Monday, January 26, 2015

The Killer Crabs of Clipperton Atoll (An Unintentionally Creepy Bedtime Story)

Find on Amazon: The Pocket Atlas of
Remote Islands
A while back, a good friend (i.e., Nik) regifted to me a small book about islands to pass along to my oldest son (a child who starts nearly every sentence with “Hey Mom, did you know….,” and then proceeds to share whatever random fact he’s just discovered…). It’s a great little book – The Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands  by Judith Schlansky – with short tales and interesting facts about, well, remote islands (the subtitle of the book is Fifty islands I have not visited and never will). 

Because there was no reason to read the book from start to finish, we  (i.e., me) thought it would be fun to jab a finger at a random page and read the resulting selection as a bedtime story.

Well….(cue creepy music)…that was the night we discovered the (almost) unspeakable horrors of Clipperton Atoll.

You see Clipperton, a small coral island tucked away in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Pacific Ocean (about 1000 km off the coast of Mexico), is inhabited by man-eating orange land crabs. Lots and lots of them. So many that their shells crunch underfoot as one walks across the island (until, of course, one’s feet are devoured by said crabs).

Clipperton Crab: Sure, it looks all cute and innocent...
According to Schlansky, a small Mexican garrison stationed at Clipperton was all but forgotten for more pressing issues during the Mexican Revolution. Supply ships stopped arriving as the war heightened, and the 26 residents – 14 men, 6 women, and 6 children – were left with no food save the crabs (nothing grew on the coral). Scurvy broke out, many died, and the governor went mad. The survivors, mad themselves by then, killed each other off (with help from the crabs, I presume) until only a handful remained to outrun the crabs to a long-awaited rescue ship. From the safety of the deck they could see the orange ring of crabs around the atoll, claws snapping in the sun as the ship sailed off….  (book closes).

(Silence)
“Mom? Are there crabs in Ohio?”
 “Just little ones, honey. Like at the pet store. And they only eat bugs.”
“Okay. Night, Mom.”
 “Night, honey.” 
(Light off)
“crruunnnnchhhh”
 “Mom! Not funny!”

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