Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sea Life Abounds

After a weekend of cold and cloudy, the weather turned nice again on Monday. Alma and I thus resumed our walks down on the beach Monday and yesterday. We have been trying to arrive down there no later than 3 p.m. so that our walks will conclude either right before or right after the sun sets at 4:45 p.m. The past two days have been no different in that regard. At 3 p.m., the tide seems to be at its lowest, such that probably 20 yards of hard-packed sand, mud and surf wash is exposed.

The weather has been so changeable lately that few people spend any time on the sand. So for the past few weeks, we have been limited to collecting pretty much only what the sea has to offer in the way of interesting rocks and sea shells. On Monday, Alma found several interesting shells and rocks but yesterday, it seemed as if the ocean had washed the beaches clear of most of the noteworthy shells and rocks. Even the man-made garbage seemed a little lighter than usual yesterday. I only had to pick up one or two plastic bottles, where normally I would pick up as many as ten on a single walk.

I mention this because yesterday, when we reached the Villa Marina jetty, we could almost walk all the way out to the end of jetty, the tide was so low at about 4 p.m. As we neared the jetty, we saw a starfish on the sand, a medium size specimen, about 3 feet from the water's edge. Yesterday marked the first time either of us had seen a starfish of any size at the beach:

After Alma had taken the picture above, she lifted the starfish up. We could see the little suction-cup thingies on the bottom still moving, so we knew that starfish was still alive. Alma put the starfish back in the water and we continued our walk towards the jetty.

When we reached it, we both noticed that the tide was so low we could walk on the sand almost out to its end. When we reached its tip and all along the way, I noticed these strange, mushroom-looking appendages on the rocks.

"Those are anemones," Alma said. "And look, they're still alive." She reached out with the sole of her boot and touched the top of one lightly. Sure enough, the appendage contracted in on itself, almost like a Venus Flytrap or like the floral creature in Little Shop of Horrors. There must have been thousands of them attached to the rocks and holding on for dear life for the return of the high tide. Alma took pictures of the rocks with anemones attached, but none of the photos came out very well. But if you can imagine a giant blackish-grey damp boulder with what look like 100s of blackish-grey mushrooms growing out of it, you will have the picture, I think.

In between some of the boulders, stagnant pools of water remained and in those pools we could actually see individual anemones fully opened up:

What astounded me though is that, attached to these same boulders and right in the midst of all the anemones, many starfish of varying hues and sizes had also attached themselves:

An entire colony of starfish must live right by the jetty. But Alma and I had no idea either anemones or starfish lived there until yesterday:

We may think of it as "our beach" and some of us may even claim to live "at the beach." But really, we are mere transients compared to the real locals, these anemones and starfish. They have lived here far longer than man has although, in fairness, they have only lived at the jetty since it was constructed in the late 1950s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

These anemones and starfish exhibit such a quiet unassuming elegance. Amidst all the human activity, they quietly live and thrive. I hope they contiue to live there long after homo sapiens have departed the scene. And I certainly hope Alma and I see them again in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment