Captain Blake Banks was a lifelong commercial fisherman. In Cortez, where he lived and docked his boat Medusa, he was called a “high liner”—a successful fisherman. Like all captains, he kept a log book on the boat in which he wrote about the weather, the water, and daily activities at sea. Over the years, Banks filled and kept dozens of log books. These journals shed light on a life of hauling in fish and harvesting sponges in the Gulf of Mexico and southwest Florida. They also provide details about his keen interest in collecting seashells and other marine animals.
For Captain Banks, collecting sea life was more than a hobby. He took biology courses at a local college and learned about the science of grouping and naming living things. When at sea, he acquired some specimens while fishing, and he also scooped up samples of the seabed to see what he could find. After each successful discovery, he recorded the location in his log and on a map. He often took a photograph. Banks taught himself how to clean and preserve the specimens. The process required chemicals, dental tools, and a lot of patience. His knowledge of sea life allowed him to identify many items by their scientific and common names. When he had questions, he contacted marine scientists in the area. Banks displayed his finds at events and shell shows, where he won several ribbons. After his death in 2004 at the age of 59, his family donated part of his collection and his log books to the Florida Maritime Museum. The examples shown in these pages provide a hint about the array of animals that inhabit the sea.