The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: bivalves

(Mis)Adventures in #Vanlife with Raw Paua. Part III. A Tired Old Truck and a Boatful of Holes.

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand, living in a house truck with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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Above: Raw Paua, cooked. Queen Charlotte Drive shows no mercy on a tired old truck and a boatful of holes.

Raw Paua and I took a tour down the east coast of the south island last week, and it began swimmingly. She steamed over two mountain passes and hugged the cliffs nicely along mile after mile of winding coast.

We made camp, and although it was nearly freezing, turning on the broiler to heat a lamb roast (as one does in the land of sheep) warmed me up enough to patter away at the keyboard until the wee hours and comfortably turn in.

The next day, we ventured back up the coast, where we surfed, made fires, and met a crazy Valencian who’s in the process cycling around the perimeter of the island nation.

A couple of days of foul weather and Raw Paua and I decided to make for home base back at the top of the South Island. That was when the smoke started.

I pulled over to the side of the road where a splendid, unridden right-hander was reeling along the beach under a soft pastel sky with nary a surfer in sight. The wave looked enticing, but this wasn’t the time. I had a crisis on my hands.

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Then again, in retrospect . . . Photo: Owen James Burke.

Lifting the hood, I was met with a face full of smoke and the alarming, nauseating, intoxicating stench of boiling radiator coolant; it wasn’t exactly the afternoon buzz I was hoping to catch.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

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The Last of the Sea Silk Spinners?

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Above: Chiara Vigo with her Sea silk, or bissus, the cloth of pharaohs, kings and queens. Photo: Andrea Pasquali.

Most silk is made from cocoon husks, but for some pharaohs, kings and queens of yore, worm spit simply wouldn’t do. For them, there was another, rarer silk to be coveted, and it came from clams.

Chiara Vigo harvests byssal threads (known collectively as byssus), the hair-like fibers that allow clams and other bivalves to attach to hard surfaces like rocks. Spinning and dying these coarse, drab strands by hand, she may be among the last of her craft, but not if she has anything to say about it.

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Photo: Andrea Pasquali.

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Wish You Were Here: Freshly-Dived Scallops, Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand, living in a house truck with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds might just have the best scallops on the planet. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I forgot my dive fins yesterday, so it was a bit of a strain getting down to scallop depth (25-30 feet), especially in my floaty surfing wetsuit, but I managed to pull up a few, and at least I remembered the lemon.

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(Mis)Adventures in #VanLife with Raw Paua. Stranded Twice in Two Days. Part II.

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At this sight, in a moment of weak resolve, I mercilessly romanced about shoving my new hearth off a cliff, acquiring a sailboat at once, and heaving-to into the sunset, flames and fumes of my recent past life over my shoulder. Photo: Owen James Burke.

In the frosty early morning air, Raw Paua turned over just fine after our morning of mishaps the previous day. I went to pick up Mac and another friend, but getting up to speed on State Highway 1 (the main road running along the South Island’s north and east coasts), both of my carburetors cut out. Not what you want to have happen going 55 mph with a boat and trailer in tow.

I pulled off to the shoulder and restarted the engine without any trouble. It was just a little cold, I thought. I continued on.

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(Mis)Adventures in #Vanlife with Raw Paua. Stranded Twice in Two Days. Part I.

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Three things I’ve quickly learned this weekend about #VanLife: 1) Never trust a digital gauge. 2) You are your own mechanic. 3) Most importantly, you never know where you’ll end up. So always keep a well-stocked fridge, preferably of fresh shellfish and good wine. Hard-learned philosophical lessons aside, Raw Paua handled the switchbacks through the Queen Charlotte Drive beautifully, even with Tindori in tow. Photo: Owen James Burke.

This past weekend, Mac and I decided to load up Raw Paua for a shakedown trip into the Marlborough Sounds with Tindori in tow. Things didn’t quite go as planned.

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The Billion Oyster Project: How Ecologists Are Using Tiny Mollusks to Shore Up New York City’s Waterways

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Photo: Edible Brooklyn. (No, these oysters won’t be edible.)

Once upon a time, there were people who called themselves the Lenape occupying modern-day New York City. They tended oyster beds which not only fed them, but kept their waters clean.

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Photo: Edible Brooklyn.

Then the Europeans arrived. These new settlers also had a taste for oysters, but as beds became depleted and the concept of “waste management” was yet to be discovered, the craggy mollusks faced a massive die-off. By 1923, New York City had closed the last of its oyster beds.

Today, eating an oyster from New York City waters is probably about as safe as eating one off the floor in the main terminal at Grand Central Station, but just because we’re not eating them doesn’t mean that this once-flush 330-square-mile region of reefs can continue without them.

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Disco Clams, Toxic-Spewing Strobe Lights of the Sea

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Photo: Lindsey Dougherty.

The disco clam (Ctenoides ales) is a tiny reef-dwelling bivalve that exists throughout the Indo-Pacific.

This flashy little mollusk uses an array of 40 eyes along its mantle (the gasket-like membrane lining the inner edge of its shell) almost like a scallop. Its eyes reflect ambient light, putting on a colorful show for those within eyeshot.

The dazzling display both attracts and deters other organisms, but when the 6-centimeter clam is unable to get the message across, it can also spew a toxic mucus containing sulfuric acid (yeah, the stuff in car batteries and drano).

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Have a Bad Night You’d Rather Not Remember? Try Amnesiac Pacific Razor Clams.

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Above: The Pacific razor clam. Photo: Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr.

Clamnesia: we don’t know exactly where or when, but the Pacific razor clam can, like all shellfish, pack a lethal punch. This toxicity is due to algae like Pseudo-nitzchiawarm water species that tend to do oh-so-well in urban areas where nitrates and phosphates–algal food–run full bore into the sea creating a veritable smorgasbord for the microscopic scamps.

While the algae are having a ball, they not only flood the water column with neurotoxic domoic acid, produced by their consumption our of potent, chemically enhanced nutrients flooding their habitat. Unfortunately, neurotoxins like domoic acid run straight up the food chain.

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