I would not consider myself an expert of any kind in general or of marine life in particular but I have spent a fair share of my time wandering shorelines with my eyes to the ground and I thought I knew of everything that could be found reclining on our shores until I spotted a friend of mine, another inveterate beach walker, sitting in his car on the prom one rainy and sat in to say hello. On his dashboard were a number of roundy white things with a vaguely Sea Urchinish air.
“What are those?” I asked
“Surely you know what Sea Potatoes are?!”he exclaimed.
“Sea Potatoes!Go on away out of that!” I said, suspecting some sort of hoax.
But no, they were in fact Sea Potatoes and according to my friend they are all over the place and you’d want to be blind and half-dead not to see them, or something to that tune.
From Wikipedia: “The sea potato is a heart-shaped urchin clothed in a dense mat of furrowed yellowish spines which grow from tubercles and mostly point backwards. The upper surface is flattened and there is an indentation near the front…(it is) a fawn colour but the tests that are found on the strand-line have often lost their spines and are white. ” Read more here.
That was about six months ago and I have yet to see one in the wild so when I was at a loose end the other day I decide to go on an Sea Potato hunting expedition. My hopes were not high as I thought Spring might be the best time for such an endeavour but still a walk on the beach is always nice.
As ever when I start off beach combing I think it’s boring but as I ambled along various things caught my eye and in the event I spent three hours wandering along the beach, poking at the stones revealed by the low tide and digging out shells by the dunes.
I found no Sea Potatoes but I was re-introduced to the wonder of odd-shaped stones and iridescent shells, bladderwrack and sea-worn wood and a plethora of man-made objects washed up by the tide along with, as usual, a fair scattering of rubber gloves making me wonder if fish do indeed have fish fingers. Then I wondered about chips made from the Sea Potatoes and I thought about food for a while, which was nice.
There were Mussels everywhere and though familiarity is said to breed contempt it is hard not to be mesmerized by the deep prussian blue of their shells, blotched with denim and scraubed with the hieroglyphs of yellowing worm casts which somehow always remind me of Delft and that way I was transported to Holland for a while.
A lot of crabs had been washed up for some reason too, mostly Spider Crabs which had been pounded against the stones, their arms(or legs?)torn loose by the waves. Here and there a smaller shell, a white claw.
On the way back the shining expanse of sand under a grey sky a Compass Jellyfish lay alone, its heavily outlined stripes radiating out to the corners of the earth and it going in no direction at all.