The multi-core sampling was a unique challenge. We were finding a lot of hard mud, especially toward the end of the cruise, so we didn’t always get back what we expected. Sometimes we only got a little sediment, sometimes we got none. Sometimes we got a LOT of sediment.

And we got a couple of creatures, too.

Claude, a sea biscuit (kind of like a sand dollar), came up in one of Hilairy’s cores. She “adopted” him – sort of – and put him in a sample cup with water. Why with water? Because he was still alive. A little smashed, but alive. His antennae were moving when they picked him up.

That was the only time on the cruise I was officially creeped out.

Near the end of the cruise, when Claude was no longer with us (actually hadn’t been for a while) we had a small moment of silence for him – and then tossed him over the side. It was probably a more luxurious burial at sea than any sea biscuit has ever had.

The Ballad of Claude (with an E)

a Tragedy, by James F. Eldred

“What the HECK is that thing?!” I cried in alarm

“It looks like something off an alien farm!”

It was stubby and pale and fuzzy all over

With half a dozen antennae like a wilted Mars rover.

“It’s some kind of mollusc,” said the creature’s new mother

as she went to collect some implement or other.

She returned with a lab spoon and also her phone,

and took a few pictures of the thing on it’s own.

“Isn’t this how most horror films start?” asked Vince

and I nodded quite quickly. I haven’t slept since.

“We should give it a name!” said Sarah with glee

“Claude,” said Hilairy simply, “Claude – with an E.”

So Claude (with an E) got his own little cup

They dropped him right in and then filled it right up

And wrote “Hi! I’m Claude!” in big capital letters

So no one would dump it, and they should know better

Than to toss our new mascot right over the side

And they “oohed” and they “aahed”, but I went to hide.

I would not go to sleep until I knew what it was,

That misshapen lump of antennae and fuzz.

So I hit my computer, and fired up Google

To find pictures of sea life at which I could oogle.

But after a moment a large frown came to me;

I didn’t know where to start with something that ugly.

So I looked up “mollusc – hairy and fat”

But if you value sleep, don’t Google that.

Then someone said, “It’s like a sand dollar,”

So I looked them up, and gave a hoot and a holler

For although I could not be so sure of the species

Surely Claude was a sea biscuit – hey, that was easy!