Archive for May 23rd, 2010

Tale of a Hermit Crab

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

It’s a short one. 

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One of the hazards of being a hermit crab on an atoll in the South Pacific (and there are many) is inhabiting a shell coveted by a beachcomber.  The peril increases when the crab is a little too inconspicuous inside his small fortress and the beachcomber takes no notice of his presence.

Such was the fate of one hermit crab who inhabited a beautiful white shell that resembled the horn of a legendary unicorn (in miniature).  I found this shell, saw it had a hole in the side and assumed the former occupant had been eaten by whatever had made the hole.  I took it back to the boat and stuck it on the wall in our bedroom with sticky gum for safe keeping.

A couple days later I discovered a naked hermit crab the floor.  There’s something about seeing a tiny crab in his birthday suit making his way across one’s bedroom floor in a futile search for a shell that makes one feel instant affinity for the vulnerable creature.  Besides, I was responsible for his homelessness.  I scooped him up and put him in a bowl.  We offered him the limited selection of shells we had on board, including the white one we assumed he’d come from.

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Not surprisingly, that’s the one he picked.

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The geometry of that shell seemed more than a little awkward to us, so we scoured the boat once more for more potential shell houses (besides, I wanted that shell back).  We ended up taking one of the shells K brought back from Africa off a window shade, where it’d been hanging for years.  I pried all the Elmer’s glue out of the inside and offered it to Crabby (or Herme, as K dubbed him).  He didn’t seem interested in transferring, so we just left it in his container overnight.  By the next morning, he’d made his move.  A wise choice, we thought.  This one was much more appropriately sized, more maneuverable, and had fancy long intimidating spikes.

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During his brief stay with us we supplied Herme with all the coconut and fresh water he seemed to desire.  Still, once in a while we’d catch him peering through the walls of his bowl with a far off look of yearning in his eyestalks.  We kept him as a pet for just a couple of days until we could take him back where he belonged.  I set him on the beach and he never looked back.

16°26.45′S 143°57.23′W 26-May-10 18:41 PDT

Makemo: Days on the Beach

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

There are several islands, or “motus,” that surround an atoll.

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We spent several days at Makemo going ashore on this one.

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We passed hours watching the creatures who hung out in the shallows. The shallows were so active that we stopped snorkeling among the bossy black tip sharks …

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and just watched the reef from the beach. 

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The little sharks were still curious enough to swim up to our feet in inches of water.

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We’ve been chasing these Picasso Triggerfish across the Pacific for a good picture. They are very camera shy but didn’t suspect us taking pictures with a long lens from above.

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There was some suspicious wrasse behavior going on in the shallowest of shallows. This Surge Wrasse looked guilty of some bodily function or other.

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There were lots of little morays. This one was trapped in a tide pool just big enough for him to turn around in.  He seemed confident that the tide would come in before he turned into moray jerky and tried to menace us from the other side of the liquid-gas phase barrier.

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The red crabs were equally happy in or out of the water.

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This coral colony paid a price for miscalculating the tide range but bravely pushed its live edge onward into the shallows.

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This attractive fellow was drying out either his head or his butt, who can say with a sea cucumber?

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S braved the ankle biters long enough to catch a gang of Convict Tangs commuting through a shallow pass to the offshore side of the atoll.

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K braved the long pointy beak of a serene frigate bird long enough to capture a few bird details.

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Somewhere a Muppet Show is missing its Gonzo.

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The bird-folk among you will also recognize this little grey (sooty?) palm tern.

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We spent the remainder of the days admiring the tropical plants (these white blossoms tinted the evening breeze in the anchorage with a scent much like honeysuckle),

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walking across the island,

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hunting the low-hanging coconuts (“lowconuts”),

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fulfilling our hammock-testing duty,

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and just enjoying the view.

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But what do you do if you forget your shoes??

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16°26.70′S 143°57.77′W 27-May-10 02:19 PDT