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srgalactica
09-25-2014, 08:48 AM
In my novel, a large wave slams a character into the mussel-encrusted pylon of a pier. Could the shells give my character any wounds, cuts, etc and would the shells break up at all and leave pieces imbedded in flesh?

Obviously there would be injury from slamming into the pylon, but at this point, I'm just concerned with understanding what would happen with the shells.

Helix
09-25-2014, 09:02 AM
Among your mussel colony, there would be plenty of dead shells, still attached by the byssus. Dead shells can be very sharp. Yes, they can -- and do -- break off. I'd buy the scenario.

Qui Amat Scribere
09-25-2014, 09:11 AM
From my experience, mussel shells do break pretty easily. Their shells are thin and brittle, too.

The shells could definitely wound your character. Probably not deeply (barnacles, on the other hand, can leave a nasty scrape), but they would have some serious bruising, and if you wanted bits of shell left in their flesh, it's very possible.

If they hit the pylon at an upward angle, with the full force of the wave, the impact could shatter shells and leave shards in their skin/flesh. Obviously, the harder they hit, the deeper the shards would be driven. Then, as the retreating wave pulled them down, their skin would scrape down against the pylon and the remains of the broken mussels, especially if they struck from the front and were clinging to the pylon for support (as opposed to letting the wave pull them back and away from it).

I consider myself an expert because I stepped on a mussel once.

chompers
09-25-2014, 09:39 AM
I consider myself an expert because I stepped on a mussel once.Oh, thank you. I got a good, long chuckle out of this.

Drachen Jager
09-25-2014, 09:43 AM
Yes, certainly it could do that sort of damage.

Two notes. As stated above, barnacles do a lot of damage too and most places you find mussels, you'll find barnacles. Second, and more important, pylon is the wrong word. I believe you're going for piling, which is a collection of piles, large posts driven into the ground or seabed to support a structure.

meowzbark
09-25-2014, 10:06 AM
I lived on the beach for several years, so basing my answer on solely on that experience:

I sliced open the bottom of my foot vertically with a razor shell once. It was at least four inches long. My foot bled like crazy and I couldn't walk on it for days. I cut both my hands and my feet on those shells (and many other things) multiple times, since I often liked to run along the mossy sandbag jetty without shoes on. [BTW, not a smart thing to do in winter or during hurricane season.]

I doubt that the shells would remain in the skin, considering that they typically snap and don't shatter. Whatever does gets stuck in the skin should be easy to remove.

I think colonies of live mussel will do more blunt damage than cuts due to the shape and that they're less likely to break apart with the mollusk still inside. But you'll find dead oysters clams and razor clams stuck in the jetties, along with random human trash that will happily slice up your character.

blacbird
09-25-2014, 11:28 AM
Mussel shells are sharp and hard. Yes, they could inflict significant cuts.

caw

Captcha
09-25-2014, 02:09 PM
I've gotten cuts from stepping on mussel shells, and one additional thing you might want to add is that they seem extra-specially itchy. (My brother confirms this, and he's not allergy-prone like I am).

I'm not sure if it's the nature of the slice (in my experience, a weird combination of thin and jagged, enough to bleed quite a bit) or if there's something left behind by the shell, but one way or another, the itch was much worse than the pain.

Helix
09-25-2014, 02:45 PM
I've gotten cuts from stepping on mussel shells, and one additional thing you might want to add is that they seem extra-specially itchy. (My brother confirms this, and he's not allergy-prone like I am).

I'm not sure if it's the nature of the slice (in my experience, a weird combination of thin and jagged, enough to bleed quite a bit) or if there's something left behind by the shell, but one way or another, the itch was much worse than the pain.

Gosh, yes, they can be quite uncomfortable. It might be from flakes of periostracum, which is the protein outer layer on most mollusc shells.

If you want to go even further -- ulcers from marine bacteria on the shells or in the water. They can be a real problem to treat. (I don't know if this is an issue in your story's setting. They can be absolute pain -- literally -- in warmer waters.)

srgalactica
09-26-2014, 03:20 AM
Awesome! Thanks guys! That is exactly what I needed,

Addendum...could they cut through clothing? Character is wearing pants, and a tunic, but the tunic has short sleeves, so forearm and upper arm would be exposed. Just wondering if it might also cut through some of the tunic.

