Cult of the Geoduck

It sports a phallic neck three feet long and a life span of 160-plus years.  It’s the world’s largest burrowing clam. It's jokingly referred to as the Washington State Bird.

3 FEET UNDER explores how the geoduck (“gooey duck”) has garnered a devoted following in the Pacific Northwest over the past century.  We follow Jack, a long-time Seattleite who was raised in a kosher Brooklyn home, as he prepares for his annual geoduck dig.  Jack provides insights into his transformation into a seasoned Pacific Northwesterner and connoisseur of the King of Clams.

Jack’s proud knowledge of Seattle, its waterways, and clamming culture propels the action through many layers of geoduck subculture. The Evergreen State College in Olympia adopted the geoduck as its official mascot along with the motto Omnia Extares ("Let It All Hang Out”).  Devotees sing songs, design dolls, and trade folklore about the burrowing bivalve.  Environmentalists beam about its ocean-cleansing siphoning powers. Diners in Hong Kong restaurants pay more than $100 a plate for imported geoduck. 

Not to be left out, Washington State regulators claim a piece of this bonanza by auctioning off duck-digging rights every year to commercial harvesters, whose divers “run” along the sea floor and pull up geoducks.  And crooks have broken strict clamming laws, resulting in the notorious Clamscam trials.

Gooey Duck

The original Nisqually Indian word “gwe-duc” means “dig deep.”  Nineteenth-century European settlers spelled it “goeduck” or even “gooeyduck” to approximate its pronunciation.  But “goeduck” erroneously became “geoduck” in an East Coast dictionary editor’s rendition, and the spelling has stuck.

Enjoy the dig.

  The oldest verified geoduck lived 163 years.  Harvested in the late 1990s, it sat under the shores of Puget Sound while Abraham Lincoln sat in the White House.