What do you see?


Okay, I know. You see a yellow boat. But wait, there’s a story here. This boat was in Eel Pond, just behind the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory. I walked through the parking lot to get to the dock where several small boats were tied up. Stepping down onto the dock, I passed a man wearing a Marine Biology Lab ID badge. He was just standing near where the dock met the edge of the pond. There, the water was about twelve to eighteen inches deep.

I knelt down and snapped a few images of this boat. As I made my way back up the wharf, the man was looking into the water. I looked down at the sandy bottom. It was your typical twelve to eighteen inches of sea water with a sandy bottom, a few shells, and not much else.

“Look, he said, there are some fish.” I looked and there was a small school of small fish. They were each about three inches long. I spotted a single larger fish of a different species and pointed him out.

“Yeah”, he said, “but I am wondering what lives in these holes along the bottom.” I looked closer and all along the sea floor were small holes from one to three centimeters in diameter. I mentioned I’d heard there are real eels in Eel Pond. “Sure, and some good sized stripers over near those boats”, he said pointing. Eventually, he found a hole with a face pointed out but we could not tell if it was a fish or an eel.

“And if you kneel down, there are some things on the side of the wharf.” We knelt down. “The barnacles are feeding.”

Barnacles feeding? All of the barnacles that I had ever seen were on someone’s boat or a rock above the water level. They always just appeared as a white circle. But when they are in the water and feeding, a little protrusion comes out of the center, like a tongue, to catch bits of food. “And if you touch them, it will retract”, he explained.

He then went on to explain how because it was sunrise and temperatures were going up with the sun, everything in the sea was rising. Even though we were in shallow water, the nearby rising water was creating currents and stirring things up. He went on to point out some tiny sponges and a small shrimp.

Eventually, one of his colleagues came along and we had to part ways. I thanked him. The take-away of this little interaction was that what I saw as water, sand and shells, he saw as a whole ecosystem.

34 thoughts on “What do you see?

  1. Osyth

    Fascinating … I had NO idea. Thank you to both you and the nameless man for showing me something I had no idea I was overlooking all this time. And the photo is lovely too …

      1. Osyth

        She loved it …. My mother, who she stayed a few days with when she got back commented ‘she absolutely loved it but it’s very difficult NOT to enjoy New England’!

  2. reocochran

    I love the details in nature so this post was right up my alley.
    My grandies and I look for bugs with flashlights and this weekend we found a cricket, several spiders’ webs, a living cicada, praying mantis and a cicada skin/shell. Kids like leaning down close to each other peering at such critters. Now, we have long time past walked by for years, or worse, as a guy friend said, “smash them with our shoes and walk on.”

  3. Miss Gentileschi

    Lovely picture and the story behind it is brilliant!! 🙂 Perfect combination of imagery and storytelling, entertainment and knowledge, Chris! Love this post! 😀
    Definitely proofs that there’s a difference between watching and observing 😉

  4. prior..

    Hi – i love the story and after reading the “price for admission post” I have that expert/novice and perspective theme in my head – and so that is what I imagined here – this expert photographer (if you don’t mind me saying that) – being humble enough to allow someone share their knowledge in an area. that takes a teachable and open person – and it was a cool part of the story for me.

    and I was hoping to see the barnacles – even if through the blur of the water (tease) – but I have only seen then on rocks, docks, boats, etc.

    oh and cool picture C


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