Tidepools are intriguing environments for all kinds of adaptable creatures and plant life, and no two of these environments are ever just alike. They exist between shore and sea, in rocky walls and crevices and are constantly, sometimes tumultuously, in the process of change.
Tidepools can be extremely challenging to get close to. The surroundings are usually slippery, and the visitor has to be quite careful of the tides. Usually crawling is your best bet. If you are going to explore tide pools, find out when the tide comes in or you could be trapped in a dangerous situation, with the tide rushing in and nothing substantial to grab hold of.
Tidepools are often full of plant life, mostly various types of algae. Animals commonly found in the tide pools are crabs, whelks, periwinkles, barnacles, limpets and tiny shrimp, sea urchins and anemones. You may see an occasional jellyfish or other such creature trapped in a tide pool, but they are anxious to move out on the next convenient tide.
The amount of plant and animal life you’ll find in a tide pool is highly dependent on various factors. One contributory element is the depth of the water in the pool. A deep tide pool usually means there’s more fresh water from rain or runoff on top, with the salt water lying deeper. These layers mean the life that’s present can’t circulate as much, but there might be more types of species, even if only temporarily. The water will also be cooler. The warm water of a more shallow tide pool carries less oxygen than cooler water, but it speeds the metabolism of the living things within it. Thus the shallow pools can fill fast and choke on their own density.
You can’t really see directly into a tide pool because of distortion, molecular “skin” on the water, and light reflecting off of it. Snorkeling masks are, of course, great for observing a tide pool. But if you don’t have one, you can construct a tide pool viewer in order to examine the pool more clearly. Remove both ends of a can and attach clear plastic wrap to one end with a rubber band. This way, you have your face out of the water but can still peer into it.
Anyone examining a tide pool should be quite careful to not disturb the plants and creatures there. If one is picked up for identification, it should be placed back exactly in the position it came from.
Exploring a tide pool is a fascinating journey, and a great educational glimpse into the world of the living ocean. Think about studying up on the tides and heading out with your snorkeling mask or underwater viewer the next time you take a trip near the sea.
Joy of Nature, p. Reader’s Digest, 1977