A BAHAMAS CRAB FEAST ON ABACO & BEYOND


Land Crab 2

A BAHAMAS CRAB FEAST ON ABACO & BEYOND

The photos below show a sample of the types of crab that may be found in and around the island of Abaco, both in the sea and on land. The wonderful underwater images were taken in adjacent waters by Melina Riger of Grand Bahama Scuba. The rest were taken by landlubbers at Rolling Harbour on the Delphi beach and rather closer to the building than one might expect. The last crab (and the header image) was a crab hooshed out of the coppice by Ricky Johnson to demonstrate its fighting prowess. I have put links to 2 posts featuring this fine specimen (including a video) at the end.

ARROW CRABArrow Crab ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba copy

Arrow Crab ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

HERMIT CRABHermit Crab ©Melinda Riger @ GB Scuba

Hermit Crab 2Hermit Crab 3Hermit Crab 1

HORSESHOE CRAB (LIMULUS)Horseshoe Crab (Limulus), Delphi Beach, Abaco Bahamas

COMMON GHOST CRAB (Ocypode quadrata), DELPHI BEACHBeach Crab 1

PET CRABS PROTECTING MY ROD OUTSIDE OUR ROOM (note second crab behind it) AND ADVERTISING HARDY PRODUCTS. Rick Guest has pointed out that the crab is not protecting my rod at all. As if! “The crab in the foreground is the male guarding “his” female, distinguished by the small, abdominal triangle. The wide margins of the female’s abdomen are evident.” So that’s how to tell the sex of a land crab. Crabs & rodCrab & rod

BLUE LAND CRAB (Cardisoma guanhumi) WITH ATTITUDELand Crab 1

LAND CRABS ON ABACO: HOW TO STALK & WRESTLE THEM

LAND CRAB vs RICKY JOHNSON: ROUND 2 (VIDEO)

PS thanks to Nick Kenworthy for species comments + knowing the Latin names; also Clare for the Limulus

SHORE THINGS: BEACHCOMBING ON A PRISTINE ABACO BEACH


Shore Things 16

SHORE THINGS: BEACHCOMBING ON A PRISTINE ABACO BEACH

The Abaco bay known as Rolling Harbour is a 3/4 mile curve of white sand beach, protected by an off-shore reef. The beach is pristine. Or it would be but for two factors. One is the seaweed that arrives when the wind is from the east – natural and biodegradable detritus. It provides food and camouflage for many species of shorebird – plover and sandpipers of all varieties from large to least. The second – far less easily dealt with – is the inevitable plastic junk washed up on every tide. This has to be collected up and ‘binned’, a never-ending cycle of plastic trash disposal. Except for the ATLAS V SPACE-ROCKET FAIRING found on the beach, that came from the Mars ‘Curiosity’ launch. Sandy's Mystery Object

We kept is as a… curiosity, until it was eventually removed by the men in black…

Shore Things 14I’d intended to have a ‘plastic beach trash’, Atlantic-gyre-rage rant, with angry / sad photos to match. Instead, I decided to illustrate a more positive side to beach life – things you may discover when you take a closer look at the sand under your feet. Like the coconut above. Many of these photos were taken by our friend Clare Latimer (to whom thanks for use permission); some by me.

Shore Things 13A LONE FLOWERShore Things 17SEA STAR (DEFUNCT), WITH CRAB TRACKSShore Things 21SEA FAN (GORGONIAN)Shore Things 15WASHED-UP BOTTLE (PROBABLY NOT RUM)Shore Things 12

SEA BISCUITSShore Things 9

Thanks to Capt Rick Guest, who has contributed an interesting comment regarding the sea biscuit with a hole in it. He writes “the (Meoma) Sea Biscuit w/ the hole in it was dined upon by a Helmet Conch. The Cassis madagascariensis, or C.tuberosa drills the hole w/ its conveyer-belt-like radula teeth w/ some help from its acidic, saliva. Probably 98% of all symetrical holes in marine invertebrates are of this nature. Murex, Naticas, Helmets, and many Cephalapods (via a Stylet), are the usual B&E suspects. The Cone shells utilize a modified radula in the form of a harpoon which is attached to a venom tube.” For more on the vicious cone shell, and other creatures to avoid, click HERE

DRIFTWOOD. IT’S LIKE… OH, USE YOUR IMAGINATIONShore Things 5A WILSON’S PLOVER NESTShore Things 11HORSESHOE CRAB (LIMULUS)Shore Things 4SCULPTURE? AN EMBRYONIC SHELTER? Shore Things 3LARGE BIRD FOOTPRINTSShore Things 18MORE BIRD PRINTS AND CRAB TRACKSShore Things 19 CRABUS CUTICUSShore Things 6CONCH SHELLS & OTHER BEACH TREASURESShore Things 8Shore Things 20CRAB HOLE & TRACKSShore Things 22SOME IDIOT’S LEFT HIS… OH! IT’S MINEShore Things 7

FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS & SHELLS: COLOURFUL GASTROPODS OF THE CARIBBEAN


FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAILS & SHELLS: COLOURFUL GASTROPODS OF THE CARIBBEAN

The FLAMINGO TONGUE SNAIL Cyphoma gibbosum is a small sea snail (marine gastropod mollusc), related to cowries. The live animal is brightly coloured and strikingly patterned, but that colour is only in the ‘live’ parts – the shell itself is pale and characterised by  a thick ridge round the middle. These snails live in the tropical waters of the Caribbean and wider western Atlantic. Whether alive or dead, they are easy to identify.

