The Crabs of Chagos

27 Feb

Chagos, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is paradise for cruisers. Except for a giant US air base (which is on another island, which you're not allowed to go near, so you never even know it's there) the entire archipelago is uninhabited. Some cruisers marvel at the tropical idyll. Some snorkel and fish. Some play beach volleyball. Me? I take pictures of crabs.

The Daddy is, of course, the coconut crab. Stepping on one of these on the way to your dinghy in the dark will make an impression. Once one mistook my leg for a tree and started to climb me:

There are aquatic crabs:

And ones that run around on the beach:

But the most common are the hermit crabs. They can be dainty:

They can be climbers:

But they all have to change their shells as they grow, and this is where it gets interesting:

The guy above was getting so big he was outgrowing his coconut shell. The guy below was so desperate he moved into some piece of washed up irrigation fitting:

Once some cruisers held hermit crab races, and painted little numbers on their shells. Once in a blue moon they said you'd still find a hermit crab with a number on his back, but I never saw one…


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