Saturday, January 28, 2012

What the wind brought in

For the second day in a row, the sun shone, although the wind was biting. In mid-afternoon, our planned activity for the day finished already, we  took a quick run down to Crescent Beach.

Even from our sheltered parking spot, I could hear the wind howling in the treetops. The gulls, dressed as they are from head to tail in feathers lined with down, were playing high overhead, shouting gleefully. Not us; on the shore, the wind went right through our heavy jackets, and after a quick foray out onto the flat sand, we returned, to hug the relative shelter of the bush and cliff face.

Here, we were surprised to find fresh, still damp, piles of eelgrass and bull kelp, several meters inland from the normal high tide mark, tossed there by recent storms. The eelgrass was twined around the roots of rose bushes and trees; the wind had even picked up clam shells and tossed them into the bush.

This clam shell was still rocking on the broken branch of an old stump, where the storm had snagged it. It has an eelgrass tail, barely visible as it whipped back and forth.  And yes, that's a piece of plastic candy wrapper on the stones.

Alder sprig, broken off, caught on a dead blackberry cane.

The eelgrass hadn't arrived alone. It was wrapped and tied around pieces of wood, branches, plastic, a lost glove, broken glass, many clam shells. Here and there, we found unexpected casualties.

Several dead starfish, far from their usual haunts.

I saw five kelp crabs. Someone had placed these two on a rock.

Kelp crabs live in areas which are continually under water. They congregate on pilings under wharves, or in the kelp and eelgrass of the intertidal zone, moving down as the tide recedes. On the wide, flat expanses of Crescent Beach, their habitat is far out into the bay; the tide races out too rapidly for them to survive closer to shore. These unfortunates had been swept up, past the sand flats, past the bare rocks, past the upper beach trail, to the roots of the hill, where they died.

This large crab was freshly dead, still wet and with all his limbs intact.

I'd never seen the underside; it turned out to be a brilliant red. Around the open abdominal plate, a few flies are beginning to feed.

And then the wind blew us back to the car and down the road to a toasty coffee shop.


  1. The atmosphere of this is familiar from the deep entanglements of eel grass that the sea tosses up where I live - especially along the Fleet Lagoon.

  2. now I know my unknown crab from ShiShi Beach!

    Salt water beaches are teh best!


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