*CLAMS, TIDES & BARE HANDS
Introduction – Keswick Island – The Famous Five
Chapter 1 – Beware Dutch Men in Big Hats
Chapter 2 – Flight of Fancy
Chapter 3 – The Arrival
Chapter 4 – Feast & Famine
Chapter 6 – Drifting & Drowning
Chapter 7 – Blinded!
Chapter 8 – Shark Bait
I am recounting a holiday I had with my family to an uninhabited island when I was 10, please go to the links above for the Intro, Chapter 1 and 2, if you’d like to know more and catch the thread of the story.
….our very first adventure the next day, was to go for a snorkel with my Dad in the deep channel right in front of our tin hut on Keswick Island….
I got in and out of the water in an enormous hurry!!!
…we had pushed the little dinghy with oars out into the channel (very steep drop off) and scrambled in…Dad rowed out just a little way and we jumped into the deep blue sea equipped with goggles and snorkels….we swam out a from the boat a little further, only to find that it was very very eerie to dive down in that water and take a look, basically a wall of woolly blue was all you could see…the water in the channel was soooooo vast and deep, I guess that what deep looks like….just a wall of sheer blue…
I thought to myself, I’d rather see a shark coming for me, than play guessing games about what’s tugging at my leg….so if you’ve ever seen Fred Flintstone yabba-dabba-doing with his feet going like a little motor, that would be me, scrambling up the side of that dinghy and back to safety!!
Yup, I was outa there….Dad of course, being big and brave, emerges like a big brown sea monster……eyebrows raised…’what’s wrong love?’……I reply through chattering teeth “ah, aw nothing Dad, it was just a bit scary coz you couldn’t see anything”
At this point my dreams of living on an uninhabited island for 2 weeks, had begun to pale a little, and the excitement was subsiding considerably.
There were two things I’d imagined I’d find here on Keswick Island
The first thing I had hoped and longed for, and clearly expected to see, was a sandy beach!. Instead we had sharp white coral to contend with each time we left the tin hut, and had to wear sandshoes religiously to avoid cuts and coral infections.
The other thing I thought we’d experience was a shoreline of crystal clear water lapping the sand and swimming all day long in warm shallow glistening waters to our heart’s content….nothing but an elusive dream.
It was pretty obvious this wasn’t going to be the case, especially when we realised what a haven for sharks this area was. Recently I heard that the sharks in this region, display unusual behaviours which are yet to be studied and understood.
When a previous visitor was mowing the landing strip on Keswick Island on a tractor that had been brought over, he was shocked to see a huge tiger shark wriggle up onto the coral shore to ‘take’ another dead and decaying shark that had been caught and discarded there……to my understanding this is very unusual behaviour for sharks……and to think, Dad and I were snorkelling quite a way out from the shore in this deep channel…on this occasion my instincts were right, to get the hell outa the water before I became a shark’s breakfast!
“Okay, time to explore the Island”, dad exclaims…
Oh joy!….what other wonderful things shall we discover here, dangerous animals, deadly snakes….killer plants…..that’s the initial reaction I had to ‘exploring’ this unfriendly unhelpful place.
So we unwillingly pack our swags, a picnic lunch, and Dad promises it’s only an hours walk over the mountain to the other side, and there we will explore and see what else is on this godforsaken place!
With grunting and groaning and sweating, we climb the steep mountain, for what seems much longer than just the hour promised, but oh the thrill of reaching the top of the mountain and looking down on what appears to be a gorgeous crystal clear ocean, with shallows, glistening water and rock pools all gleaming in the sun, and WHAT’S THAT !!! omigosh, it’s sand, this part of the island is covered in beautiful clean white sand… how exciting!!!
After a big talk from my Dad on what NOT to touch , including conch shells, giant clams, stingrays, conefish shells, (no standing on STONEFISH either of course), and all of us wearing our shoes….. plus a general reminder of how FAST the tides run here, and how quickly you can be caught in them and swept out to sea ….I am finally given the okay and freedom to explore the rockpools on my own, this is nothing less than heaven for me….my favourite thing to do of all time even now, is exploring rockpools and finding unusual things!
Now, I was told, yes…I was definitely cautioned about the *clams*_, but when I saw the first one, with his beautiful beautiful glorious mantle out on display I had to touch it…I just had to touch that velvety brilliantly bejewelled thing…..it was fascinating me to the core…..GO HERE TO READ AND SEE GIANT CLAMSclam and also GO HERE TO SEE GIANT CLAMS
I look up to check the tide, the rate at which it was coming in, how far mum and dad and my brother and sister had moved away from me….and then I did it!!!
Out of sheer curiousity and being swept away by it’s beauty I was unable to hold back….i touched the clam’s beautiful mantle….and it shrunk back just a little into the shell.
Fascinated, I continued my little game with the clam (mind you, this clam was about 40-50cm wide….it was a biggie….. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life, and they were everywhere, this place was teaming with the most beautiful sea life.
There were live Conch Shells, Bailer Shells, Cone Shells, Stonefish, Cowry, Star Fish, Sting Rays, beautiful tiny colourful fish and even baby gummy sharks, all caught in these wonderful rock pools and awaiting the incoming tide to be set free again to roam in that endless ocean.
Back to the clam!…..I continue to touch it’s beautiful mantle and watch it shrink back further and further into the shell…..it’s closing up now, so one more last go, and *_SNAP_*…..all I can think of is ‘oh hell that hurts’, I’m in for it now…..my thumb is stuck in the mouth of a giant clam, it would NOT budge…….(just imagine you’ve jammed your finger in the car door and it’s locked shut, now you’re getting the picture!)
All bent over now, and in a lot of pain from my thumb being stuck in this natural vice, I look out to see that the water is definitely rising now, and coming in at a fast pace, swooshing, swooshing past my ankles…I wonder how long I’ve got…..visions of myself drowing!!!
Panic, fear….remorse….all too late…. I try to scream out to Mum and Dad for help…but they’re too far away, like tiny little dolls….they can’t hear me…
After about 10 mins of this, trying to wrench my thumb free, the clam must have slightly relaxed it’s grip and released me, I nearly fell over as I was pulling with such force…….ooooooh, I was soooo lucky!!!
I ran ahead to tell Mum and Dad what had happened, and there was a lot of commotion going on, with Dad yelling out something and my brother crouched down in the rockpools, concentrating hard on something……I see now what he’s got in his hands, a little shark and he’s wrestling with it…..we were always to remember this day as the time my brother caught a shark in his bare hands!!!!! How brave he was…but I imagine the poor baby shark must’ve been terrified!
When I told Dad of my little adventure gone wrong with the clam, he just gave me the grimmest of looks, and a ‘told you so’ tone in his voice made me feel just a little ashamed, I’d done the wrong thing, immediately after all the warnings he’d given me….
We had to get going back to the hut….the tide was coming in fast now……..
Stay tuned tomorrow for
Drifting and Drowning