It was a perfect day for a car trip through Florida’s endlessly meandering canal system, with four good friends, a cooler of snacks and icy drinks, and a brand new camera. I grabbed my NixRay GoBag, and we were off on a gator photo safari.

Another splendid and sunny South Florida day, but fiercely windy, so the beach was out . Guests were due in the evening, so when Mr.Green suggested a gator- spotting excursion from our farm in West Palm Beach to the nearby Everglades, we jumped. Mr. Green has an uncanny talent for finding excellent adventures and surprising explorations.

So the four of us, Mr. Green, Cap’n Squiddy, Ms. X and me, Mrs. Why, grabbed snacks and cold drinks, and the Cap’n’s new drone camera, enthusiastically jumped into the ten year old Yukon, and struck out westward, toward the northernmost mouth of the Everglades, or more accurately, the vast swath of engineered canals and seemingly infinite cane and lettuce fields that once were part of the richly bio- diverse and crystalline waterways and estuaries of the Everglades, and now comprise the EAA, the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Once in the EAA, we were soon surrounded on all sides by canefields stretching to all horizons, an endless flat bottomed bowl, whose lofty monotony of cane blades, or short, black and spent harvested fields is broken occasionally by the luminous green of countless rows of lettuce, their watery leaves fed by the same opaque green effluvium drifting through the canals.

As usual, Mr. Green is first to spot the two juvenile gators- the pod, swimming down the canal alongside the road. Mr.Green has consistently superior Gator-vision. The youngsters are followed by their vigilant mother. Alligators can live up to fifty years, and singular among reptiles, crocodilians are ferociously protective and nurturing mothers, and the podlings remain in their care for up to three years.

We pull off the road, and the Cap’n sets his drone to flight, though the day’s wind is fierce. We watch as Mother Gator swims protectively behind her young, her maternal processes more resembling a bird or mammal than a snake. The winds are wild, though, and we fear losing the drone. Our attention turns to the surrounding canefields. We appear to be in an infinity of flat fields. Far in the hazy distance, the monotony is broken by what seem to be tiny remote villages. Cap’n Squiddy notices distant wisps of smoke. Though we have driven for miles, we have seen no people, no farm compounds, no signs identifying to whom these vast tracts belong, no other vehicles.

Meandering alongside the turbid canals, we wonder aloud what chemicals are required to produce such great plantations of cane and lettuce, recalling having kayaked through the mangrove tunnels of the Everglades Swamp, south of the EAA, the water so crystalline and pure as to seem invisible, the vegetation an intractable jungle. What technology and chemistry have been combined to transform that complex and rich biome into these linear rectangles of turbid canalsand weedless canefields? What poison lingers in the watery cells of lettuce grown alongside sugar cane?