Exploring the sea floor

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by Kame Westerman, Project Coordinator, Andavadoaka. Standing on Split Rock, with the high-tide watermark well above my head, I’m astonished at how much the tide changes throughout the day; only five hours ago, these rocks that I’m now surrounded by were well underwater.  Having gazed out at Split Rock for some time now, I’ve finally made the trek over across the tidal flats at low tide to see what I can find.

The women and children in Andavadoaka take advantage of these low tides to harvest octopus and sea cucumbers, flocking to the floodplains with their spears and buckets, and I pass several on my way out.  They all show me their daily catches – many have already had success.

The sea floor is marked with tidal pools of different sizes, teeming with life.  Hidden sea cucumbers ooze deep purple ‘ink’ when stepped on, which billows out into a purple cloud.  Bright red sea stars stand out against the soft white sand.  Dark brittle sea stars, looking like pipe cleaners, wave their arms around looking for food.  If I wait a moment, I can detect the movement of the abundant hermit crabs in their borrowed shells.  Threatening black sea urchins wave their spines like menacing daggers.  When I finally make it out to Split Rock, I find brightly speckled crabs hiding in crevices.

My exploration ends quickly as I realize the low tide is short lived.  I must get back to shore.  Although I would have loved to stay longer, the urgency with which I must leave makes the place almost more magical…I only get a taste of what interesting creatures and places there are to explore.  But my next trip will have to wait at least another six hours.

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