Martyn Green and his clan are enjoying a relaxing day at a beach in Wales. But as the family stroll along the sand, they soon make a shocking discovery. You see, the Greens stumble upon some strange-looking animals that resemble aliens. But what they don’t realize is that these creatures are actually worth a pretty penny.
Don’t we all deserve a little R and R at times? Green certainly thought so, as he organized a weekend trip with his family. Residents of New Brighton, England, they decided to head to Gwynedd – a county in northern Wales. And all appeared to be normal when the group arrived at one of the local beaches.
But that quickly changed after Green and company spotted some driftwood sitting on the beach’s shores. Normally that wouldn’t be too unusual, right? The ocean has its fair share of debris, and it sometimes makes its way back to land. Yet as it turned out, this wasn’t a normal case.
As the Greens got closer to the driftwood, they realized that something rather odd was covering it. You see, the piece of debris was slathered in white-shelled organisms, but that wasn’t the strangest part. Each shell appeared to have a growth spurting from its end, which secured them to the surface.
These growths sported a light, cloudy color up until they reached the shells. Then, the tentacle-like shapes became a lot darker, creating a striking visual. Have you ever seen anything like that before? We certainly haven’t. Well, apart from something similar in the sci-fi thriller Prometheus perhaps.
So you’d be forgiven for thinking that these shelled creatures were otherworldly. We can definitely picture them appearing in a sci-fi horror movie. But they are indeed animals of this Earth, albeit very strange ones. Anyway, it’s safe to say that Green’s marketing job couldn’t prepare him for the discovery.
After uncovering the animals, Green sat down to talk with the Daily Mirror newspaper in September 2020. During their conversation, he looked back on that memorable day at the beach with his family. And the tourist also shed light on the reaction from the nearby residents.
Green told the U.K. publication, “My wife Gemma, she found it. We were walking on the beach and she called us and said ‘Come back, look at this.’ We went and had a look and it looked like something not of this world. It was quite an attraction for the locals.”
At that point, Green made an intriguing decision. Instead of confirming the specific spot where they found them, he opted to keep it a secret. And you could argue that his reasoning was sound. The New Brighton resident was fearful that people would take advantage of the situation and disturb the creatures.
Mind you, there’s something else to consider here. At first glance, you probably wouldn’t think that these creatures held much in the way of value. But surprisingly, they’re worth an eye-watering amount of money cumulatively. It’s almost like a lost treasure chest washed ashore at Gwynedd.
Yet that wasn’t the first time that a valuable aquatic animal had navigated a path to the British isles. For instance, an Atlantic Bluefin tuna fish was discovered near West Sussex, England, in 2020. Compared to the creatures that we described before, that might not sound too exciting. It’s only tuna, right?
Well, the Atlantic Bluefin is no ordinary tuna. These fish are absolutely huge, measuring just under 10 feet in size. As for their weight, they can tip the scales at over 1,300 pounds. You certainly wouldn’t miss them in the water! But how big was the creature in West Sussex?
That Atlantic Bluefin was over 6 feet and weighed close to 400 pounds, as reported by the Daily Mail. Unlike the animals found in Wales, though, the fish wasn’t alive when a group of specialists spotted it near Chichester Harbor. So they hauled the body onto their boat, which was dispatched by the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.
To give you an idea of how significant this was, one of the workers from that organization spoke to the U.K. newspaper in September 2020. Tim Dapling plied his trade as a chief fisheries and conservation officer, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. Dapling said, “This is a very unusual and positive event.”
Dapling continued, “Although it’s a pity the fish wasn’t alive, it’s the first time we’ve encountered at close quarters a Bluefin tuna specimen in Sussex coastal waters. It was a quite remarkable and impressive fish. Why it was in Chichester Harbor or came ashore may never be clear, but we do know mackerel and bass are present in numbers within the harbor.”
“Perhaps [the Atlantic Bluefin] entered the harbor to feed and became disorientated,” Dapling added. But what about its financial value? Is it similar to the odd-looking creatures in Wales? While the giant tuna isn’t as rare as they are, it’s still capable of fetching a huge price in the market.
For instance, a man named Kiyoshi Kimura forked over a sum of $3.1 million to buy a Bluefin back in 2019. According to CNN, the fish weighed more than 610 pounds. That’s a lot of tuna! You see, it’s a must-have dish in Japan, as sushi lovers can’t get enough of them.
So you might feel the urge to start scouring your local beaches for anything that could’ve washed ashore. Who’s to say you won’t get lucky and find a creature like Martyn Green did? If you’re in West Sussex, though, there’s a good chance that more Atlantic Bluefins are roaming the area.
As Dapling explained to the Daily Mail, “The adult Bluefin tuna are at the top of the marine food chain. And the increasing presence of top predators typically indicates the improving health of ecosystems. Of course, this was just one fish, however I’d be surprised if it was the only one in Sussex waters.”
Yes, we can visualize the dollar signs that are forming in your eyes right now, supposing one does wash up. But if the Atlantic Bluefin can be worth millions, what about the alien-like critters in Gwynedd? To answer that question, we need to address something else first. Namely, what are they?
