Horseshoe Crabs on Memorial Day

Horseshoe crabs in the Atlantic, Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigans Left Coast

Horseshoe Crabs on Memorial Day

I discovered horseshoe crabs as a child summer-vacationing on the Eastern seaboard.

They washed up on Maryland’s barrier spit, creating marvelous spectacles for screeching toddlers. The creatures were sleek, green, foreign, with tails like whips. Underneath, they were at once frightening and fascinating.

In my teenage years, Connecticut’s colonial towns on the Sound became my milieu. I attended a private arts high school just north of Hammonasset Beach. A group of classmates or a Memorial Day party. We sat on a sunlit breakwater among fine historic homes, drinking beer drowsily and dangling our feet into clear, cold brine.

Inches below our winter-white toes, horseshoe crabs gathered in shallow water, humble shells as big as our privileged heads. Carefree pairing was the theme of the day. The horseshoe crabs’ unlikely physical maneuvers were far less clumsy than our social ones. We watched in awe their small, mighty efforts. And they mated as they have for 450 million years, shamelessly, unforgettably.

An article on The Atlantic’s website informed readers the unusual blood of the horseshoe crab was big business. Every drug certified by the FDA must be tested using a certain chemical abundant in the blood of “a forgettable sea creature.” Corporate medicine calls their brand of horseshoe-crab factory farming “bleeding.” The article showed photos of masked, gloved, medical technicians watching long rows of horseshoe crabs restrained at odd angles in machinery. The unfortunate creatures dripped their baby-blue blood through tubes into sterile glass bottles. When they are nearly bled to death, someone unhooks those horseshoe crabs and throws them back into the ocean. The medical industry claims “only a small percentage of them die.”

Elizabeth G Fagan, Lake Michigans Left Coast,
Elizabeth G Fagan

About the Author

Elizabeth G Fagan is a professional writer and artist who resides on Lake Michigan’s shoreline in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. Fagan attended The Hammonasset School, a private arts high school in Connecticut, where she began writing, taking photographs, and making art. She earned a BA in English at Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa) and the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). She has an MA in Linguistics with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (ESL) from UIC. She subsequently attended The University of Chicago’s copyediting program. Fagan later added an associate degree in Web Development from DePaul University, Chicago.

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