Being a long-shore fisherman, my interest lies with the beach and everything in or on it. My fascination in marine life has been with me all my life, so it was a natural progression that I wanted a sea water aquarium. I knew a friend who said that he was good at welding and in his spare time of driving the red speedboat from Hastings Pier, would weld a frame up for me, so I started to look around for some angle iron. This I acquired from a mate’s dad who was a gardener at a fine house, as the owners were having a new tennis court made. The twelve foot lengths of the surrounding fence were ideal, so armed with a hacksaw, I cut four six foot lengths, four three foot pieces and four four-foot bits. Alan glued it together, making a fine 6x4x3 high frame; the quarter of an inch thick glass I had to buy. The tank took pride of place in our spare bedroom; two inches of sand and stones lined the bottom. An air pump supplied the oxygen to the water that was acquired from the rock pools of Pett in any container that we had lids for. How much water or weight I never worked out, but it must have been a fair bit.
The Index of life reads in long lists; six types of weed, four of worms in the sand, along with six shellfish species; five types of crab, prawn, shrimp and a collection of fish; six kind of flat, three of ray, four bass, two pipe-fish, two weever, whiting, mullet and my pride and joy, a shoal of sprats that mixed with all the rock fish, and sea anemones.
For six months the tank was tranquil and clear, until one night. My brother took to sea with him one of my mates called Mark, a lad up for any fun going. That night they were herring drifting and hit a shoal of dogfish. Unknown to me, they brought home in a bucket of water two robin huss and introduced them to my tank in the wee hours of the night. Next morning, I woke to mayhem. All the sand at the bottom was churned up into a cloud of silt. Nothing could be seen; then a fin, shark-like, cruised across the surface. My eyes popped out in disbelief! I grabbed the little net on a stick and the first thing I retrieved was half a sprat. My brothers and Mark’s sharks were on a feeding frenzy. I awoke my brother after getting one dog out. “Come on. Wake up. How many of those damn things did you put in my tank?” “Two; why?”
“You should see it now; looks like coffee!” Eventually I got the second one out and waited for the water to clear. Three days later, not a thing remained alive. Somehow the back pane of glass had cracked and the tide went out all over mum’s carpet!
“Rye’s Own” May 2004
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