This snail on the left (thanks, Wiki) is snacking on a coral stem, leaving a feeding track behind it. The structural shell ridge is clearly visible beneath the distinctively marked live tissue.

The flamingo tongue feeds by browsing on soft corals. Adult females attach eggs to coral which they have recently fed upon. About 10 days later, the larvae hatch. They eventually settle onto other gorgonian corals such as Sea Fans. Juveniles tend to live on the underside of coral branches, while adults are far more visible and mobile. Where the snail leaves a feeding scar, the corals can regrow the polyps, and therefore predation by C. gibbosum is generally not harmful to the coral.

The principal purpose of the mantle of  tissue over the shell is as the creature’s breathing apparatus.  The tissue absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. As I have seen it described (unkindly?) “it’s basically their lungs, stretched out over their rather boring-looking shell”. 

This species was once common but is becoming rarer. One significant threat comes from snorkelers and divers who mistakenly think that the colour is the shell of the animal, collect up a whole bunch, and in due course are left with… (see photos below)

These photos are of flamingo tongue shells from the Delphi Club Collection. Until I read the ‘boring-looking shell’ comment, I thought everyone thought they were rather lovely… you decide!

Finally, a couple of videos. The first is rather charmingly titled ‘FLAMINGO TONGUES DOING…. SOMETHING’. Any (printable but amusing) suggestions via the Comment box are welcome (Hi Trish!). The second punchily summarises this post. Maybe that’s all that was needed!

BEACHCOMBING WITH KASIA: EXPLORING A ROCKY SHORE


Kasia’s back! She recently explored a rather unpromising-looking stretch of Abaco coastline, and it proved to be anything but… Kasia writes: The story goes: one day I took myself for a walk and a bit of beachcombing. I usually don’t bring my camera with me but luckily this time I did. This particular beach looks very barren but on close inspection and a patient eye there are some lovely treasures to be found. Here are some of the treasures I captured!

A tangle of 3 bleached trees, with their roots apparently intertwined

CHITONS

Great close-ups… are those eggs behind this first one? There’s a similar image in the Macmillan ‘Marine Life of the Caribbean’ but unfortunately neither the caption nor the text refers to them. ADDENDUM: Colin Redfern writes: The “eggs” behind the chiton are fecal pellets

NERITES (Nerita)

 

WEST INDIAN TOP-SHELLS (Cittarium Pica) 

In this image, several very small chitons can also be seen on the rock

It looks as if someone… or something… has been having a Nerite feast on the shore. A bird maybe?  I had taken the shells above and below to be another variety of Nerite, but as so often scientist and shell expert Colin Redfern has kindly corrected the error. He writes: “Very nice photos. The “nerite feast” is actually a pile of broken West Indian Top-shells (Cittarium pica). The photo immediately above shows a live group of the same species. This is what Bahamians call a whelk (or wilk), and in the lower photo they have been harvested, probably for a stew.

 ROCK POOL MISCELLANY

I am trying to ID a much as I can in this pool. All suggestions welcome via ‘Leave a Comment’. So far, the corals are Brain Coral and Pink Coral (I think) but I am going see what else can be given a name…

These are my favourite! :) Kasia

COMET SEA STAR (possibly juvenile, with 3 such short stubs?)

A SPONGE (?) OF SOME SORT (any help with ID appreciated…)

                RED ROCK URCHINS

BOOKCOMBING: AN OCCASIONAL THEMED SERIES (2) SEA GLASS


2. SEA GLASS

Note 1 I give Amazon.uk pricing as a simple standard for new / used prices. Obviously Amazon.com is also worth comparing, as is Abe UK or US. With Abe watch out for the shipping costs. An apparently ‘bargain’ book may have a loading on the shipping, which (unlike Amazon) are not standard.

Note 2 You will see that I have included books that have had bad reviews as well as good – compare books 1 and 2 below – so that you are forewarned…

PURE SEA GLASS

RICHARD LAMOTTE

Amazon UK £22; new / used from £14

Amazon UK Reviews 1 x 5*           

Pure Beauty “I loved this book… Sea glass is fantastic and this book shows you how to recognise each colour, although in reality there are thousands of hues! I loved the photographs in this book and it made me surf the Internet for sea glass collectors, sites etc.

Amazon.com reviews: 70,  average rating 4.9 out of 5*. Here are a few nibbles

Discovering Nature’s Vanishing Gems  “This is an excellent volume, especially for beginners… A major attraction is that there are over 150 exquisite and elegant photographs… presenting some of the beat specimens ever collected, along with a vast array of classical glassware from around the world that is often its source. The book is a comprehensive guide, chock full of information on finding and identifying these gems, the bits of aged glass, enhanced by years beneath the sea or caught in the tides that wash our coasts. There are 224 pages with chapters on the history of sea glass and the history of sand, (fascinating), different types of glass, (bottles, containers, tableware, utility and flat glass, like window glass – plain and stained, marbles, insulators and bonfire glass – from ship and shore, etc) & appraising rarity, along with many other interesting topics”

