Sheer beauty lies beneath the waters surrounding Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands and most of the time only a few feet below the surface along the water’s edge. Low tide is the best viewing time to see my lovely Sea Stars. Orange, blue, purple, red and brown are the ones I have seen. Some have long slender arms, others with stubby ones and others are called “cookie cutter” as they resemble the star shape of a cookie cutter. The west coast of Vancouver Island has been the best viewing and with the largest stars that I have seen.
I have book called Whelks to Whales and have used it extensively to identity Sea Stars, Jelly Fish, Sea Cucumbers, Moon Snails and a variety of sea plants. Last year my encounter with jelly fish was limited to the Moon jelly fish and it looks as it names implies, very white and round like a globe that gently floats through the water. We had been in one small bay and there were thousands of them.
This year while visiting the Charlotte’s I saw two amazing jelly fish and they were large! The first one is called the Lion’s Mane and looks like its name states with the edges looking hairy and drooping down and coloured brown with red. It is approximately 20” or more bell shaped and has tentacles that extend to 30 feet behind as they float along. The tentacles give nasty stings and blisters should you come in contact.
The second one is also extremely large and is called a Fried Egg jelly fish and believe it or not looks exactly like a fried egg. It is approximately 24” or more in a bell shape. The center is round and bright yellow with the surrounding edges creamier looking, they also have long tentacles that will give a mild sting.
Captain found for me a Moon Snail that had most of its body out of the shell. This is not a small snail but one that was at least 6 inches across. Never thought I would hold a snail much less actually enjoy the feeling as it slowly started to wrap its body around my hand. Yes, it had a somewhat slippery feel but not slimy as I thought it would be. It was fantastic!
Although I adore the Sea Stars, I am in absolute love with Sea Cucumbers. The Captain introduced me to them last year. We were in a bay that had a narrow channel that led to another bay. The channel was shallow with long sea grass moving along with the current and within the sea grass you could see long dark shapes on the bottom. Captain said they were Sea Cucumbers and when they were relaxed they would stretch themselves out to about a foot and half in length. Before I knew it, he had picked one up for me to hold. Now that it had been disturbed it shrunk in size to about eight inches and was dark brown to black in color. It was a Giant Black Sea Cucumber.
Oh, it was lovely! There in my hands I held a creature that felt wonderful, cool and jiggly. For those of a certain age group and I am talking to the ladies out there. Remember the Jell-O we or our mothers would make and then pour that into pans shaped like pineapples, fruit or that of a bunt cake ring? My mom would always take one of those creations to a baby or wedding shower and usually a green colour. I shudder to think of what chemical composition that green came from back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
The Cucumbers also have little knobs all over the surface. Captain told me that these creatures are harvested. I put it back with a feeling of sorrow and thought run, run! But it slowly relaxed, stretched out and stayed there.
This year Captain new I desperately wanted to hold another Cucumber and he found one! A gorgeous reddish brown one. It was a California Sea Cucumber and they grow to about 20” long. This one I did not wish to let go of. We spent our time together, me awing and oohing, it patiently waiting for me to say goodbye and be returned to the sea.
After arriving in San Francisco, the Alameda area, we went to a fabulous Chinese restaurant. On the menu, I saw Sea Cucumber was being offered.
I do not think that I will ever be able to eat Jello again.