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Exploring tide pools

Even on a busy beach, tide pools are hidden gems
Even on a busy beach, tide pools are hidden gems
Liane Ehrich

Sometimes the most astonishing things can be found in the most mundane of places. Set a chair in your own backyard and you will soon discover a whole new world brought about simply by the willingness to allow it to appear. Hardly more exotic a location than your back yard, tide pools are small islands of sea life found on our sea shores, and they are wondrous.

Tide pools, very simply, form when small pockets of water are caught as the ocean tide retreats. With plenty of sunshine and no sizable predators, these reliable little mini oceans come to life right below your feet.

Most of America's best tide pools are located on the West Coast, according to, and several are large and impressive enough to warrant protection and are part of local park systems. But just because the best ones may be a continent away doesn't mean that you are out of luck. Any rocky shore will produce tide pools.

Taking care not to step anything, take a seat above a sun washed pocket of sea water and watch what happens. Soon you will see crabs scuttling from crevice to crevice, and barnacles will open up and begin fanning the water for microscopic food particles. Sea anemones are close at hand and you can lean in and watch their delicate motions as they sift through the waters for food. Bigger pools may contain starfish, various snails and clams, and even octopus.

Take your time to enjoy the small world that you have found. Charles Darwin spent 8 years studying barnacles, he ended up writing a four-volume monograph on them, here's a great little article about Darwin's obsession with this fascinating creature. There was also an excellent book written about Darwin and his barnacles, called, Darwin and the Barnacle, by Rebecca Stott.

You don't have to spend eight years poring into microscopes to enjoy a tide pool, just a bit of patience and some sunscreen.

These small islands of land-locked ocean can be as tiny as a dinner plate and hidden in a rock crevice, so look when you are next at the beach at the rocky outcroppings, and you may see a whole new world you never suspected existed. All for the price of a few moments of your time.

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