Simply Exquisite  “…a must have for all the beachcombers who wander the strands of the world, bending to pick up those gorgeous fragments of glass. It offers history & facts about the globs of glass washed up by the waves, as well as page after page of exhilerating colors & shapes the glass comes in, & images of the seashore”

SEA GLASS HUNTER’S BOOK

C.S.LAMBERT

Amazon UK £8.54, new/used from £5.07

This book has divided readers. It’s worth bearing in mind that it costs a lot less than most, so it can’t be expected to be as lavish. but still… here’s a flavour. I rather enjoyed the two snidey reviews, I’m sorry to say

Amazon.com reviews: 9, average rating 3.7*

The Good Review “It’s exactly what I hoped — SGHH is a celebration of sea glass hunting. Simply put: the book is stunning. As a previous reviewer noted, this is not a “how to” book nor a map (although it does list exceptional locations around the world); rather, it is like a piece of sea glass itself: beautiful, tangible, a treasure. Chapter 1 the world of sea glass; 2, origins; 3, methods for hunting; 4, lexicon; 5, etiquette & laws; 6, destinations. It’s digest size, hard bound & first class… I strongly recommend it for anyone who truly loves sea glass or who would like to share the passion with others

The Model Sniffy Review Intended for total novices, not for a true sea glass hunter… mostly a very broad overview of the sea glass experience, basically nice small pictures in color of perfect pieces of sea glass etc. The book is very small, the type of thing you find in a hallmark gift shop in the mall, designed obviously for gifting to a hospital patient or homebound person, a little birthday type gift, would be nice to give to someone at christmas time that has no idea what seaglass is, or for a pre-teenager to early teens in reading level perhaps. I had too high expectations for this book… it’s just a little puff piece. If you seriously collect sea glass and actively pursue this with any passion, you won’t find anything in this tiny volume of importance that you don’t already know”

The Serious Panning “Ho Hum. The most remarkable thing about this book is how undistinguished it is. A book on sea glass should either be beautifully designed or loaded with useful information, or both. This one is neither. The visual appearance is not unlike what one might expect in a high school project. In particular, the extensive grab bag of colorful and unrelated fonts is amateurish to the extreme. There’s a dearth of information for something purporting to be a “handbook”. The author has thrown together a variety of snippets seemingly without the benefit of an organizing thought process or theme. You can skim this skimpy volume or better yet you can simply skip it – I wish I had. Read Pure Sea Glass by Richard LaMotte instead (see review above. rh)

SEA GLASS CHRONICLES 

C.S.Lambert (Author) Pat Hanbery (Photographer)

Amazon UK £17.32 new / used from £12

REVIEW CLIPPINGS

1. The Overwrought (Suspected Publisher’s Puff)  “Hunting for sea glass treasures and safeguarding the hiding places where these precious images of the past wash ashore, are passions among the beach-faithful… This hunger for sea glass is a natural progression… blah…ageless hobby of beachcombing as an anthropological art…blah…this lovely book is a terrific and meaningful gift… blah..those dazzling little pieces of glistening remnants leftover after the sea has abused them as a worthwhile hobby and aesthetic pastime…blah…before being rescued by the beachcombing enthusiast. Holiday gifts, coffee table conversation table toppers or inspirational reading…blah…a book to treasure just like the mysterious particles described between the book jacket covers”

2. The Enthusiast “I love this book. It has a unique perspective – the history of objects from another time – which have washed up on our shores. It is remarkable that a history could be written about a shard of glass. The author manages to trace back through infinitesimal clues the origin and use of what to most is just colorful detrius. The text is very brief and poetic but also informative. The photographs beautifully enhance the found objects. They are insightful and clever, and the quality and sharpness is always first rate”

3. The Pragmatist “I am delighted with this book. Large clear artistic photographs illustrate the research. I have learned a lot about the origins of the beach found objects. To my suprise one of my prized found objects is featured – a Lea & Perrins glass bottle stopper, and I now know it dates from 1876 onwards. I shall be looking out for some purple glass – the rarest colour of all! The text explains why it is so rare. Not a craft book, but a book of answers and interesting facts to inspire the collector”

4. The To-the-Point “Useful purchase beautifully illustrated with creative thought provoking ideas of what can be found on the sea shore and what can be made from what is essentially waste”

And for those that have found glass and want to know what they can do with it, the later companion volume to Sea Glass Chronicles…

A PASSION FOR SEA GLASS

C. S. LAMBERT AMY WILTON

Amazon UK £19.99 new/used about £15

REVIEW CLIPPINGS

“Heaven is sea glass shaped What a wondeful book that transports the reader to a heaven of sea glass images. I thought I was the only weird person, searching the shore line like an oyster catcher, looking for elusive pieces of wave-worn glass and pottery shards. This book shows me there are other like-minded persons who have taken their search to a whole new creative level by fashioning the most beautiful and imaginative pieces of art from their finds”

“Beautiful images  A treasure for any sea glass lover. The images are beautiful and the ideas are creative and inspiring. A wonderfully readable picture book.”

