as evens out remaining sand. The diagram below explains better how this process works.

 

Pros and Cons of Beach Restoration:
PROS: 1. Beaches stay intact - if we didn't have Beach Restoration, our beaches would have eroded naturally a long time ago.
2. We have better buffers during storms which results in safer beaches. Also, the sandy bottom protects our feet when we are walking. If we didn't have Beach Restoration, we would all be walking along rocky surfaces when we walk on the beach.
3. Protects properties inland - the erosion wouldn't simply stop where the shoreline stops. It would keep going even to where those million dollar beach houses are. Nature doesn't care how much money you have wrapped up in your property. You can't pay Mother Nature to leave your property alone. Beach Restoration helps Mother Nature make that decision.
4. Secures environment for future generations. Our kids and grandkids will grow up with the same Hilton Head Island beaches that we did thanks to Beach Restoration!

CONS: 1. Beach Restoration is a temporary fix to a permanent problem. While is delays beach erosion, it doesn't prevent it. Beach erosion is still happening and we are just masking the problem to make us feel better.
2. Beach Restoration is expensive. This project will cost Hilton Head Island an estimated $20.7 million PLUS the lack of tourists this year due to the Beach Restoration. It will be a tough year for the locals of Hilton Head Island.
3. It will interrupt life cycles and alters natural course of nature. This is a big one. The environment and wildlife will not fare well with the Beach Restoration Project. From all the sand dollars that will be crushed, to the noise-sensitive dolphins other marine life, all of our ocean friends will be affected and not in a good way. Luckily, the sea turtles are protected by law, so they have to respect their nesting and not disrupt any land that has been nested by a sea turtle, but other wildlife that is not protected by law unfortunately, doesn't have that same luxury.