An afternoon beach walk in the Buffalo Bay area turned into an unexpected clean-up mission. We had gone for a bit of a wander to explore the nearby reserve. Along the way, we became pretty downbeat with seeing the streams of marine debris washed up on an otherwise pristine area. It gets harder and harder to walk past such sights these days and simply “not do”.
So I’ve since made it my little credo that for any walk in nature these days, I need to have somehow improved its state from when I entered. Usually that means just picking up a random wrapper, cigarette butt or two. But on this day we got super motivated and combed the beach like a cockerspaniel in a grooming competition.
With that done, we continued on our walk along the coastal forest trail. We returned after dusk and this same beach was now dark. Pitch dark. As we walked, we noticed a whitish object catching the dim starlight. It was a perfectly intact paper nautilus (or argonaut) shell which had been washed up with the incoming tide. We had never seen one before so we were stoked. We took a good look with our head torch. We are not the type to hoard shells so we were indecisive about whether to take it with us as a memento. We decided to keep it with us for a bit and decide at the end of the beach.
As we walked we passed a number of fishermen taking to the beach for their evening cast.
And then a little while on we then came across the most remarkable sight. A washed up argonaut with the poor lady still inside (see photo). She was washed up alive, and not doing so well. We took a closer look, fascinated. It might seem odd, but when it comes to marine life I have always been a huge fan of cuttlefish, squid, octopus (occasionally on the dinner plate as well) and I just find them incredible creatures, with their intelligence and other-worldly mystique. So, this was quite a find indeed.
It is not quite as glamorous as rescuing a beached whale but we nevertheless returned lady argonaut to the sea, in the hope she might be able to muster the strength to get back out beyond the breakers. How do we know it was a lady? Because this paper-like shell is a mobile egg sack apparently, which the males naturally do not have.
With that deed done we continued on our way and within a few moments, another nautilus shell was on our path – this time empty. We decided that to be our little gift from the ocean for the day and we kept both these argonaut shells – one for each of us… at least for the time being. They take pride of place as centrepiece in a bookshelf reminding us of our need to stay committed to preserving the oceans’ beauty and diversity. And this means cleaning up after ourselves, so we can allow argonauts to also have some clean space.
Hordes of waste from our modest beach comb
Man’s plastic legacy scary as hell
Heartening reward on our return home
Ocean gifts an argonaut’s shell