“A fine guide for any art or photography collection Amy A. Wilton provides the stunning photos for A PASSION FOR SEA GLASS, a survey of major sea glass collectors and the workshops of artisans who use the glass to provide everything from sea-glass windows to mosaics, ornaments and more. It complements Lambert’s 2001 SEA GLASS CHRONICLES, which covered collection and identification of sea glass, and adds a new dimension of usage and conversion making this a fine guide for any art or photography collection”

“A worthy sequel to “Sea Glass Chronicles” Author C.S. Lambert and photographer Pat Hanbery showed us the beauty of those colorful beachside finds in “Sea Glass Chronicles: Whispers from the Past.” Now Lambert has gone one step farther by documenting what avid sea glass collectors do with all of their treasures. The people we meet on these pages make jewelry or wind chimes or mobiles. They assemble mosaics on tabletops or walls. One artist crafts panels that look much like stained glass windows, until you examine them more closely. And those are just some of the projects featured in this book. While a few of the profiles include directions for making your own artwork, the focus here is on beauty and art and imagination.”

A must for Sea Glass Lovers I received this book as a gift, and absolutely loved it. I found it interesting to see what other “seaglunkers” did with their collections to display them, where they found their pieces, and enjoyed the beautiful pictures and narrations throughout the book. It is beautifully photographed with great text from the contributing artisans. Terrific craft ideas and suggestions, much more than a tabletop book and well worth the investment”


BOOKCOMBING: AN OCCASIONAL THEMED SERIES (1) OCEAN DEBRIS


BOOKCOMBING

A MISCELLANY OF BOOKS MORE OR LESS RELEVANT TO ABACO LIFE

These are not books I have read myself. They are books that may be of interest to readers of this sort of blog. Islandy. Beachy. Mariney. A whiff of wildlife. They will be collected together under the BOOKS ETC menu as the series expands. If one of them catches your eye, then check online for reviews, reader ratings and prices. If I get round to one or more of them I will add my own views, but I am still gradually working through wildlife books that I have already paid for…

1. FLOTSAM, JETSAM & OCEAN DEBRIS

Flotsametrics and and the Floating World: How One Man’s Obsession With Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science

by Curtis Ebbesmeyer & Eric Scigliano

“Curtis Ebbesmeyer has made important discoveries about everything from currents to the huge floating garbage patches in the ocean to how life was first spread on earth and how the Vikings settled Iceland. In the tradition of John McPhee’s bestselling books on scientists who both study and try to protect the natural world, The Floating World offers a fascinating look at the creativity and energy of a most unusual man—as well as offering an amazing look at what currents have meant for the world and especially mankind through the centuries.  Hardcover; PP: 288; Illustration: 10-15 images throughout” Smithsonian Store

Washed Up: The Curious Journeys of Flotsam and Jetsam

by Skye Moody

“The ocean gives up many prizes, just setting them on our beaches for us to find. From rubber ducks that started out somewhere in Indonesia to land Venice Beach, to an intact refrigerator makes it way to the Jersey Shore. Chunks of beeswax found on the Oregon coast are the packing remnants of 18th century Spanish gold. Author Skye Moody walks the coast, dons her wet suit, and heads out to sea to understand the excellent debris that accrues along the tideline. There she finds advanced military technology applied to locating buried Rolexes, hardcore competitive beachcombing conventions, and isolated beach communities whose residents are like flotsam congregated at the slightest obstacle on the coastline. This book confirms that the world is a mysterious place and that treasure is out there to be found” (Publisher’s Fluff)

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion

by Lorree Griffen Burns

“Tracking Trash is the story of Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who studies the movement of ocean currents. Dr. Ebbesmeyer’s work has attracted attention because he has received much of his information from studying trash. It all began when his mother heard about sneakers that were washing up on a beach after a cargo ship lost one of its containers. Since then, he has tracked sneakers, Lego’s, and even rubber duckies that have been accidentally spilled at sea and made their way to shore. By understanding how ocean currents move, scientists hope to solve many problems such as fish shortages and animals being caught in fishing nets. This book was very enjoyable to read and easy to understand. The pictures were large and engaging. The author did a great job at making it feel like a story while at the same time giving a lot of scientific information” (Satisfied Amazon Punter)

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools who wen in search of them…

Donovan Hohn

I have just spotted that this book is about to be reprinted and, I imagine, updated at the end of February, so I am adding it to the collection. I note in passing that it is published by Penguin…

One 5* review on Amazon UK sets the scene: “This is a book that follows the journey of plastic ducks, turtles, frogs and beavers after the container they are in falls overboard and breaks open on impact with the sea. Moby Duck is fact that reads as good as fiction. The Author doesn’t only traverse the world of escapee plastic toys but meanders his way through a factory in China that makes bath toys, gets on a ship that is on research mission even though he has a fear of open water and even ends in Alaska where the first plastic duck was found. This is a great read, for anyone who likes a quirky book that tells a true story with wit, charm and gentle humour. Moby Dick is never far away in this book, only he has been transformed into Moby Duck…”

Amazon.com has 42 reviews, averaging a disappoining 3.5*. Some are ecstatic, some lukewarm, few can resist the golden opportunity proffered by the author to be “puntastic”. I like the one titled “An Eclectic Tale, but Caught in Its Own Eddy in the End”. Maybe that is the most astute summary of all.

