05 July 2018

Conch Salad Anyone?

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This past Tuesday was definitely a day full of firsts! As office work days continue with ample amounts of photo sorting and dolphin IDs, boat breaks are essential to keep the mind fresh and sharp to look out for those distinct dorsal fin notches and curves. So when Kel invited me for an afternoon boating trip with family and friends, I didn’t hesitate! We left the Sea Crest dock around 1:00 in the afternoon on a smaller boat named Lay Low to venture out to a small beach that wasn’t filled with Bimini tourists.

Upon arrival to our little beach on the North end of Bimini, we stopped by a sea grass bed to snorkel and dive for queen conch. Kel’s friends, Hank and Cole, showed me how to pick the perfect queen conch (one with a big, fully formed lip), to fish out for the conch salad that Hank would make later. I had a blast looking for conchs that were big enough to eat and I dove down to cruise along the seagrass hunting for the big conch shells. After we had plenty for the conch salad, we walked along the shallow sandbar to the beach with our treasures/snack. Hank cracked open the conchs and started to prepare them for the conch salad. Meanwhile, another one of Kel’s friends, Russell, helped clean the conch and offered me the pistol of the conch (you can guess what organ the “pistol” might refer to). After Russell and Hank ate the pistol, I decided to give it a try and popped the small, clear, and rubbery cylinder shaped pistol into my mouth. It had a salty flavor with a rubbery texture and was definitely the most bizarre thing I had ever consumed.

As Hank continued to prepare the conch salad, the rest of us swam and enjoyed playing on the beach. We scanned the water looking for shells, and low and behold, Al was able to find a small milk conch in the shallows. Luckily for the milk conch, it was too small to eat, and for me it was too darn cute! The little milk conch was definitely the most social and curious gastropod I had ever met. After laying the shell on my hand for about 2 minutes, the milk conch inside started to wiggle its way onto my hand. Its eyes popped out of its shell and soon its body was slowly moving around my hand causing it to tickle like crazy! We played with the conch for a while and they placed it back in the water where it belonged.

Soon it was time to re-board the Lay Low and head back home to the southern end of the island. On the way back we enjoyed the conch salad that Hank worked tirelessly to make. It was my first time having raw conch and it was delicious! Although I must confess, the texture of the rubbery conch was not my favorite. It was still a great day full of firsts and conchs! Soon enough we were back at the Sea Crest just in time for dinner and then a must needed lights out after a great day.  

Cheers!

Nat

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

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