National Geographic : 1971 Jan
National Geographic, January 1971 Gurr told me aboard the little salvage vessel Revinooer as we bobbed in a wind-driven chop a few miles off Plantation Key. "This one" was the 190-foot Spanish merchantman San Joseph y las Animas, which grounded and broke up on that fateful Sunday of 1733.* Clusters of bubbles marked the positions of three scuba divers working on the bottom, 30 feet below Revinooer. A head broke the sur face, and a hand held out a strangely shaped bit of metal. "Here's the other end of that spoon handle we brought up yesterday," Thomas Gore said, "only it's a fork." Late in the afternoon, diver Al Green popped to the surface. He wore as wide a smile as I've ever seen, and something yellow and bright glinted in his fingers. He handed it to Tom Gurr, and Tom passed it to me-a two-escudo piece about the size of my thumbnail, fresh and clean looking after 237 years in the sea. "That's the second gold coin we've brought up in two years," said Tom. "In this business you have to have faith." I left Tom and his divers (I hope by now they've struck it rich) and headed westward along the "Purple Isles"-Plantation Key, Windley Key, and Upper and Lower Mate cumbe-to keep a date with a movie star. Milton Santini, a large, gentle man with a fisherman's seamed and weathered face, intro duced us in an enclosure on the north shore of Grassy Key. I could see only a dark, swiftly moving shape deep in the water. "That he?" I asked. "He's a she," said Mr. Santini, and I learned that the star of the movie Flipper was in fact a lady porpoise named Mitzi. Strange Pay-off for a Broken Back "When fishing was bad, back in '45," he told me, "I started catching porpoises just to sell them. When I got Mitzi, though, I knew right away there was something different about her, so I kept her as a pet.t "Even then, there might not have been any Flipper shows if I hadn't broken my back delivering some porpoises in Seattle. While I was recovering, I'd lie beside the pool and play with Mitzi, talk to her and stroke her. Then my wife began getting in the water with her, even riding her. Before long Mitzi had learned so many tricks it would take her four or five hours to go through them." Mitzi no longer pursues a film career, but she is still a big attraction at the Santinis' pools, where she entertains visitors with three half-hour shows a day (pages 76-7). "Keeps her from getting bored," Mr. Santini *Kip Wagner described the recovery of treasure from a similar fleet in "Drowned Galleons Yield Spanish Gold," GEOGRAPHIC, January 1965. tSee "Porpoises: Our Friends in the Sea," by Robert L. Conly, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, September 1966. Marine life lures scientists the world over to the keys. Renowned biologist Konrad Lorenz nets small specimens at Pigeon Key. Director of the Max Planck Institute for Be havioral Physiology near Munich, Germany, Dr. Lorenz is a founding father of ethology, the study of animal behavior in relation to natural habitat. He concludes that behav ioral patterns are as important as anatomi cal structure in classifying species. KODACHROME BY BATESLITTLEHALES© N.G.S.