Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Minus Tide

White Beach

With apologies for title theft from the Dharma Bums. Leon and I are in my hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts to spend Christmas with my family. The beach is a 10-minute walk from Dad's house. Today, we had the lowest tide that I have ever observed there, so we went for a walk. The culprit, as usual, was a full moon. The new moon will have a similar effect, but this was really an outrageously low tide.

Moonrise over Kettle Cove. Source of the very low tide.

We walked along the rocks, which were covered with bladderwrack (Fucus sp.), making them very slippery. I went down fairly hard once. We poked around the tide pools. Tide pools in southern New England are pretty boring. We don't see the interesting invertebrates that Bev, Robin Andrea, and Dave have recently posted. The algae does make the rocks brightly colored, and we did see a few things like slipper shells.

Danger! Very slippery Fucus-covered rocks!

Orange algae on the tidepool rocks contrasts with green algae on a
slipper shell (Crepidula fornicata). Aren't scientific names fun?

The low tide followed an extremely high tide last night. This combination left lots of beach to walk on. You could almost forget that just above the high tide line there's a foot and a half of snow on the ground. The contrast made for some interesting snowy coast scenes. I spent a lot of time here as a kid, swimming, fishing, and mucking around in the same tide pools that I now consider boring.

Snow on Fisherman's Rocks. I caught a whole bunch of
Atlantic mackerel there when I was a kid.

We walked over to the next inlet, Kettle Cove. At dead low tide, a sandbar often forms in the middle of the cove. You can wade out to it through waist-deep water. Today, the sandbar filled the entire cove. You could have waded to it through water that was no more than ankle deep (though utterfly frigid).

Kettle Cove. The lowest tide I have ever seen there.

Light and camera batteries began failing so we returned to the car. Sunset suggested that the weather tomorrow should be nice- "red sky at night, sailors' delight."

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At 01:06, Blogger Ur-spo said...

sailors are delightful either in the morning or the night time.bap

At 02:08, Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

And yep, Crepidula fornicata is named because of its loose habits. Slipper limpets are commonly found in more or less permanent stacks of up to 12 limpets, with larger limpets to the bottom and smaller limpets towards the top. They are also internally-fertilising protandrous hermaphrodites - they start life as small males and become female as they get older. A smaller male therefore crawls onto a larger male and waits for it to change sex into a receptive mate (feel free to insert joke about the process of finding out if it's receptive yet).

At 11:00, Blogger robin andrea said...

We've been having very low minus-tides here too on the west coast. The tide differences are as much as nine feet today. Of course we go out walking, it's like a magnet. We can't stay away. The anemones are everywhere. We've been hoping to see an octopus, but haven't yet.

I love the snow along the shore. That does make for a beautiful and surprising background to the beach.

At 07:49, Anonymous pablo said...

We don't have tides in the Midwest. We do have tornadoes, though.

At 10:27, Blogger rcwbiologist said...

Love the snow on in relation to the water. Sounds like you are having a good time at home. Merry Christmas to you and Leon. I was just telling our boys last night that we have to visit that part of the country some day.

At 13:08, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Some very cool pictures, esp. with the snow on the rocks. I don't know why water - from puddles on up - is so much fun to fool around in. Anyway, I hope you & yours have a terrific holiday. Cheers!

At 20:54, Anonymous Mark H said...

Great Pics..........I agree with Robin, a magnet...wish we could walk out there too. HAVE A fabulous Christmas, you and Leon.

At 11:40, Blogger BentonQuest said...

Merry Christmas Doug!

At 21:14, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Spo- That's one of the advantages of a maritime setting.

Christopher Taylor- Thanks for the info. I remember my high school biology teacher describing this. It was one of my first experiences with the use of staid scientific language to describe something frankly sexual, and (by human standards) bizarre.

Robin- I have been very surprised by the magnitude of the tides on this trip. The tidepools out by you are still way cooler than the ones here.

As an East Coaster transplanted to the Midwest, I can definitely sayt that I miss tides.

RCW- When you visit southern New England, talk to me before you go. I can offer many suggestions of "must-see" places.

Dave- Thanks. I hope that you had a great holiday, too.

Mark - I hope that you and Rodger had a great holiday. Someday we will find ourselves walking on a caostline together. Just not sure when or which one.

Ben- Thanks. I hope you had a Merry Christmas, too.


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