The Gooey Duck

I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest for about a week, and am spending one day in Vancouver, prior to heading east tomorrow on the long trek back to Europe. Of course it doesn’t compare, but like the Portuguese sailors, I’m looking forward to home.

And yes, I know Vancouver is beautiful, and that one day is nowhere near long enough. But life is the art of the possible.

I’ve been looking at shellfish farms in the Willapa Bay and Puget Sound area, and keeping an eye out for other interesting things. The Portuguese explorer Cabrillo never made it to Puget Sound, and in fact the explorers sailing up the Californian coast under the Spanish flag found the upper section of the coast rather barren, and took a fair old beating, with nowhere inshore to shelter. Cabrillo and others completely missed the entrance to S. Francisco Bay. Incidentally, there is plenty of debate about Cabrillo’s nationality, and you’ll have to make up your own mind. I’m not sure it’s that important, particularly when his achievements are compared with those of the mariners in The India Road, but I did mention in an earlier post that the Spanish Archivo General de las Indias in Seville refers Cabrillo as being from Portugal – and the Spanish are pretty parsimonious about giving away their explorers.

Logging has been a major industry in the northwest, and in certain areas, the pulp mills had a devastating impact on water quality, for instance by discharging chlorine used for bleaching. One small bay I visited yesterday was practically dead for decades because of this. The mill was closed in 1957, and the bay took years to recover. In the long social process, the oystermen and timber people were often at odds, with their disagreements spilling onto the schoolyard where their kids would get into fights due to the reigning animosity.

Nowadays, three million pounds of clams are produced in one section of the bay alone, and the water filtration provided by the animals is an invaluable service in cleaning the bay. A clam will filter about half a liter of water every hour, and at a weight of ten grams or less each, those 1300 tons of clams will get through a million cubic meters of water every day. In US units, that’s over 250 million gallons!

This area of the Pacific is home to a rather impressive bivalve, who goes by the name of geoduck (gooey duck). It is scarcely known in Europe, and I first saw it (and ate it) in China.


Due to its phallic nature, interesting colour scheme, and large proportions, the Chinese unsurprisingly rate it as an aphrodisiac, and consume it with much enthusiasm. The export market over there is huge (sorry), and the animals are about five or six years old when they’re harvested and sold. But they can live for over a hundred years, so they can be bequeathed over several generations, and you may find that you’ve inherited grandpa’s favourite gooeyduck. The Chinese are not able to grow them locally yet, so I guess it’s currently a case of ecological penis-envy.

Speaking of competition, a book was published (in Portuguese) in mid-October romancing the life of the spy, Pero da Covilha, and I am due to attend the launch of another book in Lisbon next week, called “A Spy in the Discoveries”. Once again, this is in Portuguese, whereas my objective was to tell my story to an Anglo-Saxon audience. But the Portuguese translation of my book is going very well, and I am hopeful there will be a version published in time for Christmas.

I suppose I need to finish on-topic, or I’ll be accused of misrepresentation. Life has its wonderful little ways, and as luck would have it, there is a state college at Olympia which has the gooeyduck as a mascot for their athletics department. What could be more appropriate, particularly when confronted with the stirring lyrics of the Geoduck Fight Song ?


One Response to “The Gooey Duck”

  1. Now Printing « The India Road Says:

    […] The homepage is of course excluded, but the results is a Pareto distribution, with a post called The Gooey Duck. I only rarely cross-post, but in case you’re curious… Pareto is the longtail, which I […]

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