Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

Mystery metaphors: guess who?

In June 2016 on June 16, 2016 at 3:02 pm


Sarah: Here’s a piece of writing I composed at a storytelling workshop I ran recently with SA committee members of the Australian Science Communicators.

SA Writing Centre Development Manager David Chapple encouraged a room full of 50 attendees to use metaphor to describe someone they felt strongly about (like or dislike). We were asked to include reference to sound, smell, an animal, a plant and to record what we had learnt from this person.

He’s like a scared little boy. Terrified they might see him for who he really is.

When I see him talk, I feel like I want to slap him. His face moves like a rubber figure. He pauses deliberately so that his adoring audience has time to applaud and hoot. His words are so ugly and because I know he has chosen them on purpose they make me want to approach him and punch.

He’s like a tomato with a blonde wig, all red and yellow and waiting to be smashed and burst.

It’s unbearable, because although I want to run at him and make him shut up I also want to run far, far way and pretend I never heard him.

The flags around him make him seem important. The T shirts with logos scream louder than his words. He has support. He has so much support that it’s unbearable. Where did theses people come from? How are they so different from me?

He’s like an indignant Cheshire cat. Grinning. Stupidly grinning. He knows I can’t reach him, he’ll always be up that tree and I’ll be down here.

He’s proud. He’s proud to be such a smug, smarmy arsehole. It makes me nauseous.

He’s taught me that this is how history is made. When one person capitalises on pre-existing fear.

Who is it?


[image thanks to]


A beachy boney fishy Easter mystery

In April 2014 on April 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm

mystery bone 1

Sarah: Tucked away down here at the bottom of Yorke Peninsula, we solved an Easter mystery by social media.

The case began whilst on a family beachcombing foray.  My 6-year old niece ran towards me holding the item shown in the photograph above,

“Aunty Sarah, what is this?”

I did not know, but described to her the features I could see.

“It’s made of bone, and looks a bit like a vertebra, or one of the bones in a spine.  It is symmetrical, which means it would be the same on each side if you chopped it in half along its length. It has flat spines which stick out from one end, and has small holes on each side which you can imagine nerves might come out from in the living situation”

But it wasn’t a bone from a spine of any animal I knew; the unusual rounded end ruled out this possibility. We googled various bone images and came up with nothing. It had us truly flummoxed.

Not just us, but also a group of interested followers on twitter and Facebook. After I posted the following photographic angles….

mystery bone 2

mystery bone 6

mystery bone 5

mystery bone 3


…the comments came rolling in thick and fast:

“Almost looks like the front of the scull of a bottle-nosed dolphin”

“Vertebra was going to be my guess too, overall I have no idea! I do hope it turns out to be a sperm whale tooth!!!”

“At the risk of being a total dunderhead, It looks like an occipital bone/saggital crest on a parietal skull bone but where is the rest of the skull?! Seal? Foetal something? I have no idea, but this is super fun”


“Looks like a beak of some kind of bird”

“It looks like mammal bone”

“Agree. Don’t know exactly what it is but it doesn’t look fish-y to me”

“Is it ambergris?”

“True looks like a vertebra. I’d only be guessing. But looks old and well worn. Whale?”

On a whim, I forwarded my images to the twitter account of the South Australian Museum (@SAMuseum). I sat, I waited, it was killing me!

Two days later, a JACKPOT response from the museum.

“Found! This is the bone that forms the hump on the head of a Snapper fish (Chrysophrys auratus)”

Mystery solved! Now I can sleep. Thanks museum staff and all who followed along.

P.S. You can see the bone above the eyes of this X-ray image of a snapper head here. This is the bone that sometimes undergoes abnormal growth and gives some snapper their famous ‘bumpy nose’ appearance.

P.P.S. And for the record, some of the people whose comments are shown above were actually very close. You know who you are!


A window to the ocean

In December 2013 on December 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm

bivalve blisters

KirstiWaves. We catch them, ride them, jump into and over them. Play in them, marvel at them. They are a source of awe for photographers, surfers, sailors and coastal people around the globe.

And they are vehicles, transporting what resides in the ocean onto the shore. Waves dump clues to an underwater world all along the coast, for us to decipher; connecting us to invisible ecosystems.

My recent sleuthing involved the shells of these bivalves (above). All along the beach at Home Bay in Auckland were these shells with holes and scrapes across their outsides. My guesstimate was that 1 in 3 shells of this type looked like this.

So as you do, I Googled it. Unfortunately, my key words weren’t what Google was looking for.

I loved marine invertebrate biology at uni, and I remembered that moon snails are predators of bivalves and drill holes in bivalve shells to get to their soft insides. But the holes they drill are neat and round, not dragged across the shell like someone was hauling a dead body over it. Then just last week at a conference, I saw a woman who was my invertebrate biology tutor from undergraduate years – and she’s a snail person! She said they reminded her of teredo worm holes in wood.

So off I went on another search. But these teredos don’t burrow into shells, just wood when they are ready to metamorphose from a planktonic larvae into a tunnelling clam….. HANG ON – a burrowing clam that’s called a worm?!?! A clam whose body resembles a worm but it has two shells at its front end designed to burrow into wood. So here I am, on a marine invertebrate bender. Loving it, and frustrated that the clues I were given are sufficiently cryptic to keep me searching until I find the answer.

Sarah: When I read Kirsti’s post, and saw her image, I too was inspired to find an answer. Having interviewed Thierry Laperousaz  (Collection Manager, Marine Invertebrates at the South Australian Museum) earlier in the year, it occurred to me he might be just the man for the job. A quick email with photo resulted in the following:

These are called mud-blisters made by burrowing marine worms most probably of the Spionidae family.  They can have an negative impact on bivalves population in case of severe infection.

Further reading told me that Spionidae worms are found all over the world, and occur in both shallow and deep waters, and even above the tidal line, particularly along sandy beaches. Some but not all of the species bore into shelled bivalve molluscs; those that do can cause blisters as shown in Kirsti’s image.

If you have more information which will assist us in identifying the particular worm involved, please be in touch!