June 28, 2013

Soft Shell Guru

Some of my most gratifying work as a photographer has been freelance jobs for the North Carolina Sea Grant publication, Coastwatch. My work first appeared there in 1981, when it was a fledgling newsletter of just a few pages.

Living on Cape Hatteras, I shared many common interests with Sea Grant, and they began to give me some assignments. Each job was intriguing and put me in touch with some fascinating people.

One of these was Murray Bridges, a commercial crabber. Based in Colington, Bridges not only caught crabs, but he was and still is, best known for his business of producing soft shell crabs. He started Endurance Seafood in the 70’s as a family operated venture, and today at 79 years of age continues to do so. His pioneering contributions to the local soft shell crab industry are legendary.

I met Murray in May, 2001 for a Coastwatch story. He was very friendly, engaging and loved his work. These are a few of my shots using a Nikon F100 with Fujichrome slide film.

There were well over 100 tanks connected with plumbing, all for the purpose of molting crabs.

The crabs have to be attended 24 hours a day.

Peelers await to shed their shells.

Murray picked up a nice buster for me.

A pile of empty shells was evidence of past shedding.

Once packed in wet eel grass, they’re cooled and ready for shipment.

In season, they move them out by the thousands every day.

I enjoyed my visit, and went home with 4 dozen soft crabs.