The beach bonfire has come and gone, and the days and nights have already turned colder. I thought this would be the best time to start a blog about Fittie Beach (Aberdeen). At this time of year, the beach gets a lot more interesting. I guess as the weather deteriorates, more stuff gets churned up, moved around and deposited on (or eroded from) the beach. One of the reasons for writing this stuff down is to help me learn more about my local beach. I was lucky enough to live in Fremantle for a couple of years, and when developers planned to extend the marina past South Beach, the Freo community got together in protest. A by-product of that community action was an e-mail list where local surfers, dog walkers and swimmers who used South Beach on a daily basis shared their stories. Many of these accounts described the natural leavings of the Indian Ocean, a treasure trove delivered to my inbox. Well, it turns out the North Sea and the River Dee are pretty good too!
In amongst all the dead leaves washed down the Dee and around into our corner of beach, I found two separate but similar shells. I’ve seen a few of these before but left them be. They’re from a mollusc called an Icelandic Cyprine (also known as an ocean quahog, or Arctica islandica; I had to look that up in my books). They’re quite thick shells, about 8-10 cm across, quite hefty in the hand. It turns out these animals can live for hundreds of years. Biologists can work out their age by using oxygen isotope samples taken from their concentric growth rings; a fancy chemical method akin to counting tree rings. According to Wikipedia (!), one lived for 374 years. Imagine that: some of these shells washing up on the beach could have been home to molluscs older than the Footdee houses. I wonder what I’ll find tomorrow.