The new interstate highways cut through these attractions like a freshly sharpened machete through sugar cane. With the vast majority of traffic funneled onto 3 roads, I-10, I-75, and I-95 ... 4 roads if you count the Turnpike, attractions along the older, now empty highways withered and died.
So walking through Gulf Marine Specimen Company was a treat on several levels.
Level One: It had the feel of those older Floridaesque attractions that existed pre-Interstate.
Level Two: I have wanted to visit it since reading, "The Wilderness Coast" by Jack Rudloe, the founder of Gulf Marine Specimen Company many years ago.
The lab is located in a quiet, shady neighborhood near the water in Panacea, Florida.
Here are a few of the local residents.
A black sea bass who is obviously used to being fed by humans. He followed me like a hungry Labrador.
A Florida Horse Conch considering his most recent escape plan.
An octopus in a specially constructed secure aquarium who is probably doing geometry or composing poetry to pass the time.
A torpedo ray.
This ray can't sting you, but he can shock you. Like electric eels, the torpedo ray can generate an electric charge. From personal experience, I can vouch for the shocknicity of these pretty rays. I have stepped on them more than once while surf fishing.
It wasn't dangerous, just unexpected and therefore it had a high jump about and flail quotient.
The large open tanks allow views of critters not usually seen. These remoras would normally be stuck to the belly of a shark, shell of a sea turtle, or back of a big ray. The "sucker" is actually the remora's first dorsal fin.
As an attraction, it offers a relaxing opportunity to walk through rooms with very accessible tanks and pools full of marine life, with no water slides, roller coasters, or jumping orcacrobatics.
All substance, no glitzy fluff.
That's a rare thing in Florida these days.