Anyone remember the movie Dune? Remember the sandworms that wreaked havoc across the planet? Yeah, well, I think I found the inspiration for those creatures right here in Nonsuch Bay, Antigua. Who would’ve thought? Not me. In fact, I thought I grabbed a clam. In Alaska, we went clamming when the tide was way out. The razor clams had a long neck that protruded from their shells. You knew where they were by the bubbles or small water spouts that they exhaled. As soon as you saw the bubbles in the sand, you dug like crazy to get underneath them. I used my Alaskan clamming experience on the beach at Green Island when I spotted the same kind of bubbles in the sand.
So here’s how it went down – and I need to borrow Mowzer’s pictures since I was up to my elbows in sand. The bubbles came up and I spotted the clam’s location. I started to wriggle my fingers into the sand on either side. Since I didn’t have a shovel, I needed to get as deep as I could before attempting to scoop underneath it. Every incoming wave softened the sand and I wriggled deeper. Then I went for the catch. I dug in toward the clam and felt its neck. I grabbed hold so it wouldn’t go any deeper, but I still couldn’t seem to get under it. After several failed attempts, Jason came over to give me a hand. I dug and he scooped the sand out that kept washing in. Still, no luck.
Then Henry joined in. We dug and dug and dug and couldn’t get anything but neck. I started to wonder just how long a clam neck could be. I ran my hand up and down the neck under the sand and felt at least four inches! Wow! That must be some clam! I would follow the length of the clam with my hand and would come across rock. The neck was sticking out from below a rock. Just as I gave up, Henry broke it loose and it came out.
Wait a minute! That is no clam! But what the heck is it? It was initially swelled up really hard and felt rubbery. It wasn’t that it was digging down quicker then we were. It was that there was no shell to get under. The length of the thing just kept going straight down. I assume it swelled itself up to wedge tighter into the sand to fight against us. As it sat on the sand, it deflated partially and became softer. Now it felt like one of those squishy balls, rather gelatinous inside a rubber casing. First thoughts that came to mind were sea cucumber or sea slug, but no. Those dwell on top of the sand, not buried deep in it. Also, there were no brach-type appendages. I could see its mouth, though. I hope Brita (Blue Moon) or Melissa (Slow Dancing) got a closer picture, especially of the mouth. It kind of looked like this…
But on a much smaller scale, of course. The ratio of mouth to head was much smaller. The tail did have small nubs, but again much smaller than pictured above. It didn’t have anything that looked like legs, but it did have bumps of a sort that I assume help it dig itself into the sand. It was pretty big, about the length of my two hands when swelled up.
I’m certain that the artists creating the sandworm pictures must’ve run across something similar to what we caught. Because there are distinct similarities, even in the coloration. However, these and Dune depict the worms as desert dwellers. This poor guy would fry in a desert. The outside felt tough, but the inside was most certainly liquid-like.
Well, it was a very interesting discovery and I am not sure I will ever try clamming again. But it was time to let this guy go and he didn’t seem capable of getting started. So I dug a hole, placed the sandworm in it, and covered it with sand. I sincerely hope we didn’t cause it any harm. Never would I have dreamed we were hunting a sandworm! Here is Catherine’s (Mowzer) Facebook post on the event.
The mystery has since been solved. It is a phylum Nemertea or ribbon worm and they come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. With over 1,200 species allaround the world, they vary greatly. It might not have been so bizarre if I hadn’t been expecting a clam. The reality is unremarkable. I prefer my version: earth-bound Dune sandworms!