Red tide, paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP),
and the coastal waters of British Columbia and Alaska:
a personal account of getting paralytic shellfish poisoning.
   
     The following excerpt is from
IN, AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas, "The Kerouac of the new millennium." (FW)
   ...I had taken ten days or so off of work so as to ferry northward and meet up with a young Parisian tart whom I had been lucky enough to trade caresses in the wilderness with some weeks earlier in Sitka. We rendezvoused again a brief while later up in Haines, gathered together some food and supplies, and hiked half a day down the coast to the end of a peninsula, arriving at a wonderful bit of paradise called, interestingly enough, Seduction Point.
      There we stayed for a number of days, cooing and whinnying, drinking red wine, and watching humpback whales feed and play in the bay. On or about the third day I, the great white hunter, thought it would be both delicious and impressive to my European mistress if I was to gather some sustenance from the land for our dinner, and so I went down into the inter-tidal zone and plundered a handful of baby blue mussels from the rocks, knowing full well the whole time that during the summer months there is a coast-wide red-tide alert, and that it's best to stick to an austere diet of brie, pat?, olives, and French loaf. But an oaf is an oaf and the great white hunter scoffed at the ridiculous warning, cooked up the bounty, and polished the entire plate off, while the unimpressed maiden chose, as it were, to decline the knight's offering and stick to her vegetarian fare.
      So it goes that sometime in the middle of the night I awoke and my hands, feet, and face were as numb as if a troupe of maleficent dentists had snuck down to our camp and injected me all over with heaping doses of Novocain. Only it wasn't Novocain, it was PSP- paralytic shellfish poisoning. Not such a good thing to have happen to you when you're a five hour hike from the nearest town, a hike which could only be done at low tide and I had no idea when that was, and so I lay there totally deflated and not so full of gusto and heroism anymore- just a wiry white-man who'd found a way to humiliate himself while falling to his doom.
      Paralytic shellfish poisoning kills you by eventually paralyzing your whole body, including your lungs, and therefore suffocating you, and there were areas of the Alaskan panhandle which were renowned for the numbers of natives who had suffered this horrible fate. Place names like Poison Cove came to mind as I lay there wondering how much further the process of immobilization would go.
      Well, as I said, the ego gets knocked down if we invite the flagellator- whom I had invited, sometime back, when I was full of oomph and piety- and I was shrunk down to my appropriate size that night with a little bit of distress and worry, but after my humbling was complete the flogging was called off and I didn't die nor suffer too grievously, and most of the toxin left my body within forty-eight hours. I recall one finger remaining completely numb for a couple of weeks after that episode as a gentle reminder of my infantility. ...




Jack Haas is a wilderness explorer, world traveler, and independent researcher and writer. He is the author of four highly acclaimed books:
THE WAY OF WONDER: a return to the mystery of ourselves, ROOTS AND WINGS: adventures of a spirit on earth, THE DREAM OF BEING: aphorisms, ideograms, and aislings, and IN, AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey.
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