Sunday, August 30, 2015

Crowds Gone and Weather Nicer

It's beginning to cool off a bit which makes is much more enjoyable to walk on the beach and dig for shells.

Aug 18, 2015
Manta Ray egg casings found along shore

Aug 23, 2015
Starting to collect feathers also

August 29, 2015

August 30. 2015
At the state park in the sand dune


Friday, August 28, 2015

The Shell Grotto

There's an underground grotto in the UK that's covered with millions of seashells — and no one knows who made it

Talia Avakian

The Shell Grotto, located in Margate, Kent, in the UK, is a stunning underground grotto elaborately decorated with 4.6 million seashells.
Shell grotto wall
cross the grotto are chambers covered in the shells.Once you enter the subterranean world, you’ll be able to wander through 70 feet of winding passages that lead to a large rectangular chamber while gazing at the breathtaking mosaics of shells that line the walls.

Shell Grotto tunnels
Flickr/Barney Moss
There are around 70 feet of shell-covered tunnels.Discovered more than 200 years ago, the Shell Grotto is surrounded in mystery as no one knows who made it or why it was built.

Shell Grotto blue walls
Flickr/Alastair Campbell
The shells have been placed with painstaking detail to form the intricate patterns.The legend goes that in 1835, a man named James Newlove happened to be digging with his son when a hole appeared. He lowered his son into the hole and when the boy emerged, he spoke of the elaborate tunnels.

Shell Grotto detail
A majority of the shells come from Britain, while some, like the ones pictured here, are from the Caribbean.A number of stories are told regarding its origin, with some saying it was once an ancient temple and others believing it was a secret meeting place for private sects.

Shell Grotto ceiling
Even the ceilings are covered in the artwork.The Grotto officially opened its doors to the public in 1838, with hundreds coming to the site to marvel at a location that had never been marked on any map, had never been discussed in tales, and had no sign of construction around the town.

Shell Grotto shell details
Some of the shells from the oysters shimmer, illuminating the underground grotto.The Shell Grotto is open to the public daily until November, and during weekends in the winter (Nov. to Feb.).  Tickets cost about $3.50 for adults and $2.50 for children.

Read more:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Shelling: Slim Pickins'

For various reasons (i.e. rain, heat, shorter days, fewer shells, etc), I've found shells but not many. Maybe I'm more selective? Anyway, we take what we can get and are thankful!

August 14, 2015

August 16, 2015
St Andrews State Park gave me these yesterday afternoon

Saturday night delight

Saturday, August 15, 2015

SHELLS IN THE NEWS: New Jersey shores full of sea creatures, shells

New Jersey shores full of sea creatures, shells

NICOLE LEONARD, Staff Writer | Posted: Saturday, August 15, 2015 8:30 am
Jersey Cape Shell Show

Jersey Cape Shell Show and Sale Aug. 20 and 21 at Wetlands Institute

Sea shells are abundant on the New Jersey shores. There are the black ridged scallop shells that look like accordion fans, the pretty and delicate spiral shells that come in various patterns and colors and the common triangle shaped ones we sometimes paint on.

Hardly ever does someone stop and think about the creatures that once lived in these shells and have since left them behind. Shellfish, mollusks and crustaceans have lived on the ocean floor long before our primate ancestors learned how to stand upright.

Sue Hobbs, Jersey Cape Shell Club president, picks up the pieces left behind. Although club members repurpose the shells for art, tools and decoration, she made an effort to learn about what had lived in those shells before she happened upon them in the sand.

“There is a lot of confusion about how shells happen, and a lot of it is due to souvenir shops selling hermit crabs,” she said. “Hermit crabs live in the water or on land, and will take an empty shell to cover their tender, undefended rear, but they do not make the shells they live in.”
Shell show returns to Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor

Sea shells are abundant on the New Jersey shores as creatures from the Atlantic Ocean leave behind their hard exteriors. Some people collect the shells to paint or keep in jars, but members of…

However, animals such as clams, snails, whelks and mussels do make the shells we find on our Jersey beaches. Most of animals are born with their shells, or exoskeletons. Like the whelk, a sea snail, the shell grows with the creature from birth.

The knobbed whelk, the state shell, takes on a spiral shell which develops more profound ridges as the animal gets older. The tiny versions of these shells found on the beach mean the animal had most likely died without reaching full maturity.

According to the Ocean Research Group, there are more than 50,000 known species of mollusks. As a shell collector and dealer, Hobbs said the Latin names given to these shells help with specific identification since there are so many. The state’s shell goes by Busycon carica in the scientific community.

Some of the best areas, Hobbs said, in South Jersey to see various seashells and creatures are at Stone Harbor Point and the Delaware Bay beaches along Cape May and Cumberland Counties.

Contact: 609-272-7022

Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Did You Know?