BEACHCOMBING ‘CURIOSITY’ ON ABACO: OUT OF THIS WORLD TO THE RED PLANET


Sandy's Mystery Object

More news about the the space rocket debris washed up on the Delphi Club beach, Abaco. The booster rocket fairing found by Sandy fortunately had a serial number on it. Various inquiries have been made and a definitive explanation of the item has now been given by the NTSB. It turns out that the fairing was not, after all, from the Ariane 5 launch in French Guyana. More exciting than that – it comes from a Mars Program launch to put the Space Rover Curiosity on Mars. There’s an excellent Wikipedia article on the mission to be found at WIKIMARS

NTSB - An Independent Federal AgencyBob Swaim at the NTSB has emailed Sandy to say   “The serial number of the fairing fragment is from a part that was on a Delta V [sic - it was in fact an Atlas V, see comments] rocket launch of November 26, 2011. In August, a new car-sized rover will touch down on Mars and you’ll have something from the mission!”  He has kindly provided a link to the launch – see image below and direct link HERE  He has also given a direct link to the NASA MARS PROGRAM site from which I have taken the screen clip below. You will see an image of the Mars Rover Curiosity, and the time countdown until touch-down at the exact moment I took the shot…

I contacted Bill Ailor, Principal Scientist/Engineer, Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies, The Aerospace Corporation AERO CORP thinking a booster fairing might be of interest for their rocket debris database. He writes

Thanks for the notification (and for your excellent web page – looks like a wonderful spot). On the website, we catalog debris that has reentered from orbit and don’t include payload fairings, solid and first stage rocket boosters, and other “range” debris, since these are suborbital and the launch is designed so that the debris impacts is in known safe areas.  That debris can sometimes float outside of the safe area and wash ashore.I should mention that we recently reentered a small device that might one day float to your beach.  I’ve attached a description.  Let us know if you see that one

Although the device he mentions may have in fact have landed a long distance away (the South Pacific even), best keep an eye out for this…REBR Fact Sheet   By a strange coincidence in a huge world, the Aerospace Database shows that in 1965 reentry debris was recovered from a beach on Abaco:

In early 1965 an object having the appearance of a space fragment was reported washed ashore on Abaco Island in the Bahamas Possibly from the Atlas-Mariner I booster which was destroyed by the range safety officer shortly after launch on 22 July 1962, and landed in the designated ocean impact area

Apologies if I have got sidetracked from normal beachcombing duties – shells and stuff – but wildlife blogging doesn’t get more exciting than this – well, unless they find a colony of Abaco parrots on Mars…

ABACO BEACHCOMBING: MYSTERY OBJECT from the DELPHI CLUB BEACH


STOP PRESS Rocket part now positively ID’d by serial number – and it’s not from Ariane 5. More exciting – it’s from the Mars Program launch of the the Mars Rover ‘Curioisty’. See latest post at  CLICK IMAGE       

 Kasia’s mystery beachcombing item, posted yesterday, was solved within the day – basically a rock-like accretion of large tubular wormy molluscs of a somewhat unattractive sort. Sandy Walker has now sent me a photo of a baffling object he has found on the club beach to test your ingenuity, or patience. He’s sent it to the NTSB (air-crash investigation etc) for their view. For sure, it isn’t wildlife: however any nautical, aero-nautical, NASA-based or ‘strange white cone’ experts out there might like to contribute an opinion via the COMMENT box or email rollingharbour.delphiATgmail.com (spam guard: please convert AT to @)

My contenders, from most to least exciting (1) Rocket nose-cone. But no re-entry scorch marks – maybe it never got that far (2) Light aeroplane engine cowling or whatever the term is (3) Front end of a canoe-type vessel, with a standard Avery 5-slot for’ard rowlock stanchion clip (or maybe a bit of storm-tossed catamaran – Mrs rh)

STOP PRESS Jan 28 Peter Mantle’s latest bulletin from the Delphi Club… and I get to award myself the first prize of a Kalik beer for wild guess (1) above!

Fly me to the moon….

January 28th: Beachcombing at Rolling Harbour produces a great miscellany of shells, corals, beads, fishing floats and the occasional baseball. But a recent find by Sandy had everyone in a panic – a 12-foot chunk of superstructure that looked for all the world like a large piece of aeroplane. Sandy immediately contacted the US National Transportation Safety Board, who initially confirmed a strong resemblance to the tail section of an Airbus A320 passenger jet but wanted to run further investigations of the part numbers. All rather alarming.

But Sandy has just heard again from the NTSB, who now believe it may be part of the Ariane V space rocket, launched from French Guyana. Airbus say it’s not from one of their planes and suggest that it’s probably the nose fairing off an Ariane V booster. Looking at photos and drawings of the booster, this may be right and this would also fit for the eastern exposure of the beach where the part was found. You can see the booster here: http://esamultimedia.esa.int/docs/ATV/infokit/english/05_ATVLauncher.pdf

Ariane Space have been contacted and we will let you know what they say. We will also post a pic of the part. In the meantime, Sandy looks a bit, er, spaced out.

Comment: Since it appears to be made of cardboard, no wonder it fell off…

KASIA’S MYSTERY ABACO SHELL: A PUZZLE FOR XMAS


KASIA’S MYSTERY ABACO SHELL: A PUZZLE FOR XMAS

Kasia’s beachcombing exploits have produced some lovely seashells that have already featured here. Precise identification has sometimes been difficult for an amateur, because of the many varieties of a particular type of shell or close resemblance to other shell families. This one has got me stumped. I have trawled the  internet. I have studied field guides. I’m still baffled. It hasn’t quite matched any other shell…

XMAS PRIZE the first person to ID this shell correctly will enjoy a bottle of ice-cold Kalik being drunk on the Delphi balcony swing in February 2012. By me. Suggestions to rollingharbour.delphi@gmail.com welcome

STOP PRESS: NOW SOLVED – SEE UNDER IMAGES

Helpful thoughts: I’ve considered a  form of King’s Crown (but I’ve not found a close enough match) or a Ram’s Horn Snail (but they don’t seem to have spines)

First entry by Kasia (potentially disqualified as the shell’s owner): Angaria, a form of Turban shell. However these seem to be confined to Pacific areas…

The Solution:  And the winner (within 24 hours) is… Kasia!

