“Or Clog Their Beaches With Our Dead”

I was alone at a beach-house at Wareham on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Walked along the beach in the evening and morning. An interesting beach. Lots of rounded little hunks of red granite strewn about. Some unfortunate shelled creatures had been dragged too far ashore by parasitic-seeming kelpy plants attached to their shells, and stranded high and dry by the receding tide.

Along some past high-tide mark, there was a whitish line — a heap of shells, almost all of the same kind. Some sort of snaily creature without the will for much spiraling. The shells were shaped almost like half of a bivalve’s, but with part of their bottom blocked off to make a cozy little house for the snail creatures. This shell-heap (which stretched out of sight along its tide line) was about eighteen inches wide, triangular in cross-section, rising to a height of some nine inches in the middle. Lots and lots of shells!! I wondered what snail plague, or plaguey weather, brought them all ashore at the same time.

And I’ve had a word tickling at me since — a word which denotes ground-covering of crunchy shells and such along a beach. A nice onomotopoeic word, if I remember right, sounding just like a footstep crunching the shells. I can’t bring this word to mind but I’m pretty sure I ran into it once. Please tell me if you know it!

8 Responses to ““Or Clog Their Beaches With Our Dead””

  1. e. Says:

    I don’t suppose any of these are what you’re looking for:
    http://labs.google.com/sets?hl=en&q1=sand&q2=mud&q3=dirt&q4=beach&q5=shell&btn=Large+Set

    Using just “sand” “mud” and “dirt” gave me some strange matches:
    http://labs.google.com/sets?hl=en&q1=sand&q2=mud&q3=dirt&q4=&q5=&btn=Large+Set

  2. Desultor Says:

    Nope, the word I’m looking for is literary, I think – too much so for Google sets.

    Nice results with sand mud dirt!

    Looks like the shells in question were probably slipper limpets, crepidula fornicata. More or less slipper shaped, I guess.

  3. Desultor Says:

    I’m afraid I may have been overshooting – I think the word I had in mind was probably “wrack”. One of its less common meanings is “seaweed and junk washed ashore”. See this quote. Even though it doesn’t mean what I was remembering, I think “wrack” is the word. For one thing, words from this book stick in my head for some reason, more than other books. For another, note that Stephen’s walking along a “strand” here. Could this be priming for my using “stranded”, or for noticing it when I used it?

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