The knobbed whelk, known for its familiar sprial, is the state shell of New Jersey. Inside is a snail that hunts two-shelled mollusks, prying their homes open with a powerful foot and the edge of its shell. Whelks reproduce by laying long strings of egg capsules, which appear to be made of yellow paper. Their meat is edible and is called scungilli.

Blue mussel

Long and thin, these shells are often found in bunches, held together by strong threads called byssus. Mussels use the byssus, which they secrete through a groove in their foot, to attach themselves to piling and rocks. They also use the threads for defense. When predatory mollusks, such as small whelks, invade mussel beds, they sometimes find themselves wrapped in byssus threads. They can become immobilized and starve to death.

Northern moon shell

The moon shell, or moon snail, uses its large foot both for locomotion and as a weapon. It holds down other mollusks and small crabs with its foot and drills through their shells with a sharp tongue-like organ called a radula. Moon snail egg cases are called sand collars. They look like leathery rings.

Jackknife clam

Also called the razor clam, the jackknife is a filter-feeder. It uses a powerful foot to dig down into the muddy ocean bottom so only small siphons, sticking out of its shell, are visible. It draws in seawater and feeds on tiny nutrients such as plankton.


This bivalve, also called the hard-shell clam, has been an important food source since Native Americans first dug them from the sand. The meat of the clam is a powerful muscle that holds the shell closed. A clam shell with a precise hole in it indicates it has been attacked by a predator.


Scallops are unusual among bivalves (two-shelled mollusks) because they have the ability to swim. They can propel themselves through the water by quickly opening and closing their fan-like shells. They also have rows of tiny eyes to alert them to danger.

Eastern oyster

Oysters are found in shallow, brackish water, where freshwater meets the sea. They have large, irregular shells that show the evidence of where oysters have attached themselves to rocks and to each other. During its lifetime, an oyster may change gender several times. Eastern oysters are edible, but they’re not the kind that produce pearls.


Coquinas are the colorful, tiny bivalves that you see burying themselves in the wet sand as waves retreat from the beach. They are also called bean clams and butterfly shells — because they are so colorful and because the two valves of an open shell resemble butterfly wings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Why Victorian-era Southerners created seashell graves and where you can still see them

Why Victorian-era Southerners created seashell graves and where you can still see them

Kelly Kazek | By Kelly Kazek |  
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 12, 2015 at 1:55 PM, updated August 12, 2015 at 1:56 PM

Seashells, laid as one would lay shingles or a tile roof, would effectively protect the mound of earth from rain.

As many cemeteries as I've visited over the years, I never came across seashell grave covers until recently. I'm not talking about shells scattered on a grave, which I've heard is an old African custom. I mean mounds with seashells cemented on them to create protective grave covers. (See the accompanying photo gallery).

It turns out, the practice was quite common across the South in the Victorian era and not only in coastal areas. They seemed to be particularly plentiful in Texas, although there are quite a few across Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, most dated from the late 1800s to before 1910.

Also, the types of shells used for this construction are the type commonly referred to as "cockleshells," the shell of a salt-water bivalve such as a clam. So if not because the graves were close to the shore where shells were plentiful, why did people use seashells on graves?

There are several theories, including an interesting one about the economics of the time period.

The sea shall take them home.
According to "The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Volume 23, Folk Art" by Crown, Rivers and Wilson, seashells were a representation to slaves of returning to Africa: "They said the sea had brought them to their new country and the sea would return them to Africa when they died."

So whether the shells were scattered or cemented into place, "they are meant as a symbol that ensures a safe journey is made to that unknown shore where everlasting life is possible. Loose shells placed on a tombstone or dropped on the ground around it are also a visible reminder that the person buried below continues to be remembered and honored by those still living."

However, many of the seashell grave covers are found in cemeteries where only white settlers are buried. Some theorize white people took the tradition from slaves while others have other ideas on the origins of seashell graves.

Crossing over.
Experts at the Association for Gravestone Studies say seashells have to do with Christianity.

"Clam shells, scallop shells and other types of shells are a symbol of a person's Christian pilgrimage or journey through life and of baptism in the church. In the middle ages, Christians wore the scallop shell to indicate that they had made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James of Compostella in Spain," the association's website says. "Placing a shell on a gravestone when visiting the site is an ancient custom and may in fact have several different meanings depending on the cultural background of the people placing the shells. The idea of crossing over a body of water to the promised land or crossing the River of Styx to the afterlife, the final journey to the 'other side' is also part of the symbolism of the shell."

Protection for the dead.
William Flake "Sonny" Joiner, an Alabama genealogist, wrote that he believes the shells were used by poor Southerners as a means of protecting grave sites.

