Sunday 4 March 2012: Tarpon Springs
The temperature took quite a dive over night, so it was quite cool, overcast and extremely windy when we went for a walk from our hotel after breakfast. The beach was totally deserted apart from a few lifeguards patrolling in their ATV. It was quite an odd sight - normally the beach would be full of loungers and brightly colored umbrellas put out by the hotels, but the only things on the beach today was a line of trash bins overturned by the wind. We started walking on the side of the road bordering the beach, but we ended up crossing to the other side, as we were getting sand-blasted! After a while the road turned away from the beach towards the bridge over the waterway, and along this stretch we saw several egrets and spoonbills.
Since it obviously wasnt going to be a beach day, after our walk we decided to spend the rest of the day at Tarpon Springs, notable for having the highest percentage of Greek-Americans of any city in the US. The region, with a series of bayous feeding into the Gulf of Mexico, first attracted attention as a place for winter homes about 1876. The first Greek immigrants arrived in the early 20th century, when they were hired to work as divers in the growing sponge harvesting industry. Newly arrived American settlers had discovered sponges in the Florida Keys during the 1820s. The west coast sponge beds were discovered accidentally in 1873 by Key West turtle fishermen whose nets were fouled by sponges off the mouth of the Anclote River. Spongers came to the area to work the beds, and some moved to Tarpon Springs. In 1890 John Cheyney, a Tarpon businessman, opened the Anclote River and Rock Island Sponge Company across the river from Tarpon. Gradually the sponge business shifted from Key West, Cuba, and the Bahamas to Tarpon, and by 1900 the city was considered the largest sponge port in the United States. It was, however, the Greek immigrants who expanded and refined sponging in Tarpon Springs. The individual who is responsible for the Greek involvement is John Corcoris, who arrived in Tarpon in 1896 as a sponge buyer for a New York firm. In 1905 Corcoris introduced the first mechanized sponge fishing boat to Tarpon Springs and brought in 500 Greek divers from Kalymnos, Halki, Symi, Hydra, Spetse, Aegena and other islands. Other Greeks soon followed and businesses were established to serve the Greek community, including restaurants, candy shops, coffee houses, and grocery stores. Unfortunately, in 1947 a red tide algae bloom wiped out the sponge fields in that region of the Gulf of Mexico and most of the sponge boats and divers switched to fishing and shrimping for a livelihood. Nowadays tourism is the main industry, but the town still maintains somewhat of a Greek feel to it. By the time we got to the town, the sun had come out, though it was still quite cold and windy. We enjoyed a wonderful Greek meal overlooking the water, then wandered around the town. In the restaurant we had picked up a pictorial map of the town, which had several park areas marked on it, so later in the afternoon we visited a couple of them, going for a walk at the first one, and watching kite surfers at the second. Then it was back to the hotel, where we enjoyed a drink sitting on our balcony and watching the sun go down.
One year ago: Scrabble