Sea Cucumbers (Grade 4)

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Sea Cucumbers

Toward the end of October of every year there is a harvest of cucumbers in the ocean. These cucumbers, however, are not at all like those we see on our tables. In the first place, they are not vegetables; they are animals. In the second place, they grow upon the bottom of the sea.

There are many species of sea cucumbers, but they all possess elongated worm-like bodies. They all have thick leathery skins. They all have a crown of feelers, or tentacles, about the forward extremity. All species, likewise, use the same method of resenting anyone or anything messing with their bodies. When messed with they suddenly and unexpectedly eject their teeth, their stomach, and their digestive apparatus. In fact, they eject all their insides in the face of the intruder. This reduces them to a state of collapse. It makes them mere empty bags, until their wonderful recuperative powers enable them to replace the organs. Wonderful as it may seem, teeth, stomach, digestive organs, and all soon grow again. Moreover, these stomachs have digestive powers that are not to be despised. They far surpass even those popularly ascribed to the ostrich. The sea-cucumber actually seems to feed upon hard coral and even granite has been found in its stomach.

Sea-cucumbers, as they are popularly called, are also known by the name of trepang and sea-slug. Scientific people call them Holothuroideæ. Why, however, no one has ever been able to find out, since the name has no meaning. Sea-cucumbers are considered a great delicacy by the Chinese. Thousands of Chinese vessels, called junks, are fitted out every year for these fisheries. Trepangs are caught in different ways. Sometimes the patient fishermen lie along the fore-part of vessels, and with long slender bamboos, terminating in sharp hooks, gather in sea-cucumbers from the bottom of the sea. They are so practiced in hand and eye that the catch is never missed, and is discerned sometimes at thirty yards' distance. When the water is not more than four or five fathoms deep, divers are sent down to gather these culinary monsters. The boat and junk remain near to receive the harvest.

As soon as the trepangs are collected, they are carried to the shore. There they are scalded by throwing them alive into large iron pots set over little ovens built of stones. Here they are stirred about by means of a long pole resting upon a forked stick. In these vessels they remain a couple of minutes. When they are taken out, they are disemboweled with a sharp knife, if they haven't already thrown up their stomachs. They are then taken to great bamboo sheds containing still larger boilers. In the latter is water seasoned with mimosa bark. A busy scene now ensues. All is bustle, noise, and activity. The bubbling of the great cauldrons, the incessant chatter of those engaged in the work, the dumping of fresh loads of sea-cucumbers into the vessels, and the removal of others to hang in clusters on the ropes above, or be deposited on hurdles to dry in the sun, make "confusion worse confounded," and give the spectator a new and realizing sense of the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel.

The sea-cucumbers having been smoked in the large cauldrons (for the mimosa bark is consumed in the process), and then dried, are ready for the market, and, packed in bundles, are stowed away in the holds of the junks off shore.
They are said to taste like lobsters; but if they look, as one traveler says they do, "like dried sausages rolled in mud and thrown up the chimney," few of us could be induced to try them whether we liked them or not.”
What is MOST unique about the scientific name for the sea cucumber?
  1. It is related to a vegetable, not a sea creature.
  2. It has a meaning that is not at all related to cucumbers.
  3. It is a word with absolutely no meaning.
  4. It has been long debated by scientists.
During which season are sea cucumbers harvested?
  1. Winter
  2. Spring
  3. Summer
  4. Fall
How do sea cucumbers react when faced with intruders?
  1. They get rid of all of their inside parts.
  2. They bare their teeth to scare them off.
  3. They appear to collapse on the ocean floor.
  4. They wiggle away with their worm-like bodies.
Which detail from the passage BEST illustrates the strength of the sea cucumber's stomach?
  1. Moreover, these stomachs have digestive powers that are not to be despised
  2. far surpassing even those popularly ascribed to the ostrich
  3. he sea-cucumber actually seems to feed upon coral
  4. and even granite has been found in its stomach
Why are divers needed to gather sea cucumbers?
  1. Because they are hard to see from the surface
  2. Because they grow on the sea floor
  3. Because they stick to the coral reef
  4. Because they need to be gathered quickly
Which choice BEST describes the meaning of DISEMBOWELED as it is used in the passage?
  1. Cut open and insides removed
  2. Boiled alive in scalding water
  3. Throwing open a stomach
  4. Seasoned with natural seasonings
How are sea cucumbers sold?
  1. Fresh from the sea
  2. Boiled and warm
  3. Smoked and dried
  4. Packed in salt
How does the look of sea cucumbers affect those who might like to eat them?
  1. It entices them to want to eat them more.
  2. It deters them from wanting to try them.
  3. It makes it easier for them to get to the meat.
  4. It offends their noses and sense of taste.
From the passage you can infer that the color of smoked sea cucumbers is...
  1. black or brown
  2. white or cream
  3. yellow or gold
  4. silver or gray
Which name for the sea-cucumber best describes its appearance?
  1. trepang
  2. sea-slug
  3. sea-cucumber
  4. Holothuroideæ

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