03 January, 2012

Florida Connection - Coral Castle

It's unassuming and unsightly from the outside.  In fact, I was prepared to be inundated with the cheese-factor and disappointed altogether (rather like when we visited the alien museum in Roswell, NM years ago).  Instead, the Coral Castle (which is really a rock garden) is utterly amazing.
Apparently, the gentleman responsible for the display (Edward Leedskalnin) did the work entirely alone.  No one is exactly sure how he moved the huge slabs of coral into position.  Additionally, he constructed the original garden in Florida City, then moved it 10 miles to Homestead and continued to add pieces.  (Did he move it because Florida City was becoming too populated?  Or was is because the current location in Homestead is a convergence of electrical currents - and maybe the original location was a mathematical miscalculation?)
Some of the slabs of rock weigh several tons.  Edward cut and moved the coral rock from local beds to create his garden.  He was just over 5 feet tall and weighed around 100 pounds - and did all the work alone, primarily at night.  Speculation is rampant as to how he accomplished such an impressive feat.  He came from a family of stonemasons in Latvia, so understood the properties of stone.  Some surmise that he belonged to the Free Masons, and may have had help from the brotherhood.  There is also a theory that he may have used acoustic levitation (sound waves) - or magnetism - to maneuver the stone.  (We watched a video on the guide's iPad showing a hunk of metal being lifted and twisted by sound waves - but I didn't write down the site and can't find it on my own.  The heaviest thing lifted by sound in the videos I can find it water droplets.)
Aside from the fascinating aspects of construction, the rock garden is full of wonder and mystery.  There is a sun dial that depicts not only the time, but also the date - and it's still highly accurate.  There are planetary and mythological symbols throughout the area - including the Maiden (new moon), Mother (full moon) and Crone (waning moon).  He built a well, a forge, a stone bathtub (the guide pointed out the slight grade so it always drains), living quarters in a two-story tower, and a Polaris telescope (a 25' tall, 20 ton solid piece of coral aligned to track the North Star).  In addition to many chairs, benches, tables, and fixtures.  He even built a 9-ton stone gate that rotated on a metal pole and ball bearings and could be moved with just a gentle push.  After 40-some years, the ball bearings gave out.  When a team of several engineers from the University of Florida tried to fix it, they couldn't get it balanced correctly and had to shave off some of the stone, which unbalanced the whole slab.  It only took 10 years for it to break again.  Impressive!
Setting aside the wonder and mystique (and the supposition by some that Edward was assisted by aliens), the garden as a whole is serene and peaceful.  The stone seats are actually comfortable,and the heart table is supposedly the largest valentine ever made (for the object of Ed's broken heart, who jilted him the day before they were supposed to get married).  All in all, this is definitely a stop that I enjoyed.  It's fun to discuss the many different theories for how a single (relatively small) person could build something like this.
Today was "cold" by Florida standards - in the mid-60s with a chilly wind.  Which made it comfortable for me to wear long pants to cover the knee-high compression socks.  My feet and ankles tend to swell when we travel.  I'm guessing it's a combination of the long flights and change of atmosphere, coupled with the hours and hours we spend riding around in a car.  So in order to prevent sausage toes and elephant ankles, I brought compression socks on this trip.  So far, so good.  We'll see how the rest of the trip progresses.  From here, we're heading down the Keys to tour and spend the night in Key West.

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