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Four Short Stories From a Scottish Beachcomber

You never know what's going to wash up on the beach.

By Unravelling the UniversePublished 7 months ago 3 min read
Four Short Stories From a Scottish Beachcomber
Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

British spelling

My articles are mostly about the universe and life, but this one is more down to Earth.

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A strange-looking stone.

Authors image

I was lucky to have been born next to the sea in a small village in Scotland. For many years, beachcombing was an interest of mine.

Over the years, I have come across many interesting objects washed up on the shoreline. A few of those objects were stones that were riddled with holes. I decided to find out the reason for these strange-looking stones.

Surprisingly, the holes are made by the common piddock (pholas dactylus). They’re part of a family of bivalve molluscs similar to clams. Their shells are wonderfully adapted for grinding the rock, with strong teeth at one end.

The round holes are due to the rotating motion of the piddock as it makes its home. Over time, the piddock becomes larger than the entrance hole, imprisoning the animal for life. When the piddock dies, other animals will use their empty burrows as a home or shelter.

Evolution never fails to amaze me.

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Interesting objects.

Authors image

One day, while walking on my local beach, these unusual objects came into view.

From a distance, my first thought was "coconuts,” but that was silly; coconuts in Scotland, I don’t think so.

On inspection, I found them to be very dense, and their spherical shape was almost perfect; the largest spheres measured 25 centimetres, or 10 inches, across.

I have lived by the sea all my life and have come across the odd one, but never so many in one place; therefore, a little research was needed.

I found out that they are known as Neptune balls. Under certain tide and wind conditions, seagrass and other fibrous material on the sea bed can be shaped into balls, and then the waves carry them ashore to be left stranded on the high water line.

I read that Neptune grass is widespread in the Mediterranean Sea; therefore, it is not unusual to see these balls washed up on the beaches there.

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A pastime handed down.

Authors own image.

The seashells in the picture are small cowries. (Trivia Arctica) 

I live in a small village on the northeast coast of Scotland. For generations, people of all ages have collected these small shells on certain areas of the beach.

They are far from plentiful, but if you have the patience and look long enough, you will end up with a few. Surprisingly, collectors get a lot of satisfaction when one is found. 

I have never seen a live one. Maybe they live farther out than the lowest tidal areas. 

Locally, we call them Johnny Groats. When I was young, almost every household had a jar of them on display, often on the windowsill. It was believed they were lucky. 

It was said that if you had a Johnny Groat in your purse or wallet, it would never be empty. 

I still have a jar of them on display in my house that I collected with my father over 60 years ago. 

Good memories.

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We will have to go much farther than my local beach with my last story.

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Message in a bottle.

By Scott Van Hoy on Unsplash

Now the finder can send a reply by email.

I was a Scottish fisherman for many years. Occasionally I would write a message with the date, the position, and my email address, then place it in a glass bottle and throw it into the sea.

Sorry, but that was many years ago. Throwing bottles into the sea would be frowned upon these days, and rightly so.

Over the years, many replies have come back to me, usually from Norway, Denmark, and Scotland.

One day I received an email from a woman in Iceland saying that her little boy had picked up my bottle on a sandy beach. Remarkably, it had been in the sea for 9 years. It began its long journey in the North Sea, halfway between Scotland and Norway.

It would have been interesting to see where the tides and the wind had taken the bottle before it eventually ended its long journey on a beach in Iceland.

Sadly, I will get no more replies; the phone company that supplied my email address went out of business, so my email address was lost.

End of article.

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You may find my easy-to-understand stories about the universe and life interesting and educational.


About the Creator

Unravelling the Universe

We can only imagine what our early ancestors thought as they gazed up at the night sky—were they curious about what the heavens had to hide? 

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