“What is THAT in your hand?”

Geoducking, Videos, and BasqueStage

I spent this past Sunday on the shores of the Puget Sound with three friends and coworkers at Matt’s in the Market with a two-fold mission; the first, an excursion to wrestle to the surface the world’s largest burrowing clam, a quite phallic looking creature, the geoduck. And the second, to document the experience and to make my application video for BasqueStage, a six month stage in San Sebastian sponsored by Sammic. We set out from Seattle around 9:30am to head to the south sound, stopping only to get the necessary provisions of sandwiches and Rainier. We stopped at Frye Cove, a somewhat tucked away county park on the shores of Eld Inlet. Seeing two men digging for clams was an assuring sign that we had found the right place. On closer inspection however, we realized that the clam holes we were digging were not geoduck, but instead horse clams, a common mistake apparently. We asked one of the men if this was a good beach for geoduck, to which he replied with a somewhat nostalgic look in his eyes, “Geoduck lives our there” pointing out towards the water. It was possible, we figured, that we just needed to wait for low tide, which after all, wasn’t for another 90 minutes.

Beautiful day on Case Inlet

We decided to look for a better location and headed toward the shores of Case Inlet, about 20 miles north. We didn’t make it more than 50 feet walking down the beach when we spotted our first geoduck hole. Obviously a good sign. As we continued walking down the beach, more and more geoducks made themselves known by squirting water up to 5 feet in the air! This was definitely a good geoduck beach.

If you’ve ever dug geoducks you know that finding them is the easy part, considering they live 2½-3 feet below the surface of the sand. Everyone has their own technique, some more elaborate than others. Armed only with shovels, we began to dig. The first foot was no problem. “We’re going to hit our limit (3 per person, per day) in no time!”

Geoduck siphon, photo courtesy WDFW

Now, if you’ve ever tried to dig in wet sand you know that a three-foot hole is no easy feat because with every shovelful of sand you remove from the hole, an equal amount of water fills it back up in a matter of seconds. Then the sides start collapsing, and before you know it you are trying to dig in an ever-expanding pool of wet, syrupy sand. Sounds fun, right? The technique we developed was for one person to grab a hold of the neck of the geoduck, while another person sloshed water out of the hole, and the third person would dig with the shovel near the mammoth clam, being very careful not to hit it or the hand of the person holding on. And forget stopping to rest, because the second that you do the somewhat dry, four-foot diameter hole will turn into a four-foot diameter pool. Did I mention that getting these pre-historic looking creatures out of the sand takes about 20 minutes? Hence the fourth person, “the reliever”. He who would stand by, Rainier in hand resting up for his turn to jump in and start digging, sloshing water, or holding the clam neck, depending on who was the closest to exhaustion. After a rather difficult but extremely fun slosh session, we emerged, clam in hand, soaking wet, filthy, and victorious. Now, where is the next hole? MISSION 1: ACCOMPLISHED!

Victorious!

Now, we were having so much fun digging for sand monsters that we completely lost track of time, and before we knew it the entire geoduck bed was covered by the quickly approaching tide. Oh yeah, wasn’t I going to shoot a video? Weren’t we going to try to document the experience? We quickly got out the camera and shot a couple of scenes and snapped a couple of photos before heading back to the car to change out of our filthy, soaking wet clothes, hoping that this would be enough footage to work with, even though I knew it wasn’t.

When I got home I looked over the footage, as expected, I didn’t have what I needed to make a video that I would be proud of.  MISSION 2, FAILED.

So here are my takeaways from the day:

  • The weather was amazing. 70 degrees and sunny. A beautiful day on the beach spent with friends.

The Matt's Crew, after the work is done.

  • There has got to be a better technique to dig geoducks than our four-man team. Next time, we are going to try the garbage can method, where you cut the bottom our of a metal garbage can and insert it into the sand around the geoduck to prevent the sides from caving in.

There has got to be an easier way... Photo courtesy of WDFW

  • We ended up with two geoducks and two horse clams, and made some delicious geoduck crudo and the best clam chowder I have tasted to date.

The day's bounty: two horse clams (left) two geoducks (right)

  • Note to self; When trying to shoot a video, do the camera work at the BEGINNING of the day, so that when you lose track of time and are too filthy and wet to film, you are already done.
  • Check back next week to see how to clean, prepare and eat geoduck!
  • Last, but certainly not least, here is my video application for BasqueStage. The geoduck theme didn’t turn out like I wanted it to, so here is another food near and dear to my heart, the pig!

Pig Butchery for Basque Stage from Benjamin Artaiz on Vimeo.

Currently reading: Lucky Peach Issue 3

Currently listening: All Day by Girl Talk

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5 thoughts on ““What is THAT in your hand?”

  1. I’ve tasted and worked with geoduck on a couple occasions when I lived in Portland, quite an experience and often hard to explain to people not from the PNW. I’ve never gone hunting for them though! looks fun.

  2. Pingback: “Sooooooo… How do you cook that thing?” | thesatiatedpig

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