Well, the shelled animals are called gooseneck barnacles. And as you can probably tell, the name perfectly describes the lengthy growth that sprouts from the aquatic creatures. You may never look at geese the same way again! Yet they do go by a different moniker in other parts of the world.
If you live in Spain or Portugal, the gooseneck barnacles are referred to as percebes. And much like with the Atlantic Bluefin in Japan, they’re a culinary favorite in the Iberian countries. This was all news to the Greens, who scoured the internet for information after stumbling across the driftwood.
Normally gooseneck barnacles settle on the underside of boats, rocky foundations and pieces of rope. They consume things like detritus and plankton, using their legs to grab the food. And beach-goers in the southern and western parts of Great Britain are likely to find them on the shore following bad weather, according to The Wildlife Trusts.
As for their financial value, Green and his family uncovered that online too. Got to love the internet! Reflecting on what they found, the New Brighton resident continued his conversation with the Daily Mirror in September 2020. And the numbers were quite mind-blowing, considering the animal’s size.
Green revealed, “It turns out [gooseneck barnacles] are one of the most expensive sea creatures you can buy. From looking on Google I think it’s about £25 each they go for, and on the log there were probably about 2,000 of them.” That works out at around $32 per barnacle. So all together, there was roughly $64,000 worth on the beach. Kerching!
That’s absolutely staggering, but gooseneck barnacles have always seemed to carry tremendous value down the years. For instance, The Wildlife Trusts reported that people in Cornwall, England, used to keep their eyes on incoming sea vessels. Why, you ask? Well, those boats were usually covered in the white shells following their time in the water.
If the boats were carrying the aquatic passengers, certain individuals would try to peel them off. Then they could put the gooseneck barnacles up for sale and make a tidy profit. So people have long been interested in the crustacean as a delicious food source, regardless of their look.
And the fees in Europe today are equally notable. As per the Daily Mirror, two pounds of gooseneck barnacles could set you back by €360. That’s the equivalent of around $423. Think of what you could buy with that! For those who love them, though, that figure is sure to be a drop in the ocean.
As you might remember, Green decided against sharing the precise spot of the discovery. And that choice actually could’ve been more important than he realized at first. You see, gooseneck barnacle wrangling has a real dark side to it.
Because gathering gooseneck barnacles from the water can be incredibly dangerous, and that’s not all. In Galicia, Spain, stories emerged that gangs were moving into the business, using violence to get ahead. Yes, the thought of people fighting over something so small can elicit a smile, but it isn’t a laughing matter.
So you’re probably wondering how people go about harvesting the gooseneck barnacles. What makes it so hazardous? To give you a better idea, the Eater YouTube channel produced a video on the subject, which dropped in January 2020. And a chef named Jacob Harth laid out the process.
While standing near the rocky shore on an Oregon beach, Harth says, “So basically, the barnacles all grow down here on the rocks. When the tide is high, the surf hits them. We’re gonna try and find some that appear when the waves come back down. And we’re gonna swoop in and harvest them.”
And it becomes abundantly clear why there’s so much danger in this line of work. Indeed, Harth and his partner have to contend with some unforgiving waves, prompting them to call off the hunt. But they opt to kick-start their harvest later in the evening, thanks to the receding tide.
Back in Spain, though, the harvesters aren’t afraid of continuing their work, regardless of the conditions. In fact, one of the world’s most-beloved chefs saw that firsthand a few years ago. We’re referring to Gordon Ramsay, of course, who focused on the gooseneck barnacle during an episode of The F Word.
Ramsay caught a glimpse of two harvesters dodging some turbulent waves, before hacking away at the rocks below. The cook’s known for his colorful language at the best of times. But he really turned the air blue watching them from above. And we can’t blame him! It was a jaw-dropping sight.
Once the harvesters returned, Ramsay raised an intriguing point. He asks them, “Now you hit the rocks, and the idea is that you get a bit of rock underneath [the gooseneck barnacles], so they don’t die straight away. Is that right?” They confirm his query, before the famous chef shares something with the audience.
Ramsay tells The F Word, “The more the goose barnacles are pounded by the waves, the more muscle they need to cling on to the cliff. So the juicer, fatter and tastier they become.” But once the animals have been harvested from the rocks, how are they prepared in the kitchen? Is it a straightforward process?
To answer that question, Harth ran through the process in the Eater YouTube video. He explains, “So the barnacles are prepared in a very specific way. We cook them in seawater that we use from just redissolving salt from Netarts Bay seawater. Then, the barnacles are blanched really quickly for 45 seconds to a minute.”
From here, Harth reveals that the gooseneck barnacles will be ready to clean once they’ve cooled down in icy water. If they’re left for too long, though, the taste can be affected, so it’s a delicate procedure. After all that, you’re no doubt curious as to how they taste. Well, who better to ask?
Ramsay sat down with a plate of gooseneck barnacles during The F Word episode from March 2011. The chef notes, “Now they don’t exactly look like the most appetizing of seafood do they? But the secret here is to twist [the shell] quickly and pull. [It tastes like] a razor clam and a sort of muscle.” Well if it’s good enough for Gordon…