On Barnacles

Cockles, mussels and limpets, all grand little lads and lassies, molluscs to a man/woman/whatever. 

Cockles are the useless shells you fill your pockets with when you are a child visiting the seaside and your daft aunt uses to make “arts ‘n crafts”. Limpets are you with your first boyfriend/girlfriend. Mussels are nice in a garlic sauce with frites when you go to visit Cap Griz Nez with your Channel swimming friends, without any of you having to swim there this time.

But barnacles… Barnacles are bloody little bastards.

Barnacles demonstrate that you can be small, do nothing, go nowhere, and still be a world-class pain in the arse, and hands and feet and every bit of exposed skin. Look at my hands next time you see me down the Copper Coast.

Though open water swimmers usually point to jellyfish and sharks as their mortal enemies, in truth barnacles are the quintessential living proof that we swim inhospitable seas on this single bare lonely rock in the shallows of a lesser arm of a mundane galaxy, all our swimming lost in the cold indifferent void, where all hopes and dreams and the community of swimmers and the broader fellowship of mankind are as nothing before a six-segment shell of calcium carbonate with an razor-ringed opening that has all the mercy of the direct mouth of hell; honed by evolution to perfect an implacable surface that knows no mercy, no forgiveness and no comfort. 

All your hopes and dreams and skills and experience are as nothing in front of a rockshelf of barnacles. 

Barnacles are the xenomorphs of the marine world. As Ash the science officer says ; 

You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.

If they also had acid for blood, I wouldn’t be surprised. Barnacles aren’t even molluscs, but arthropods. Yes, barnacles are practically insects. That’s right, the utter indifferent bloody little bastards are related to the lobster, the scorpion, cockroaches and beetles. No-one loves scorpions, and only its mammy or a sea-food lover could love a lobster. Why put beetles in with those others? Because, as biologists say, if there is a god or gods, it must love beetles, because they make up half of all living species. Well, I’d like to propose the same of barnacles because those little gobshites are everywhere, the marine equivalent of beetles but far more ferocious, like fire-ants or murder hornets or the killer bees of the sea. Or better, maybe the marine equivalent of a beetle crossed with a cockroach.

Barnacles are hermaphrodites with no heart. That’s not a euphemism. Barnacles don’t have hearts. Maybe that’s why they want human blood. And when you tell them to go fuck themselves, it does little good, because they will. And they will enjoy it. 

You know what else? Their penises are the largest by proportion of bodily size in the entire animal kingdom. Eight times the size of their bodies, barnacles are literally the big swinging mickeys of the ocean. Meaning we can’t even call them the little pricks (dicks to you Americans).

Unfortunately, no barnacles were hurt in the making of this article.

So there. 

Image from Wikipedia. Because I’m not taking pictures of the utter bloody little bastards.

10 thoughts on “On Barnacles

  1. On a recent trip to Galapagos I learned the original purpose of Darwin’s voyage for him was to study barnacles. They were and are a threat to efficient sea transport. Very sharp and persistent animals. Best not to touch. And keep the boats bottoms clean or there’s hellish scraping to be done..


  2. Glad to read you back, Loneswimmer!
    In Galicia (northwest Spain) this post would be heresy, as barnacles are considered a salty-water-flavored delicacy… Why? Who knows.
    In the Mediterranean warm paradise we have limpets, which are far less aggressive, but still. I wonder which deadly equivalent they have in Australia.


  3. I swear to god,just yesterday was thinking,I need to email Donal,it’s been ages and now here you are.
    Such fun to read & so good to hear a litany of useful swear words


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