2.6 Challenge: 26 Stories for the Sea

On Sunday thousands of people all across the UK joined the 2.6 Challenge, a national fundraising campaign to help save the UK’s charities. Anne Thwaites, now a Yorkshire local and a staff member of the Marine Conservation Society, takes up the 2.6 Challenge in support of the charity, writing a story for the sea every day for 26 days from Sunday the 26th of April.

Her passion for the sea stems from moving to the UK’s South Coast from Germany over 12 years ago. She loves being by, on and in the water, and as a keen naturalist has become somewhat obsessed with seaweed identification and looking for sand mason worms while paddling at low tide. She works for the Marine Conservation Society as a Corporate Partnerships Manager.

Tompot Blenny

2.6 Challenge story 1 of 26 - Hibbert, a tompot blenny

Hibbert is a funny old man. He has spent most of his life in the same rockpool arranging pebbles. Over and over again. He’s built himself a pebble sofa, a pebble bed and even a pebble staircase that he can touch with his fins when he swims up and down his pool. Every time the tide comes back in, though, Hibbert’s nicely arranged pebbles get dislodged and fly around his face and fins. So he starts again, and every time he stacks up his pebbles the sofa becomes a bit bigger, the bed a bit longer and the staircase a bit higher.

The curious limpets that have also made their home in the pool have been watching Hibbert for a long time. As their limpet chains grow around Hibbert’s interior arrangements, they wonder whether he will ever play the bongos again. They used to have the greatest parties, Hibbert playing tunes on their hard shells that would lure in lug worms, shore crabs and short snouted seahorses from as far away as the next chalk reef.

But times have changed. As Hibbert has grown older, the light above his rockpool has intensified and made his home everso warm, and dancing almost impossible. He hears whispers from visiting mackerel (in the summer) and herring (in the winter) that their big blue ocean is changing. Seagrass fronds that were once attached to the seabed are now swirling around in the rockpool. At the beginning he used the seagrass to knit cushions and covers for his sofa and bed. Nowadays there is so much of it that his ever growing staircase is almost covered in it. It makes him wonder. It even makes the limpets wonder.

One evening, after finishing his highest staircase yet, he shimmies up to the limpets. He listens. The limpets are listening. As the latest shoal of mackerel come in with the evening sun, they tell tales of a new seagrass bed just down the coast. It’s green, and lush, and so big! Hibbert feels a stirring of curiousity in his old fish bones. A whole bed of seagrass. A bed that he won’t have to rearrange again and again, a bed that he might just be able to lie in, feel safe and warm in. Maybe also a bed that comes with young carer fish to look after him when his fins can no longer swim very far. The limpets, on the other hand, are not that bothered.

As Hibbert wakes to the latest rush of tidal water across his rockpool he has made a decision. He will go in search of the seagrass bed, and if it’s his last adventure! He packs his favourite pebbles in his knotted seaweed suitcase, rearranges his sofa and bed one more time - after all, the limpets may need them - and climbs up his highest staircase yet. Beyond he can see the big blue ocean. And the tail end of the shoal of mackerel. He decides to follow them, clutching his seaweed suitcase while slowly swimming out of the rockpool. By the time the limpets get out of bed, Hibbert has long since disappeared.

Velvet crab

2.6 Challenge story 2 of 26 - Anthea, the velvet swimming crab

Anthea takes off her dancing shoes. She’s had such fun this evening. The ballroom she goes to every Thursday night played all of her favourite songs, and her dance partner Phil was on particularly good form. Her feet ache a lot though. The shoes she bought from the local “Shoes for Crabs” shack are brand new and she can already feel she has blisters on at least three of her six legs. Buying shoes as a crab is a very expensive affair as they all need to be handmade and fitted to all of her legs individually. She chose a dark pink as Phil says they would go with her beautiful eyes.

Anthea has loved dancing since she was little. She would swirl in the water knocking over the odd periwinkle or two as they tried to slowly, slowly slither past her without causing a fuss. Once knocked over, Anthea had to help them get their shells back on top so they could continue on their journeys to the next seaweed luncheon.

She started taking dance lessons from the age of two and her first crab teacher Serena showed her how to get all her legs in order so they moved with the music at just the right pace. Once she had mastered keeping her claws up high while delicately tip-toeing across the seabed she was ready for the ballroom. She still remembers the first time she entered this grand space, an underwater cave with a fluorescent light emanating from the snakelock anemones attached to the walls. The tables that were crowded by other crab dancers, but also a number of different fish and snails, had been provided by sand mason worms. Built straight out of the ground, these tables reflect the light perfectly so that all the dancers can see the orchestra and other couples swaying with the soft current in and out of the cave.

Soon Anthea will be ready for her maiden dance at the centre of the ballroom. She’s been practising with Phil, learning all the steps to a Paso Doble with their twelve legs intertwining at strict intervals, then releasing with sometimes two, sometimes four legs each pushing back into the sandy dancefloor. Investing in some new shoes was absolutely necessary, Anthea thinks to herself, so she can perform at her best at the ballroom next Thursday. They go so well with her eyes after all.

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