In June 1793 Captain George Vancouver and his crew sailed the central coast of British Columbia. They anchored in a familiar bay, and then rowed small boats to shore to explore the area again. Four sailors ventued into a rocky cove. It was breakfast time and they were hungry. Multitudes of mussels grew attached by strong threads to the intertidal rocks. The men loved mussels for breakfast, or any other meal! They'd eaten some mussels from the same coastal area several days in a row. So, the men pried the mussels off the rocks, opened the shells and slurped the mussels down their gullets, live and whole.

Within a few minutes, the men's lips and fingertips were numb. Then their arms and legs became paralyzed. Dizziness and nausea set in. One man died. The others began to run, jump and exercise: they lived!
  • Students will listen to a short story about an illness and death of some coastal explorers and analyze and discuss "what killed the crewmen"


One copy of the story and questions for each group

Your students may wish to learn more about Harmful Algal Blooms effects by linking to the "Background" section or our "Toxic & Harmful Algal Blooms" page.
  1. What was happening?
  2. What killed the sailor? Something in the water? Something they ate on board the ship? Too much exercise rowing through the surf?
  3. Why did the other three sailors live?
  4. Since they had eat raw mussels for breakfast on other days, why did they get sick on the day?
  5. What event happened to change the mussels?
  6. If you were one of the explorers, what would you have named the cove?
  • If you were offered raw oysters, mussels, or clams, would you eat them?
  • Do you think cooking the shellfish might have made a difference in the end of our story? Why or why not?
From Sea Soup Teacher's Guide: Discovering the Watery World of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton, Copyright 1999, by Betsy T. Stevens, Tilbury House, Publishers. Inquiry-based activities for use with Sea Soup: Phytoplankton and Sea Soup: Zooplankton, children's picture books by Mary R. Cerullo, photography by Bill Curtsinger, Tilbury House, Publishers