By Philip K. Allan
The Teredo worm is a long, slimy, grey mollusc that can grow up to three feet long and an inch thick. It was feared by 18th century sailors, because of its voracious appetite for wood. Teredos bore long cylindrical holes into the timbers of ships, often in such numbers that only a thin wall is left between each worm’s chamber, reducing the strongest oak to little more than a honeycomb. As the ship becomes ever more fragile, the hull can break apart in the open sea, perhaps under the stress of rough weather, and without any warning. Sailors would recount dark tales of ships that vanished, far out at sea, when their worm-infested bottoms simply fell away.
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