Angus and the Plastic Spoon of Fury

Angus's spoon
Image: Angus Livingston


Friday 20 February 2009
OBVIOUSLY a degree in Marine Biology will give you some skills an Arts degree won't.
Apparently, one of those skills is the ability to catch a speedy crab with a plastic spoon.
Who knew they'd be so hard to catch? Not me.
When I wandered into one of the labs here on Lizard Island, I found myself corralled into helping sift through the detritus collected by one of the Automated Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS).
The other researchers made it look easy, so I figured it wouldn't be too much of a stretch.
Happy to help, I sat down at my tub with a collection of plastic cups and my trusty spoon.
First of all I had to catch the big crabs, as they were the most likely to bite me (I have a keen sense of self-preservation when it comes to encounters with wildlife. Just ask anyone here about my relationship with the mud wasps).
I needed a bit of help, but so far so good.
Then it was time for the speedy little crabs with one big claw. They proved more difficult.
Backwards, forwards, spinning in reverse... those crabs were making it tough for me.
After fruitlessly chasing one or two around for a while, my white plastic spoon whipping up a storm in the sea tub, I changed tack.
Let them wait, I thought.
I'll get onto the starfishy* looking things (*not an actual scientific term), and then sneak up on the crabs when they least expect it.
I managed to separate the starfish legs and get them out (again, with some help), and then it was payback.
Goodbye, my crabby friends.
By this stage I was more proficient with my plastic utensil, and I was able catch a couple of the skittish creatures and plop them into a little plastic cup.
I cleaned out the rest of the tub, eventually getting all the crabs out from under shells and debris.
But as I was slowly moving through picking up the tiny worms and slow-moving slugs, a scuttling movement caught my eye.
Yes – one last crab had avoided my Plastic Spoon of Fury.
I chased it around the tub, swirling up the water and completely failing to catch it.
Finally, after a splishy-splashy battle, I scooped the crab up and my work was complete.
Plastic-spoon-training impaired as I was, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
I may not get the degree in Marine Biology necessary to properly operate a spoon, but I may become a slightly less-than-hopeless lab worker.