Low tide

Carol and I walked over to Fairhaven late this afternoon. By the time we got to the public access boat landing, the tide was quite low.

“Want to walk down on the beach?” I said to Carol. The beach in question is perhaps 100 feet long, a short section of muddy, pebbly beach in between the paved boat landing and the piers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

“OK,” she said. “First one to find the prize wins.”

We walked the short section of beach. There were lots or broken bottles, and small bits of plastic that had washed ashore. But there were also lots of shells, a surprising number of shells for such a disturbed section of shoreline. Particularly common were shells of the Common Slipper Shell, but there were also plenty of Ribbed Mussels and Northern Quahog.

“Look at this oyster,” said Carol, poking at a six-inch specimen of Eastern Oyster with her toe. It was a good shell, but it wasn’t a real prize.

I saw one or two other Eastern Oyster shells, a few Atlantic Bay Scallops, and some barnacles. I was looking for Common Periwinkles, which you can find in some of the most polluted parts of the harbor, when suddenly I spotted something very unusual half-buried in the muck. I pulled it out and held it up to show Carol: “Look, a sand dollar!” I said. The organism was dead, but the shell — technically called a “test” — was intact and perfect.

She came over to look at it. “You win the prize,” she said. It really was a prize — to think that a sand dollar was living in a marine industrial landscape! Carol had me rinse it off so we could take it home; and now it is sitting in our kitchen sink, drying out.