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Bat Cruise on Town Lake, September 23, 2006
The ACA had a very successful event on Town Lake on September 23, 2006.
We took a Capital Cruises Bat Cruise on the M.V. Pride and Joy. (M.V. stands
for Motor Vessel.) We like to talk up our social events, especially when they
go off this well, to encourage more members to take part in future events.
At around 5:30pm on Saturday, Sept 23, passengers started to arrive at the
Capital Cruises dock. When we got there, we immediately found out that we
were bumped up to the larger boat, the largest they have actually, the M.V.
Pride and Joy. Our designated boat from the reservation we made over a month
ago was for the M.V. Silent Star, a much smaller boat. We're not sure why
they bumped us up, except to say that the larger boats, and actually most of
their other boats were not in use at the time. We really appreciate that
change, because the Pride and Joy has two levels, and we spent most of the
trip on the top level.
Under the stars we had a very enjoyable time, cruising up and down Town Lake.
For those who don't know, "Town Lake" is actually a river with a little dam,
downstream from Lake Travis, a very large and beautiful lake out West.
We'd like to thank everyone who brought food and drink, and my goodness,
there was a lot of all that! We had party snacks of many kinds, two kinds
of wine, several brands of beer, a healthy supply of donuts, tasty garlic
dip, grape soda...mmmm. The lesson there is if we all just bring a little
bit, added together it can be a feast.
We were also entertained on the top level of the boat by our own ACA
President Matt Dillahunty as he played his guitar. I immediately recognized
the ever appropriate "Wish You Were Here," by Pink Floyd. Then his guitar got
passed around a bit, and we got to hear more music from other talented
members of the group. It's amazing the talents and skills we Atheists have
The weather was also challenging and interesting. As soon as we were ready
to shove off and begin our trip, it started raining, so we waited a short
time before starting our trip. We got everyone on board, wet as some of us
were, and left. We counted 25 passengers. Excellent turnout.
But after a few minutes of cruising slowly and smoothly down the river, the
rain stopped, and the clouds broke. A beautiful sunset emerged, showing
bright colors and vibrant cloud patters. Our evening was now set for bat
We cruised downstream, Eastward on the river almost out of Austin. We passed
and marvelled at Joe's Crab Shack, with it's extensive neon sineage glowing
in the dusk air. We saw the area on the North shore called Fiesta Gardens,
and it was all quiet and solitary. When we turned around to go back to the
downtown area, we saw a multitude of bright white birds in the distance,
gathering on a tree over the water. They seemed illuminated against the
backdrop of a darkening shoreline. One of our members theorized that they
were egrets. Truly beautiful natural landscapes abound in our city.
So we headed back towards the Congress Ave. bridge to watch the bats, and
before we even got there, thousands of bats began to fly overhead. They
created long winding and spiraling bands of darkness in the sky, like a swarm.
Their flight pattern formed a tighly-knit, but seemingly frantic array of
flying hunter-killers. Their mission: to eat several tons of flying insects
in total, each night. They fly out over the river towards the East, and out
to the farms in East Central Texas.
Among their very helpful nightly habits, they eat farm pests, which reduces
the need for chemical pesticides. But you may have heard me talk about my
favorite thing that these bats do, which is, they eat mosquitos. Some
mosquitos have West Nile Virus, or hepititus, and other diseases, so in
essence, by eating tens of thousands of mosquitos each night, the bats save
human lives. We don't notice them doing their thing at night, but there are
a whole lot more bats in the Austin area the most people realize.
While we were watching the bats fly, a member of the Pride and Joy crew came
up to the top level and told us a few things about the bats. It was
fascinating for us to learn that these same kind of bats, Mexican Free Tail
bats, have been living in central Texas for several thousand years. It was
in the early '80's when the Congress Ave. bridge was refurbished. Open slots
about an inch and a half wide were built into the bridge, on its underside,
going the entire length of the bridge. The slots were added so that the
bridge could safely expand and contract with changes in the weather, without
Well those slots were just the right dimensions for Mexican Free Tail bats
to live in, and that wasn't even planned. Now, in August every year, their
population level peaks out for the year at around 1.5 million. In the winter,
they migrate South to Mexico, where they live in caves and other places
before returning to Austin in the Spring. They're amazing. Not only do they
have two homes they can live in, for maximized weather comfort, they're the
only mammals who routinely cross the US/Mexico border, back and forth,
every year, in huge numbers, other than humans, of course.
Eventually our cruise came to an end, and we took a few last minute pictures,
and said our goodbyes. We'd like to make this an annual event, and have it
around this time each year. It happened to be the Fall Equinox that day,
which is perfect, since there aren't usually any social events dedicated to
that day. We cover the Solstices well, but I've often felt that the
Equinoxes need some attention too. That's more fascinating and factual
learning about our world and the universe we live in.
Many thanks to everyone who came out, everyone who took photos, everyone who
brought food and/or drinks, everyone who made music, and thanks also to
Joe Rhodes for helping by handling the money situation. We'd also like to say
thank you to the ACA Board of Directors for making the money and contract
situation come together. I also called Capital Cruises and thanked them very
much for a great cruise. Their people were great, the boat was great, and the
ride was wonderful.
Hope to see you on the boat next year!
Organizer Joe Zamecki
(For more information about the bats, see Bat Conservation International
and their web page about the Congress Avenue bat colony.)
Photos from the event
Our boat, the M.V. Pride and Joy.
Inside the boat, we had a potluck buffet.
Chillin' and eatin'.
Our mascot for the trip.
Enjoying the deck on top of the boat.
Matt sung "God will f*ck you up" for us.
A colony of large white birds.
Organizers Marla Repka and Joe Zamecki.
A nice sunset.
A group of bats fly over downtown.
The bats stream out from under the Congress Ave. Bridge.
Join us for the Bat Cruise Lecture, 1:15pm September 27th at Trinity United Methodist Church, at 40th and Speedway. Lecturers will be Richard Carrier and Chris Johnson.
The ACA Bat Cruise is set for Saturday, September 27th, 6-8pm. Purchase tickets in advance here.