Carl Wernicke

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.

His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home on Pensacola Beach and watching sports, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union.

Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.


Like many Pensacolians who visit Europe, or a big city like New York, we were struck on a recent vacation in Spain by the vibrancy of the downtown scene, throughout the day and into the night. In Granada and, especially, Barcelona, the energy of the nightly street life seems extraordinary.


  My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Spain and Morocco, and as always upon returning I was struck by the differences between there and here.


  Over the summer I was lucky enough to volunteer with University of West Florida archeologists to assist with the ongoing effort to uncover the settlement of Don Tristan de Luna.

Luna attempted to establish a permanent Spanish colony in Pensacola in 1559, which if it had succeeded would have been the first permanent European settlement in what is now known as North America. The effort failed by 1561, mainly from the bad luck of being hit by a hurricane before the ships in the expedition had been fully unloaded.


  Some years ago it became clear to me that many people do not realize that the moon, just like the sun, rises and sets. For many of you this might sound questionable, but I can assure you that it is true.

The first time I encountered someone who professed to not realize that the moon rose and set, I thought I had found an outlier, someone who for some reason had missed this easily observable natural phenomenon.

But over several years I was surprised to meet a number of people who said that not only had they never watched a moonrise, they hadn’t realized that it did.


  Early one morning this week, coffee cup in hand, I walked down to Santa Rosa Sound from our home on Pensacola Beach and noticed something. For the first time since spring the morning breeze carried a chill, a hint of the coming fall rather than the warm breath of what has been a hot summer.


  Count me among those who are underwhelmed by the design of the winning bid for the new Pensacola Bay Bridge.

I also was hoping for a distinctive, signature design that would showcase Pensacola in an unforgettable way. Architecture, at its best, marks a community with a style that enhances local pride and sends a message to visitors.


  According to the Pensacola News Journal, record-setting crowds attended all three performances of this past weekend’s Blue Angels show, the first Pensacola performance following the death of Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, the Blues solo pilot who died in a crash in Smyrna, Tennessee, in June.


  Years ago I was at a snacks counter in a local mall to get some cashews. They were priced by the quarter pound, but I only wanted a taste. Seeing the electronic digital scale on the counter, I asked the clerk for a tenth of a pound.

The 20-something clerk looked blankly at me, then said, I don’t know what that is. Swallowing my shock, I pointed to the scale, said set it to point one, and enter the price per pound. She did, I got my nuts, and wandered off worrying about the fate of the Republic.

I’m starting to worry again.



  So far as I can tell, younger generations that grew up with the Internet seem to accept ubiquitous marketing as part of life. Tell them that the real point of all those free apps on their phone is about tracking their habits and selling the information to marketers, and they look at you with an expression that says, OK, and …?

It’s just how their world is put together.


Over more than 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Pensacola News Journal, I watched certain  community issues that never seemed to go away. Everyone agreed on the problem, but no one could agree on a solution.

So we debated the problem, over and over.

One such evergreen issue is traffic on Pensacola Beach. Actually, it’s two problems. Traffic, and parking.

I see no real solution for parking. This area is growing, and tourism is growing. What isn’t growing is the size of the beach. There simply isn’t room.


We were on the back deck of our house on Pensacola Beach last week when the Blue Angels brought Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss home for his last sunset pass over Santa Rosa Island, Perdido Key and downtown Pensacola.

It was a striking scene, a lone F/A-18 in the vivid colors of the Blue Angels, tight on the wing of Fat Albert, the C-130 support aircraft that is itself an iconic symbol of the team.



Over many years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I developed a pretty good eye for evaluating what was or was not reasonable. To mix metaphors here, you could say I got good at giving things the sniff test.

This proved really valuable during the years when I edited letters to the editor at the Pensacola News Journal. I quickly learned that facts mean different things to different people. Or, as Mark Twain put it, “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”


On Jan. 14, 1989, I was awakened at my Pensacola Beach home by a call from my city editor at the Pensacola News Journal. The Bay Bridge had been rammed by a tug boat, an event forever to be known as the day the ship hit the span.

Fortunately for the News Journal, I was on the other side of the bridge from the PNJ, and he wanted me to take a look from there.

So I drove into Gulf Breeze and found that, yep, the bridge was definitely closed.


Having lived almost all of my life in Northwest Florida, I can’t really speak to how it is to live in other places. But the variety of lifescapes offered by this area must be hard to beat.

That is underscored by our recent move from rural Garcon Point to urbanized Pensacola Beach. The culture shock could hardly be overstated.


After almost 15 years of living in the wilds of Garcon Point, my wife and I decided it was time to move. We still feel young, but there was no denying that the work required to maintain 12 acres of fast-growing forest was becoming too much.

And after having watched both my mother and my wife’s mother struggle to visit our home because of the steep stairs, we accepted that we, too, would face similar challenges as we aged.

So, like many other babyboomers, we decided to it was time to downsize.