Ever wonder why mussels clack their shells when they feel threatened? You’ll find out when you read the next Pacific Islands legend. This one comes to us from New Caledonia and was printed in the book, Pacific Island Legends. Enjoy!
The Seagull and the Mussels
One day on the island of Gaitcha, the children played a new game. One child covered her eyes, and the others all ran and hid. When the girl opened her eyes, everyone was out of sight. Then she ran around seeking until she found them.
“That looks like fun,” said the seagull.
“Yes,” agreed the mussels. “Let’s play that game! You hide first. We will all cover our eyes.”
The mussels all closed their shells and hid their eyes so they were not peeking. Then the seagull took off into the air to find a good place to hide.
The mussels counted to ten and began to open their shells. Far above, Seagull was still searching for a place. The sun was very bright. As seagull flew low over the island, she cast a large black shadow on the sand below. As the shadow passed over the little baby mussel, it suddenly snapped its shell closed and squeaked, “I can see you, seagull.” By this time, that shadow had crossed over dozens of other little mussels, and they all cracked closed and shouted, “We can see you, Seagull!” They were so loud that Seagull, far above, heard them shouting.
“How did they find me?” wondered Seagull. His wings beat harder and he climbed into the sky. The gull flew far out to sea. This time he tried to sneak in low over the beach. “They won’t see me this time,” he gloated. Just as soon as his shadow covered the first mussel, poor Seagull heard that dreadful cry, “We can see you, Seagull!”
Back into the sky flew Seagull. Everywhere it was the same. “We can see you, Seagull!” clacked the closing mussels when she tried to land.
Finally the exhausted gull returned to Gaitcha. “You win,” she gasped. “I am too tired to keep on flying. Everywhere I go you mussels see me! I just don’t know how you do it.”
“Yippee!” chorused the mussels. “Now it is our turn to hide.”
“Go ahead,” panted Seagull. “But I warn you. I won’t give up until l find you!”
Then Seagull covered her eyes with her wings and counted slowly to ten. “Hurry,” whispered the mussels. “Down to the beach. That bird won’t find us here.” The mussels scrambled down the beach right to the edge of the water. Then they dug halfway into the sand to hide.
Poor Seagull. By the time she reached “ten,” all of the mussels had hidden in the sand. Also by the time she reached “ten,” the tide had come all the way in. Now the mussels were all under the water!
Seagull flew aloft. All she could see was ocean. There were no mussels anywhere. She flew back to Gaitcha. No mussels. She flew and flew until it was getting dark. The tide was still in and she never saw a mussel. But she didn’t give up.
Even to this day you can see the seagull digging in the sand at low tide. She is making piles and piles of mussels. She does not eat the mussels. She is still looking for the mussels that first hid from her.
And even to this day if a dark shadow comes over an open mussel, it will shut with a loud “clack.” The Old Ones know that this isn’t just a noise. That “click” is the mussel announcing, “I can see you, Seagull!”