I sent the link to the post to Bahamian seashell expert Colin Redfern at http://www.bahamianseashells.com, author of ‘Bahamian Seashells: 1000 Species from Abaco, Bahamas’. He confirms Kasia’s ID as an ANGARIA SHELL , one of a large number of species of turban shells TURBINIDAE found throughout the world. It is indeed a Pacific shell, probably from the Philippines. So what on earth was it doing on a beach on the east coast of Abaco? Colin has encountered this sort of anomaly before, and gives various possible explanations:

1. Homeowners’ shell collections come from areas other than the Bahamas & are sometimes thrown out onto a beach. They may be washed up along the coast

2. Shops sell packets of shells, including Pacific shells, which may become dispersed

3. In Fl. it is not unknown for resorts to “seed the beach” with Pacific shells, which are cheaper & more easily bulk-bought than Atlantic shells

4. Rare Pacific & Indian Ocean shells washed up on a beach were once traced to the owner, whose beach house had been lost in a hurricane some years before

Many thanks, Colin, for your help with this puzzle; and congratulations Kasia – I’ll claim my Kalik in February please. Oh I see, I’ve got to buy you one, have I?

PETERSON CONCISE GUIDE TO SHELLS OF NORTH AMERICA: REVIEW


PETERSON CONCISE GUIDE TO THE SHELLS OF NORTH AMERICA

This pocket guide is part of the well-known Peterson series of natural history guides. It’s called a ‘First Guide’ to denote its ‘beginner’ / condensed status, and to distinguish it from the serious business of the excellent and comprehensive Peterson Field Guides (I shall review 2 of these in due course. When I have read them. In 2012).                                  rh rating **

SUMMARY: this 128pp ‘concise field guide to 224 common shells of North America’ is a simple pocket guide, with quite basic descriptions, and colour drawings rather than photos. All the main gastropod and bivalve species are represented, each with a few variants. The vast majority of these will be found on Abaco and more generally in the northern Bahamas. For the used price I paid for a 1989 edition with a creased front cover (1 pence + P&P on Amazon UK!) I have actually found it quite useful for comparing or confirming IDs, or for snippets of additional information. However, it’s not the one to rely on entirely to identify your beachcombing finds or to get species details. Apart from anything else the illustration colouring is often somewhat approximate. At best, I’d say it’s a useful preliminary tool for ID on the beach if you don’t want to lug a much larger field guide around with you. Don’t use it for your doctoral thesis. Overall, some use, but not a great deal. There are better books: see FISH & SHELL BOOKS

MUREX & TRITON SHELL COLLECTING ON ABACO WITH KASIA


PAGE REWRITE IN PROGRESS

MUREX (MURICIDAE) & TRITONS (RANELLIDAE) 

1. MUREX SHELLS (Muricidae)

This is a vast family of shells worldwide, with many subspecies, each of which has many regional variations. Or even variations of the same subspecies on the same beach. Many have beautiful delicate spines or intricate shapes and elaborate patterns, like the pacific one shown

These molluscs are described as ‘voracious rock scavengers’ and exhibit uninhibited psychopathic tendencies. If you have a nervous disposition, stop reading here; Sam Peckinpah missed a great film collaboration with Jacques Cousteau with these vicious little creatures

10 ESSENTIAL YET GRISLY MUREX FACTS

  • Murex are highly carnivorous with rasping teeth, and drilling equipment for boring into the shells of their prey
  • A determined Murex may take up to 5 days to drill into its prey
  • Murex also use their foot to smother prey, or to crush it by using suction power
  • They eat clams by hoovering them up with their foot and smashing them on rocks to get at the occupant
  • They happily eat sea-floor carrion and sea-kill
  • Murex act in packs to carry out raids on unsuspecting beds of clams, which they feast on avidly
  • They are sexually wanton. Females store sperm from different males for many months, eventually producing embryos with different dads (I’m not making this up. I would like to have done so)
  • Cannibalism occurs. The kids are equally prone to extreme delinquency and are happy to eat each other when peckish
  • Some species of murex secrete a fluid that is believed to be used to drug their prey into paralysis
  • That same fluid (Murex / Mucus) is also used as a dye, ‘Tyrian’ or ‘Royal’ Purple, which can be ‘milked’ from a living murex (the Aztecs & Phoenicians did this). I’ll pass on that