"The traditional method of marking a grave (for the less affluent) in South Alabama during the early years and especially during the Reconstruction era was to create an earth mound 12- to 18-inches wide and from 5- to 6-feet long," he wrote on the genealogy site "Needless to say, the rains washed these mounds away quite easily ... it was found that seashells, laid as one would lay shingles or a tile roof, would effectively protect the mound of earth from the rain and yes, the seashells were also decorative. "

"Making do" with found materials.
The shells were not only effective and pretty, Joiner wrote, they were cheap and available.

"Salt, during the reconstruction era was scarce and very expensive. To overcome this, salt making crews were formed in many communities ... to make an annual trip to the coast, where they would boil down the seawater or water from salt ponds into salt crystals to take back to their families and communities. While at the coast they would also catch fish, clean them, butterfly filet them and pack them in salt to take back home. And a by-product of their time at the coast was the collection of seashells to take back for the graves in their cemeteries."

Stephanie Linecum wrote on the blog that Southerners often had to "make do" with materials at hand.

"If a grave marker is found in a pioneer model, southern-folk cemetery, this is where the art of 'making do' is seen," Linecum writes. "What is missing most often from a pioneer southern folk cemetery is commercially produced gravestones or granite or marble...A common decorating practice in southern folk cemeteries still seen today is the use of shells. Conch shells, among others, are frequently seen. The shells are used to varying degrees, from a single one at the head of the grave to a line of them down the center of the grave or as a border. Sometimes the entire grave will be covered with shells."

Join reporter Kelly Kazek on her weekly journey through Alabama to record the region's quirky history, strange roadside attractions and tales of colorful characters. Find her on Facebook or follow her Odd Travels and Real Alabama boards on Pinterest.

© 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, August 10, 2015


We've been having lots of rain and lots of heat, plus I took a visit to California so haven't collected too many shells but yesterday went to the state park and enjoyed the sunshine ~

Last night's delight

July 20, 2015
Love the minis

Another beautiful beach bride and groom

July 25, 2015

St Andrews State Park Pier

July 26, 2015
Slipper Shells

Pelican flyby

My photo was chosen for the cover the the Friends of St Andrews State Park brochure!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Seashells in the News

Book Review: ‘Spirals in Time' reveals many secrets of seashells

When I was a preschooler, a relative gave me a beautiful triton shell. Knobby and pale-rose on the outside, kitten’s-mouth pink on the inside, the shell was a palm-size wonder to my 4-year-old self. I wanted badly to know: How did the sound of the ocean get inside it? How did it become such a beautiful color? What made it? I eventually learned that a living thing called a mollusk made my triton — a thing that looked like the contents of a handkerchief, sure, but was part of a distinguished, diverse family whose lineage on Earth stretches back more than 500 million years.
English marine biologist Helen Scales delivers accessible answers to those kinds of questions in her book, “Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells.” It’s a history and catalog not just of what those little animals do, but what humans do with them.
For thousands of years, Scales notes, people have buried their notable dead with shells, worn shells on cords as jewelry, included their likenesses in artwork and used them as currency.
Archaeologists found a shell collection among Pompeii’s ash-coated ruins, and Scales introduces readers to the world’s most prolific shell collector — Hugh Cuming — who amassed 83,000 shells by the time he died in 1865. “What is astonishing, though, is how universally shells have come to hold great meaning. Far from being just pretty things to look at, shells have been embraced as powerful emblems of sex and power, of birth and of death,” Scales notes.
Scales dives deeply into the natural history of mollusks and the surprisingly complex things they do. Her explanation of the complicated and glorious process by which an organism makes a shell, and then adorns it with colors and patterns, is riveting.
Her anecdotes about hermit crabs, and their castoff homes, include describing a researcher who “put hermit crabs on little treadmills.” She discusses how the nautilus makes its many-chambered shell and how one kind of cone snail (there are 700 species) poisons a fish, “distends its mouth to grotesque proportions,” and swallows it. If that isn’t enough to disqualify it as a dinner guest, it then “regurgitates a pile of bones and scales.”
Shells might protect mollusks from undersea predators, but that armor is what makes them so vulnerable to predation from us. The shells you see for sale weren’t collected when the inhabitants were finished using them. The international shell trade collects its goods by the quickest way possible, which means disaster for the fragile environments that support species, such as coral reefs and kelp beds.
A species of my old friend the triton has completely disappeared from the Indo-Pacific region. If left alone, mollusks also suffer from the rising temperature and acidification levels of the seas.
Many marine organisms require stable pH levels to survive, Scales writes; “calcifiers,” or animals that make their own skeletons and shells, are especially imperiled by warming and polluted waters. A continued change in ocean chemistry will cause many calcifiers to melt away. We must change our ways, Scales insists: “If we act now, there’s hope that in the years ahead there will still be a wealth of wonders in the oceans … There will still be beautiful shells washing up on beaches, where people will find them and wonder where they came from, and how they were made.”
Book Review
‘Spirals in Time’
By Helen Scales, Bloomsbury. 304 pages, $27.