King Neptune
09-26-2014, 03:48 AM
Awesome! Thanks guys! That is exactly what I needed,

Addendum...could they cut through clothing? Character is wearing pants, and a tunic, but the tunic has short sleeves, so forearm and upper arm would be exposed. Just wondering if it might also cut through some of the tunic.

It might. That would depend on how the shells broke; some broken edges can be sharper than others.

Qui Amat Scribere
09-26-2014, 04:20 AM
They could, technically. Of course, there are various factors involved, most importantly the force of impact and the type of material. Since I see that you're working on a fantasy novel, and the character is wearing a tunic, I assume that the clothes aren't polyester. :) Are they wool, cotton, linen? Does your character wear layers - linen undershirt beneath a woolen tunic, for example? How tight is the weave, and how thick is the fabric? A tighter weave is pierced less readily. Depending on economic status, the tunic would be of rougher or finer material - and rough, heavy wool will probably protect better than a light tunic of linen. I know it seems like a pain in the bottom to think about all this, but if you're concerned with realism, it does matter. (Anyone who knows more about fabric properties etc., please correct me if I'm wrong!)

If the forearms are likely to hit the pylon, or piling, or whatever the devil it is, I'm guessing that the character is striking from the front. Their forearms, if they have the chance to use them defensively, will absorb the brunt of the damage/shell fragments/what-have-you. Following that will be the face, and then the chest. If the arms are flung up to defend the face, then the chest will probably end up scraping against the shells quite a bit, though not nearly as much as the arms. (This is all just from my experience, and of course it depends on how your character reacts/is positioned upon impact.)

Don't forget that anything that passes through fabric to pierce skin will drag fibres into the flesh beneath. These can cause itching, irritation, infection, etc.

Also, consider subtler injuries such as torn/jarred muscles; bruising; breathlessness (from the impact driving the breath out of them); disorientation; swallowed/inhaled water, etc.

I feel like I'm rambling now, so I'll stop here.

Niiicola
09-26-2014, 06:02 PM
As somebody who grew up by the ocean and has stepped on a fair number of shells, I'd say mussels are pretty sharp but I'm not sure they'd cut through fabric. If anything I'd say a huge wave slamming you into a pylon would cause more damage in a blunt trauma kind of way. Also, barnacles would give you some nasty cuts and scrapes if they were on the pylon too, but again probably more to exposed skin. This whole scenario would really mess up somebody's face, and if a wave tossed you and flipped you around you might not even have time to protect yourself or even know you were about slam into a pylon. Ouch, this whole scenario is stressing me out a little. :(

Karen Junker
09-26-2014, 06:36 PM
Razor clams only live on the west coast http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_razor_clam

I will second/third that the word you are looking for is 'piling' -- and having lived on both the Puget Sound and also the Pacific coast of Washington & Oregon, I will also ditto the thing about the barnacles. They are usually so thick on the mussels that you can't even see the mussels. So in the scenario you describe, the barnacle bits could possibly pierce clothing and get embedded/imbedded in skin.

Different types of mussels grow in different places -- and some may be more likely to have barnacles than others, but in the 60 or so years I have been around the ones in the Pacific Northwest, they are usually covered completely in barnacles -- and you have to use a lot of force to get them off whatever surface they are growing on (both barnacles and mussels).

harmonyisarine
09-27-2014, 07:38 AM
They certainly will cut, and can cut through thin clothes. Barnacles and oysters are both far worse, and usually one or another species is found in the same place. During my university years a student was surfing too close to a pier and got swept into a colony of mussels and oysters. He had to go to the hospital to get put back together (he was fine later). I also did a thesis that involved sampling in an intertidal full of mussels and oysters. The oysters would cut through our neoprene waders (and still make it into your skin), but the mussels would only cut our skin and perhaps score the neoprene, if they were broken and had sharp edges.

srgalactica
09-27-2014, 08:35 AM
You guys are the best. This is exactly what I was hoping for! Thank you :)

meowzbark
09-28-2014, 09:50 PM
Razor clams only live on the west coast http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_razor_clam



Negative. I grew up on the east coast and our "razor clam" refers to the Atlantic jackknife clam. Same shape, but different coloring. There is also another type of razor clam that can be found on coastal areas of Asia. And a fourth type found in Prince Edwards Island, Canada and parts of Europe.

Fruitbat
09-28-2014, 11:39 PM
Broken shells can be very sharp, especially if newly broken and the edges not having had time to become worn down. Some arrowheads were made of shell.