Welcome to the Shore
H AVE you ever spent a day or a summer at a place called Holiday Shore?
Probably not, for most shore places are named for towns, or people, or bays. Yet there are thousands of holiday shores on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. There are ways by which you can tell them at once, whatever their names may be on maps.
A really fine holiday shore lies at the end of a cove or bay. It will have cliffs of rocks on which gulls rest. There will be big stones sticking up through sand, or shingle, and round cobbles that rattle when the waves break.
A good shore, too, must have a beach—with the shape of a half-moon of wet yellow sand when the tide is out. There you may wade or dig for clams. Or you may look for shells and seaweeds washed ashore when the waves are high. You may also see the tracks of gulls that come to find food.
In the shallow water, plants and animals live. One plant you are almost sure to see is called eel grass. Look in eel-grass tangles for the pink and brown bodies of jellyfish. You may take the pink ones up in your hands, but catch the brown ones with a pail or net. They have many special cells in their bodies that sting, and the stings hurt for a long time.
In the sand among the eel-grass roots are little lumps that move. Dig under one and you will find a snail that draws its soft body into its shell as you pull it out of the sand. Other snails crawl on the bottom, eating very tiny plants.
Perhaps you will find a larger lump, and will dig out a big, gray king crab with a long spine on his tail. This is Limulus. His race has lived in the sea for more than a hundred million years. You will wish to meet him again, and learn some of his strange habits.
When the tide is as low as it will go, you will hunt among the rocks that lie on Holiday Shore. Watch out for the barnacles! They could do nothing to hurt you if they tried; but if you slip on their rough shells, you may get some cuts.
As you climb about among the rocks, you will find bunches of brownish-green seaweed. Don't forget to lift them, for many things live under these weeds while the tide is out. There are snails, crabs, starfish, and even little fish called blennies. There are also many purple mussels that fasten their shells to the rocks with threads.
What is this—a snail with claws? No, it is a little hermit crab. His body has no shell of its own, so he lives in one left by a snail. He is a timid creature and will do his best to get away when you find him in a crack between rocks.
Of course you will look for fish that come and go in the water and for birds that come and go in the air. You will no doubt try to find all those mentioned in this book. Perhaps you will think it a good game to count all those whose names you do not find on these pages. One small book cannot tell about all the creatures on and near the shore. The shore itself is the place to study them.
Keep watch of the water beyond the rocks. It is higher than it was an hour ago. That means the tide is coming in. Twice each day of twenty-four hours it goes out and returns, sometimes very, very fast. For your own safety find out how fast the tide comes in when you plan a day at Holiday Shore.
As you walk back over the rocks, you find many green and purple snails. You also see pretty pools where pink and brown plants grow on the rocks, and bright red worms live in shell-like tubes.
While you watch, the water comes up to these pools and spreads over part of the sandy beach. The sea is covering Holiday Shore and you must go away for a time. But the plants and animals that live on the rocks remain and take their food, for their mealtime lasts as long as they are covered with water.