Sexy or sinister … I have stolen this title from a friend!
I am talking about clams.
We have just visited Orpheus Island after a stopover at Townsville and the ever popular yachtie haunt at Horseshoe Bay on Maggie (Magnetic Island). Orpheus Island has a Research Station in Pioneer Bay. Threatened with extinction many years ago, the giant clam was farmed in Pioneer Bay with the clams then being relocated. Today, the Research Station is run by the James Cook University and offers research and teaching about the Great Barrier Reef. The giant clam ‘garden’ still remains.
Hinchinbrook Island from afar … our next stop … a beautiful sunset!
First up … some fun at Yanks Jetty with the sergeant majors …
I was very keen to snorkel amongst the clams and see what remained of the ‘clam garden’. Clams tend to find a home on the reef and remain there for their entire life (unless of course they are relocated). We visited Orpheus Island in 1987 on our first yacht, a trailer-sailer called Southern Comfort (OMG … and it was a 23 footer!). I remember diving in for a swim in Pioneer Bay and being blown away about what was underneath. Coral and fish! I think it may have been my first Great Barrier Reef experience. I don’t remember the clams in the water then, but knowing they can live up to 100 years in the wild and that they can grow up to 1.5 metres long, I was sure they were going to be bigger. And they were!
So … sexy or sinister? To me, they are sexy, particularly the bright, colourful and patterned clams. The colourful and often stunning fleshy part of the clam is its mantle. Apparently no two clams have the same mantle which is a bit like a fingerprint I suppose. I’ve taken endless clam photos over the years, large and small, colourful and not so colourful. Generally, my photographs have been of smaller clams and of the more colourful ones. Perhaps that’s because I am drawn to colour and pattern. It’s the algae within the clam that provides it’s colours and patterns and apparently colour vibrancy is a good indicator of good health.
This slideshow features some of my underwater photos. … touch/click the arrow to see the slideshow …
Sinister? The giant clams at Orpheus Island tended to be various shades of brown, maybe 80-100cm long (hard to know under water), different, but still amazing. There were numerous healthy giant clams as well as many empty shells. They were almost from a bygone era. While my childhood included Tarzan adventures and Lloyd Bridges’ Seahunt, both with stories of divers being trapped and devoured by man-eating clams, it was only their ‘squirting’ that caught me off guard at Orpheus. If I snorkeled over them, blocking their sunlight, they’d give me a squirt and often attempt to close their shell. The same when I kayaked over them at low tide. Squirts were appearing around me and often at me as the kayak interfered with their sunlight. It did remind me that these rather peaceful and almost prehistoric looking giant clams were certainly alive and well! So … maybe a touch of sinister about the giant clams??
This slideshow features the clams from ‘above’, in my kayak. A different view.
And … there was some coral …