NEW: VIDEO of how to obtain dye from a Murex

 KASIA’S BEACHCOMBED ABACO MUREX SKELETON

TWO MUREX SHELLS OF MINE (NOT FROM ABACO) FOR COMPARISON  DETAIL OF COLOUR & SHINE

2. TRITON SHELLS (RANELLIDAE)

KASIA’S TRITON TROPHY FROM CASUARINA, ABACO

Here is another shell from Kasia’s beachcombing in the Casuarina Point area on Abaco. I’ve never seen one like this. I thought it was a TROPHON, a variety of the huge MUREX family. As I wrote, there are more than 30 types of trophon world-wide, many with a similar configuration, though I hadn’t managed to find one with a similar colouring and shell growth-pattern yet. I invited  confirmation or correction, which Colin Redfern kindly provided. It is in fact a fine example of a…

 

DOG-HEAD TRITON Cymatium cynocephalum

ANGULAR TRITON Cymatium femorale                                                                                A different sort of triton found by Kasia


BEACHCOMBING AT CASUARINA, ABACO, WITH KASIA – COWRIE / PHALIUM / CONCH


 BEACHCOMBING AT CASUARINA WITH KASIA                    COWRIE / PHALIUM & CONCH

I recently posted some photos of starfish taken by Kasia at low tide near Casuarina point – see KASIAS’S STARFISH. Now it’s time for some beachcombing news from there. The sandbanks and bars in the Casuarina / Cherokee Sound area are a rich source of conchs, sand dollar tests and shells of many varieties when the tide is out. The sandy areas revealed as the water slowly recedes are extensive, and it is a great place to hunt for specimens (and for a lunchtime break from bonefishing…)

COWRIES / PHALIUM

1. RETICULATED COWRIE-HELMET Cypraecassis testiculus Here is a pretty example of this shell, a relative of the large phalium family and originally misidentified by me as a Phalium granulatum

2. MEASLED COWRIE  Macrocypraea zebra / Cypraea zebra Colin Redfern says of this example “Immature shells have transverse stripes that are later covered by a spotted layer (hence “measled”). It looks as if it’s beachworn rather than immature, so the outer layer has probably been worn away. You can see remnants of the spotted layer adjacent to the aperture.” 

STOP PRESS: by coincidence, while looking for a completely different type of shell online I have just happened upon this early 1800s engraving of a Cypraea Vespa, which is very similar to Kasia’s one

CONCH I’m trying not to overdo Conchs, which are probably everyone’s favourite shell to collect. But this one is a wonderful pink, and came with a surprise inhabitant… Is anyone at home?

Oh! A hermit crab seems to have moved in…

It’s shyer than this one (from an unnamed online source)

Finally, a useful method to transport one’s shell collection, maybe?

ABACO BEACHCOMBING WITH KASIA: MYSTERY OBJECT


MYSTERY OBJECT FROM AN ABACO BEACH

  

Here’s a strange item found by Kasia when she was beachcombing with Caroline Stahala

Their preliminary thought was that it formed some part of a turtle’s shell or skeletal anatomy

It is quite small (the coin above is 1 Euro) but amazingly intricate – developed in 2 symmetrical halves, with both delicate ridged surfaces and also distinctively layered bone plates 

                                                          

I sent the images to Charlotte Dunn and Diane Claridge of the BMMRO in case the object might have something to do with a dolphin or even a whale. In their opinion it is very probably part of a ray’s mouth plate. It would be very interesting to know if anyone else has found an object like this. If so please respond in the comment box. Many thanks to Charlotte and Diane for sparing the time to help with ID

STOP PRESS I have some done further investigations into the dental arrangements of rays. I turned to the really excellent website of the Florida Museum of Natural History. On the FLMNH page for SPOTTED EAGLE RAYS is a very interesting photo by Cathy Bester which she has kindly given me permission to use. It is captioned Spotted eagle ray dentition: open mouth showing tooth bands and floor and roof of mouth  This photo seems to go a good way to confirming the ID of Kasia’s object, although obviously it might be a fragment from a different type of ray 

For the FLMNH site CLICK LOGO 

GO PRESS (or whatever an extra stop press may be): see comments  from Black River Fossils for further confirmation as a ray palate

 

ABACO BEACHCOMBING FOR SEA GLASS WITH KASIA


BEACHCOMBING FOR SEA GLASS 

Kasia is an avid beachcomber on the sandy beaches of Abaco. Her collections include not only shells but also other marine debris such as sea glass. She has sent me some images with the comment You can find a lot of sea glass in many different colours and shapes, from the most common green, brown and white through fairly hard to find colours like jadeite (one of the 2 forms of jade), citron, light blue, light green, honey and amber colored browns, to quite rare colors like cobalt, teal, periwinkle, aqua, amethyst & black” Here are some examples of Abaco sea glass from her collection. Shells and other items will follow as and when… 

SEA GLASS COLOURS: THE VITREOUS STATISTICS

Sea glass sources are many and varied. In general, these include old clear plates, glasses, windows etc; coloured drinks bottles – wine, spirits, beer, fruit, cola etc; soda bottles; medicine bottles (e.g. milk of magnesia / Vick’s blue); fruit jars; ink bottles; household goods (bleach, soda). The rarest colours (see below) come from very specific origins: teal / Mateus Rose bottles; red /  car or nautical lights or Schlitz bottles; black / c18 gin, beer and wine bottles

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION OF SEA GLASS COLOUR OCCURRENCE

Most common (1 in every 1 – 25 pieces found): clear, Kelly (‘Irish’) green, brown, blue, purple

Less common (1 in every 25 – 100 pieces found): jade, amber, lime green, forest green, ice / soft blue

