After our long drive down from Portland (part 1), we were very relieved to see people who definitely looked like they were waiting for us when we pulled up at Bob Creek Wayside for our guided tidepool tour!
Let me tell you this straight off the bat – if you want to get a better understanding of a place, DO THE WALKING TOUR. People who give walking tours are ALWAYS passionate about the place they are presenting, and their knowledge tends to be deep and broad, because they get asked the strangest questions.
Whose land was this?
Our fabulous guide, Jaime, started out by explaining the context of the land we stood on, who had been there before us, and what we were about to walk through – a seashell midden, exposed by the path, and created by generations of Native American people spending their summers feasting on the bounty of the sea before returning inland over the winter. I could picture their seasonal longhouses, built only to withstand the weather of one season, and the busy hands of all the people making use of all the things they harvested, and discarding prodigious volumes of shells in the process – something that native populations did successfully worldwide before colonialism upset the balance.
As Jaime talked, I imagined fish smokers being tended, and people spread out over the rocky shore, filling baskets with shellfish and crabs.
It connected me to my own history – as an Indigenous person, a Classical Studies major, and as a New Zealander, I have seen middens of all sorts at sites all over the world.
The first New Zealand house we lived in, on the top of a hill in Kelburn, was built on a shell midden, far above the sea. I found it fascinating, as a 6-year-old child, to think that at some point, people had hauled shellfish all this way just to dump layer upon layer upon layer of shells at the top of a hill. I don’t know what the site used to be, but it amazed me to find broken seashells in my hilltop garden. I don’t remember the actual address of the house, but if you click here and use Street View, it will take you to the same street, with a view similar to ours, to give you an idea of the incongruity of seashells in that location.
The tribes of Oregon, like Native Americans throughout the continent, were treated abominably. There is a lot of very depressing reading to do about that, but here is an overview. From what I can gather, the tribes who might have been using the Bob Creek area would have been Alsea, Siuslaw, Yaquina, Coos, and Siletz.
As for the “Bob” in Bob Creek – I haven’t been able to find out anything about him, either.
Onto the Cobbles
We set off to explore the beach, and immediately encountered a very familiar challenge. In the USA, I have regularly heard the stones on this kind of beach called “cobbles“, which makes sense – the stones are a similar size and shape to the cobblestones used in building roads. We always called them the shingle bank, although they certainly aren’t shingle-shaped. Otherwise, I would usually call them river stones, and assume they were washed down to the beach by a waterway.
The first thing we found was a sea palm attached to an ex-mussel. Sea palms are one of the organisms I plan to draw for Intertidal Survival, so I was pretty fascinated to get a good look at one. George took some amazing photos of it, too:
Next, we encountered squid eggs, sadly detached from their moorings and probably unviable, but still amazing – they have that strange, gelatinous texture of the kids’ toys they resemble.
As we moved down the beach, we could see the patterns cut into the and by the various small freshwater streams flowing down from the hillside behind us.
I was really pleased with myself for recognising so may subjects in the wrack line – I found rockweed, kelp, sea lettuce, and surf grass.
Katy found a strange, spongy-looking specimen – I didn’t catch what it was called, so please tell me in the comments if you know it!
EDIT: I think it might be a Branched-spine Bryozoan, Flustrellidra corniculata?
We also found an ochre sea star (did you know they are no longer called starfish? There you go, you do now!) which was busy growing back a chomped leggie.
Now by this point, if you’re me, you’re thinking this was a pretty successful outing, hooray! We found a sea star and some seaweed, and that’s pretty great! And I was, I was really happy and relieved that we had found something. And then, I turned and had a better look down the beach… (part 3)