Cousteau's Expeditions

Clipperton, Attack of the crabs

Calypso’s crew has been on Clipperton Island for several days, this tiny dot about 1,000 km off Mexico in the Pacific Ocean that belongs to France. That belongs to France? “It really belongs to the crabs!” exclaims Jacques Delcoutère.

And in truth…

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 12.41.39The crabs of Clipperton Island, each about 4 cm to 6 cm long, are not very impressive, but they are numerous and nothing stops them when they swarm. They scurry ceaselessly over the coasts of the atoll looking for food. They will eat anything. Jacques Delcoutère wants to see how fast the crabs react to a new situation. Wearing his dive suit, he lies down on the beach, still as death, and waits. He does not have to wait long!

One crab passes him by chance and immediately here comes the climb as it looks for a spot with dinner. Another arrives. Then another. It seems unbelievable. Every crustacean on the beach is rushing over to Delcoutère now. In their excitement, do they send out signals, auditory or olfactory, that the others pick up? Mysteries of instinct… In less than ten minutes, Delcoutère is covered with crabs, some of which are beginning to pinch hard in places where his skin shows.

“It’s scary,” admits the diver, “to feel them climbing on you like that, trampling, feeling, tasting you. It’s an experience I don’t recommend for anyone!”

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