Monday, July 13, 2009

rinse and repeat

Yesterday I had a snorkeling date with a friend at La Jolla Cove (not to be confused with La Jolla Shores, where I was on Saturday . . . La Jollans really like the name of their town I think) so once again I was off to the beach. This time I cleverly brought my own knife, plastic bags, and measuring tape (newly purchased). I also warned the friend that if there were more squid on the beach, science might interfere with snorkeling.

Yes. Of course there were more squid on the beach. There were also more people on the beach--it was a summer Sunday in sunny SoCal, and there was a concert in the park. It was packed. I wish I had a picture of the crowd that gathered as soon as I started dissecting. My extremely patient friend referred to it, not unkindly, as a squid mob.

Just like the day before, it was wonderful and educational, with lots of curious kids and adults, great questions, and so forth. But the best part by far was one woman who came up to me and asked "Were you at La Jolla Shores yesterday?" I said I was. The woman gushed, "You showed those squid to my daughter and my husband and she told me all about it when she came home, she had such a good time! Thank you!"

This sort of thing does wonders for one's self-esteem, but then she went on:

Beach woman: She said you showed them a penis and she got to see where the sperm comes out! She wouldn't stop talking about it!
Me: Is that . . . good?

Apparently it was okay, or at least this particular mother thought it was a hoot, because she was laughing as she told me. She went on to ask me a bunch of great questions about the squid and the strandings.

All the onlookers were eager to inform me that there were more squid just on the other side of the rocks, so I tromped over there and fell in with a most helpful young lady, maybe in her early teens, who guided me over to the squid, took notes on mantle length, sex, and maturity, and asked lots of great questions. Young lady, wherever you are, you rock very much! As does the French family who gathered around, the father translating my explanations for his children.

Father: Poulpe?
Me: Calamar?
Father: Ah, oui, oui! Calamar!

Finally, I saw one fully intact squid in a tidepool, complete with head, arms, tentacles, everything (all the other squid had been partially pulled apart by seagulls and curious beachgoers). But it had clearly been sitting in that tidepool for a very long time and it was horribly putrid. I had a little game of chicken with the onlookers:

Onlooker: If you're going to dissect that, we'll watch.
Me: I'll dissect it if you'll pull it out for me.
Onlooker: Not me. Maybe my son will do it.
Me: Go for it! I'll open it up and you can see what's inside.
Onlooker's son: Yeah, sure.
Onlooker: Really, you're going to get it out for her?
Son: No way.

So that one didn't get dissected, and it is probably still sitting in the tidepool, slowly and inexorably decomposing into primordial ooze.

Oh, and I did eventually get to go snorkeling. GARIBALDI!

And then I put my stomach in the freezer.


  1. Wow, I wish the things I wrote my thesis about would wash up on the beach sometimes, so I could dissect them and explain them to people. Why O why did I become a mathematician?

  2. Hee! I'm pretty lucky even among marine biologists in that my study organism is occasionally dramatic and newsworthy. I guess math has no equivalent of charismatic megafauna . . .


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