Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Intertidal Zone

In only two days-- once on the beach of the peninsula where we camped the first night and again on Mook Island-- I was mesmerized by the surprises that the intertidal zone holds. I explored the limestone formations of the peninsula at low tide and found brain corals, sea cucumbers, clams, barnacles, and fish all holding on for a few hours until the sea would cover them again. On Mook Island, the expansive mudflats were a veritable traffic jam of crabs, starfish, clams, and creatures of all kinds. Walking out at low tide was not at all the peaceful exploration I imagined-- sea creatures crunch beneath your every step and the clacking and tapping of the clams and crabs is quite loud. I have never seen such productivity (in terms of animal life) in the wild. It was surprising in part because I expected the intertidal zone to be a stressful zone and therefore sparsely populated. For example, holes dug by the crabs during low tide are quickly filled in at high tide. But day after day the millions of crabs of all sizes continue to rebuild their shelters in the moist sand.

It was not only the ecology of the intertidal zone that impressed me, but the way the local people used it, as well. At low tide on the peninsula, several women appeared on the beach with buckets and digging/scraping tools to harvest clams. A man with them was stringing gill nets between the limestone formations. As we pulled up to Mook Island with our pod of kayaks (endearingly named "Pad See-U"), a group of women had already assembled, tools and buckets in hand, to follow the tide out and collect the bounty that low tide affords. Anna and Rebecca went out to make friends and see if they could help harvest, while I took pictures of them digging in the sand for clams. I don't know how much local people rely on this resource for their daily lives, but the intertidal zone seemed to be an extension of their world every 12 hours-- women harvest, children play, men haul things to and from their beached boats, even motorcycles navigate through areas of compacted sand.

No comments:

Post a Comment