Uncommon (1 in every 50 – 100 pieces found): other green shades

Very uncommon 1 in every 200 – 1000 pieces found): citron, opaque white, cobalt, cornflower blue and aqua

Extremely rare (1 in every 1000 – 10,000 pieces found): grey, pink, teal, black, yellow, turquoise, red

Rarest of all (1 in every 10,000+ pieces found): orange

Info credit: Magpies, for collection of bright shiny glass data. Omni-thanks

This is a helpful chart for the main colours, courtesy and © of  West Coast Sea Glass starting top left with orange as the rarest. The direct link is www.westcoastseaglass.com/rarity_chart_poster.html

You’ll find a great deal of other useful info on sea glass on Mary Beth’s  linked blog at http:// seaglassblog.blogspot.com/

There’s also a worthwhile Abaco Life article (2006) on sea glass at http://www.abacolife.com/2008/07/14/sea-gass-reveals-muted-tales-in-red-green-blue-white/ 

JAN 2012 I’ve noticed that there are several easily obtainable (eg from *M*Z*N) books on sea glass. I won’t be buying any to test-drive for you (as with birds, shells etc) – sorry – but they seem to be divided into the ‘pretty but uninformative and fairly cheap’ to the more instructive, more detailed and therefore more expensive books. It’s worth browsing online to find one that meets your interest level, whether passing or something more serious. The reviews are very useful here. The best – and it’s quite pricey – seems to be 

ABACO BEACHCOMBING: TWO CONCH SHELL SKELETONS


ABACO SHELL SKELETONS

Besides ‘living shells’ with occupants in residence and shiny recently-vacated shells, there is a third category of shell: the skeleton. I am sure there’s a better or more technical word for these. They aren’t fossils in the strict sense of remnants from a past geological age, but merely worn by the waves and bleached by the sun over time. Here are two examples (from different beaches) which show the intricacy of the part of the shell you don’t normally see: the interior

A shell skeleton from Little Harbour, in situ on the beach on a cloudy day

The same shell washed, with a wonderful pink tinge in sunlight

A strange corkscrew skeleton shell from Sandy Point. I’ve no idea what it is, nor how any creature can have lived in or around it, nor what it must have looked like when complete. Any ideas? Please use the comment box… Thanks, Kasia, for your ID of both as conch skeletons. The first obviously is, but the second puzzled me… until she pointed out that conchs build their own shells round themselves to their own designs rather than go to the one-stop conch shell shop. So if a conch starts wrapping itself comfortably round its own corkscrew, this is what you get

(Mrs rh quite rightly points out that my shell photos are unhelpful without a ruler to give an idea of size. Point taken. Too late. These are medium size…)

BEACHCOMBING AT THE DELPHI CLUB, ABACO – CORAL & NERITES


CONTRASTING CORAL SKELETONS

These two different types of coral skeleton are from the northern end (and just beyond) of the Delphi beach. The red marking on the second coral is some kind of natural accretion, I think – I have temporarily lost the exact details somewhere on my hard drive, but doubtless they will turn up sooner or later… You will find these red patches on shells as well as coral

COMMON ROSE CORAL

ANY IDEAS  - OR IS THIS WORM-RELATED?

Another dramatic coral you may come across – not least because there are usually one or two in the beach-harvested collection on the steps down to the beach – is Brain Coral (Diploria). Here is an example (Photo credit J. Stuby)

NERITES (Nerita)

Nerites are small sea-snails (gastropod molluscs) found in tropical waters around the world. Precise ID of the many types is confused by the different names used for many of them, both taxonomic and local. The majority of the black and white nerites in the pile below, all collected from the Delphi beach, are Checkered Nerites (Nerita Tessellata). In the heap there are a few larger whiter shells with red markings, which are the Four-Toothed Nerite (Nerita Versicolor).

Here are some of the above shells showing their varying patterns and sizes, seen with a few grains of sand for comparison. The 3 larger whiter ones with the flecks of red on them are the Four-Toothed Nerites.

Here are 3 example shells in close-up, together with a tiny, perfect Dwarf Atlantic Planaxis (Hinea lineata) at the end (previously misidentified as a Littorine). I didn’t notice it until I was sorting through the shells – in fact you can just see it towards the bottom right of the previous photo, above the small nerite that’s on its back. It may even have fallen out of a nerite, as did many of the sand grains.

These four upturned nerites show the dentate entrance, common (to a greater or lesser extent) to most nerites – maybe all. The top row are Four-toothed Nerites; the bottom row are Checkered Nerites. Another Nerite type found in the Bahamas is the Bleeding-tooth nerite (Nerita Peloronta). These are similar to the top ones, but have vivid orangey-red markings on the ‘teeth’ – hence their name.

Nerites, sand grains and the Planaxis: size comparison

A close up of the Planaxis, showing how amazingly detailed the pattern of such a tiny shell can be

All this may sound a bit learned and somewhat solemn. Dull even. In fact I had absolutely no idea about any of the above details until I got these shells out of their glass jar last week to photograph (apologies for using a chopping board) and did some digging… So if any shellologists or neritophiles read this and have corrections to suggest, be my guest… Use the comment box or the email address on the CONTACT page. ADDENDUM: many thanks to Colin Redfern for confirming the small nerites as Checkered, as opposed to Zebra; and the ‘littorine’ as a Dwarf Atlantic Planaxis Hinea lineata