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Of Rakes and Clams

Victor Doyle donned his straw hat and jumped into his small motorboat, the Millennium Falcon, to zoom across Mount Desert Narrows to his destination: a rocky low-tide beach on Bartlett Island where he would spend the next several hours in search of clams.

The 30-year-old from Seal Harbor is one of Maine’s wild clammers, who dig by hand to harvest soft-shell clams, the succulent mollusk also called steamers or longnecks and which plays an important role in many traditional recipes of New England. Doyle uses simple, old-fashioned tools to ply his trade, including hip boots, a metal clam rake and a half-bushel clam hod to carry and rinse off the clams he digs. But on this humid, overcast July day, he dons something new before he starts digging into the intertidal zone — a GoPro camera that he strapped onto his chest. Doyle, thanks to a special “Clam Cam” project run by a team of University of Maine researchers, is recording his evening of clam digging to ultimately share his work with the world.

“Clam Cam could get people interested in clamming,” Doyle said. “They could see that clam diggers aren’t barbarians. We’re just working and minding our own business.”

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