What’s that on the sand up ahead?
Is that a giant eyeball that washed up on the beach? A burned piano? A huge hamster wheel? A bomb? A large cross?
And we thought the only things that washed up on Florida beaches were seaweed, seashells, dead fish — and bales of drugs.
But through the years, we have seen a series of oddities that have mysteriously found their ways from sea to shore along the state’s coastlines. Here’s a look at some through the Miami Herald archives:
The freighter and the socialite
On Nov. 23, 1984, the day after Thanksgiving, a Venezuelan freighter named the Mercedes I — as long as a 16-story building — beached itself on the seawall belonging to Palm Beach socialite, “the unsinkable Mollie Wilmot,” as the Miami Herald described her.
The night it happened, Wilmot, the daughter of a man who made millions from department stores in the Midwest, “did what any gracious host would do. She sent fresh-brewed coffee to the salty, unshaven crew and served cocktails to friends inside, with the wide-screen television on in case anyone grew tired of watching the hulking ship outside the big glass doors,” the Herald reported.
The 197-foot Mercedes soon overstayed its welcome near Wilmot’s swimming pool. Within a week, she’d had enough. Wilmot entertained notions of stringing Christmas lights around it, opening a disco on its deck, turning it into a beachfront restaurant, painting a seascape on it “to get back her ocean view,” a reporter suggested.
She didn’t do any of those things.
The freighter would squat there until March 1985. A tugboat hauled it out to sea and it was blasted and turned into an artificial reef.
“I think turning it into a reef is wonderful,” Wilmot told the Herald when the Mercedes met its final fate. “But the thought of them exploding it does upset me a bit. I don’t know if at the last minute I can even look at it. It depends on how cool I can stay.”
Wilmot, who became a national celebrity as a result of the freighter’s beaching at her manse, died at 78 in 2002. There had been talk of turning her South Florida 105-day saga into a movie with either Bette Midler or Melanie Griffith playing her but the film never made it past the development stages.
Perhaps “The Last Temptation of Christ” director Martin Scorsese could consider a movie about the Ocean Manor Beach Resort cross if it sticks around long enough.
The piano and the sandbar
In January 2011, a baby grand piano popped up on a small Biscayne Bay sandbar a few hundred yards east of Miami Shores. Within weeks, the images of that piano went viral worldwide and it was even pictured in National Geographic.
Mystery solved: it wasn’t a discard from a concert stage by an angry Elton John or Billy Joel. Turns out, a teenager, Nicholas Harrington , his dad Mark, brother and a neighbor had set the piano afire on the sandbar on New Year’s Day. The piano was a prop for a movie and wound up in the garage of J. Mark Harrington’s mother. Mark was a production designer on “Burn Notice.”
Bathing on the rocks
In November 2012, a white bathtub found its way onto the rocks on Government Cut, off Miami Beach. Some speculated it might have been some artist’s idea of an installation for Art Basel Miami Beach. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission wasn’t amused. It was soon hauled away.
Here’s looking at you
A softball-sized eyeball washed up on Pompano Beach in October 2012.
The eerie orb wasn’t from a character described in Peter Benchley’s 1991 novel, “Beast.”
Rather, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said that the icky discovery probably fell off a swordfish, as the attractive fish are desired catches of sport and commercial anglers along the South Florida coast.
A World War II-era flash bomb washed ashore in St. Pete Beach in July 2015. The arrival of the cylindrical, 4-foot, barnacle-encrusted relic of the 1940s sparked an evacuation of the beach and nearby homes.
Authorities soon detonated the bomb after building sand berms around it and protecting nearby hatching sea turtles.
An 8-foot-tall Lego man washed ashore on a Siesta Key beach in October 2011. The Sarasota man who found the colorful mega-toy, with the puzzling words, “NO REAL THAN YOU ARE, in block white letters on its green “shirt,” surmised its appearance on the shore must have been some sort of publicity stunt.
But according to the Herald-Tribune, which reported the story, Legoland wanted no part of the discovery and said it was a counterfeit.
A giant red hamster wheel
Published July 26, 2021
By Madeleine Marr
Seashells, plastic water bottles, the occasional flip-flop. Those are typical things you might find on a beach. But a giant hamster wheel? Not so likely. On Saturday morning, a Florida man was discovered inside a giant floating contraption, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, which posted pictures of the red machine washed up on shore.
The agency says “driver” Reza Baluchi was inside, unharmed. The 49-year-old told authorities he was attempting to raise money for charity by “running” on water from St. Augustine to New York City by way of Bermuda, but ran into some problems.
Baluchi and his hydropod, as he calls it, washed ashore near Hammock, in Flagler County, about 30 miles from where he first started the endeavor in St. Johns County.
Flagler County deputies said they arrived at the beach after several alarmed callers reported seeing the UFO, unidentified floating object. The hydropod is basically a metal cylinder with paddle wheels. The long-distance runner told authorities he “came across some complications that brought him back to shore.”
The money Baluchi was trying to raise was to go to first responders, the kind that just got him out of his latest situation. The vessel is reportedly outfitted with GPS and enough food and water for days. This is hardly the adventurer’s first brush with disaster: Baluchi made his first failed attempt in 2014, trying to get to travel north, before having to be rescued in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at a cost of $144,000 to taxpayers. His second attempt two years later also failed when he was stopped by the Coast Guard for safety reasons. On his website, RunwithReza.org, he says future plans include meeting with world leaders to encourage “connectivity,” planting a tree as a “symbol of growing personal empowerment,” and creating a reality show.
A giant cross
Published Feb. 16, 2019
By Howard Cohen
A heavenly visitor descended on the sands of Fort Lauderdale’s Ocean Manor Beach Resort — with a little help from man.
A 20-foot wooden cross, encrusted with barnacles and other signs of sea life, washed ashore in waters lapping the resort. The cross was carried onto the property sands by tourists, including Gary and Christine Gay, a Michigan couple who found it, filmed it, and now float an interesting theory about its possible origin.
A week later, people were still speculating on the origins of the religious symbol.
Read about the cross on the beach.