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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Unintentional Travelers (or: Goosenecks & Trash)

When we moved to Korea (a.k.a. "when I became obsessed with the beach"), we discovered a lot of strange marine creatures (e.g., herehere, and here) and a panoply of trash.  Both categories initially fascinated me, but gradually they became part of the ignorable background.

But last month at Youngilman port's tiny "surfer beach," instead of perceiving "creatures" and "trash" as separate categories, I noticed how they interacted: (a) one of God's creepier creatures enjoyed attaching itself to (b) human flotsam and jetsam.  Let's look a little closer.

Today's creepy creature is the gooseneck (or goose) barnacle, pictured above.  They have some good features: they filter the water to catch tiny food bits, they have nice white shells, and they seem to have rich social lives as I've never seen one alone.  They also have some weird features: as youths, they cement themselves to stuff with a rubbery red-brown neck/leg/stalk and wave their heads about to do the hokey-pokey  eat or possible cheer their friends.  And as they wave about, the shell opens, and a dark, 12-fingered hand/filter thing emerges.  This scenario might not be horrifying in some universe. But when you are peering rather closely at 10 or 50 or 1000 of them doing this together, dying slowly on a poorly-chosen home that's washed ashore, one's revulsion is disproportionate to their small size. (Side note: People eat these. Spanish people.  Maybe other people.  I can't bear to think about it. Eww.)

The Goose Barnacle.

What struck me is that in the right context, these creatures are well-adapted to serving the marine ecosystem. But when they choose the wrong things to attach to, when they choose what seems like a solid idea but is just trash destined to eventually wash ashore, these creatures are doomed to slow deaths, waving their last goodbyes to passersby like me.  And here is our Metaphor for Life: to what do I attach myself?  Where do I pin my hopes and dreams and illusions of security?  (Ooh - theology/philosophy and marine biology in one blog!). Let's look at the strange homes of some goosenecks.

Milk Peanut.  Some sort of Chinese drink?
(ooh - see those horror hand/filters sticking out?
Now just imagine a classic Wilhelm Scream dubbed over that)

I think this flask is from China.  Not that the goosenecks care to read.   

Korean spray paint, I believe.

It's not a Korean beach unless you find a shoe or seven.
This one has bonus barnacles.

Big styrofoam fishing float; very commonly beached after storms.

All done waving.  Pretty shell variations, though.

I have to wonder what happened to the person
who was supposed to be wearing the no-longer-attached Chinese life jacket.

Barnacles on a string. 
Doesn't quite have the same rhythmic appeal of "soap on a rope."

A fluorescent light bulb (weirdly common on the beach) 

Even tiny barnacles on a lighter.

But wait!  Goosenecks apparently won't attach to just ANY kind of trash.  They have standards!

WHOA!  What's this?
No goosenecks seemed to find Barbie's torso attractive.  
And, so, our moral: Be careful what you attach to (lest you float ashore to die where an alien takes intrusive pictures of you dying with indignity).