As part of my preparations for our trip around the edge of Nova Scotia, I have been learning about intertidal zones. Growing up on the “Mid-west Coast”, my experiences in intertidal zones are few, but they are memorable. In 2007, I spent two weeks at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology taking a course in Coastal Biology.
On our day off, one of the professors let me join him for a poke around a rocky shore near Coos Bay. This professor is a specialist in nudibranchs, which are mollusks without shells, sometimes called “sea slugs”. Nudibranchs are often very small but beautifully colored. I recall him scooping a small orange blob from the salty water and placing it in my hand. And then there was this gumboot chiton with its little white wormy buddy (look near my left thumb):
My next memorable visit to an intertidal zone was in 2013. I traveled to Cape Cod for a company meeting, and had the opportunity to visit the Cape Cod National Seashore with a friend. Walking the beach, we came across mysterious clear capsules strewn about the sand like marbles. They were translucent with bright blue pigment in the digestive system.
In the Visitors Center, we learned that they were sea salps – a type of zooplankton. (Check out this National Geographic article to learn more.) How many other lifeforms exist in the ocean that I have never even imagined?
The shoreline of Nova Scotia is very different from that of Oregon or of Cape Cod and has its own wonders. Nova Scotia’s rocky coast is bordered to the north by the Bay of Fundy. Rachel Carson wrote about the bay in the Edge of the Sea. She said, “…the physical forces of the American Atlantic coast are such that the observer of its life has spread before him almost with the clarity of a well-conceived scientific experiment, a demonstration of the modifying effect of tides, surf, and currents. It happens that the northern rocks, where life is lived openly, lie in the region of some of the strongest tides, of the world, those within the area of the Bay of Fundy. Here the zones of life created by the tides have the simple graphic force of a diagram.”
This “graphic force of a diagram” appeals to me, and I have already spent hours with my graph-paper, sketching knitting motifs inspired by intertidal zonation.