Detail from one of the clam shells discovered this week near Spider Bight on Blacktip Island’s east coast. (photo courtesy of Catalina Luxfer)
A team of researchers working on Blacktip Island’s east coast Wednesday discovered what they say is a new species of clams, displaying bright plaid coloration, supporting long-held claims the island’s early settlers came from Scotland, research team members said.
“We were down around Spider Bight, looking for remnants of the island’s first settlement, when Rusty Goby noticed a funky-colored clam shell on the beach,” Tiperon University-Blacktip archeology professor Catalina Luxfer said. “We canvassed the area and found more shells with the same coloration. Then we dug up a handful of live clams, all with a faded blue-and-green tartan pattern. It was stunning.
“We scanned online archives to see if the pattern matched any known plaid, and turns out it’s the Clan MacLaren’s ancient tartan,” Luxfer said. “We figured the clams stowed away on the undersides of that first ship, or the first settlers brought them along as a touch of the old country to make them feel at home. They weren’t noticed before because no one really goes over there much. We’re calling them ‘Clam MacLarens’”
Team members say the resemblance goes beyond shell coloration.
“The first one we dug up gave off a squeak that sounded just like a bagpipe,” Fannie Bottoms said. “We lined a bunch of them up, and when we whacked them with a stick in the right order, you could play ‘Scotland the Brave,’ plain as day. And when you steam them, they taste of haggis, with a good dose of brine. They pair brilliantly with a bold, peaty Islay malt.”
Others noted violence in the clams’ provenance.
“Amongst all the intact MacLaren clam shells, we also found a quantity of yellow-and-black plaid fragments, eroded over time,” Edwin Chub said. “We scanned images of those into the computer, and it turned out to be the Clan Campbell tartan. Near as we can tell, some Clam Campbells came over as well, and the Clam MacLarens took a bit of revenge on their Old World rivals here in the Caribbean. They literally crushed all the yellow-and-black buggers.”
Local entrepreneurs were quick to embrace the discovery.
“We’ve slated a two-day Blacktip Island Highland Games up on the bluff, with traditional piping, drumming and dancing exhibitions, caber tossing and a clam-eating contest,” resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “It’ll be fun for the whole family, and’ll let folks to celebrate their Scottish heritage, whether they’re Scottish or not. Kind of like being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but with different whisky.”
Other residents were skeptical.
“The whole Scottish roots thing is a bit far-fetched, but if it gives people something to do, and they stay away from our property, I suppose it’s harmless,” Helen Maples said. “It’s Blacktip, after all, so any excuse for group drinking will be wildly popular. Though we’re steering well clear of any events where people are tossing things, large or small.”