How to Clean Seashells Controversy

tropical seashell photography

Florida Seashells

One question that arises most often when talking about collecting seashells is, how to clean them. Quite honestly when we took a day trip to New Smyrna Beach or Bethune Beach in Florida the kids and I came home, unloaded the car, cleaned off the toys and boogie boards, and jumped into the pool. The pail of shells stayed in the garage and were rinsed at a later time. I didn’t collect shells to display in my home, so I never worried about cleaning them. They were mostly found by the kids, and we had so many!

Of course if you keep shells in the house, or use them in crafts or jewelry making, it is a good idea to clean them some way. It will bring out the color and prevent unwanted odors. Never bring shells home that have something living inside. If the mollusk is still inhabiting it, you will see it’s flap covering the opening. If you see red claws, it’s probably a hermit crab. And in the case of my recent horse conch find, creatures may be attached to the outside of the shell.

Ideas for cleaning your seashells usually include soaking them in some sort of solution. Bleach and water – very small amount of bleach – is the common thinking. Shells that are white, or are supposed to be white can withstand a bit more bleach, or a longer soak. Be careful with delicate shells like the sand dollar, starfish and urchins. To bring out the colors after soaking, apply mineral oil and let dry.

Pam (i love shelling) has a post about using muriatic acid to restore color to shells. She lives on Sanibel Island so just imagine the shell collection! Her post claims the solution will restore color to a ruined or calcium covered shell. But, the acid is dangerous stuff and caution is required when using. As an acid, it eats away the unwanted covering and reveals the colors underneath.

If you know of a good way to clean shells, please leave a comment. Happy beach combing!

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Shelling at Three Sisters Island Florida

horse conch seashell

Encrusted Horse Conch

My recent trip to Florida gave me opportunity to do some shelling, or seashell hunting. The Three Sisters Islands are in the backwater area of the intracoastal near Edgewater and that is where we dropped anchor one day. It was hot and we needed to take a dip in the very warm water (80’s at least) to try to cool off. The area around one of the islands was very shallow so I took a walk looking for shells.
The east coast of Florida is not exactly the best place to find shells, and most of the shells I saw were inhabited by hermit crabs. Those things are everywhere! But suddenly I spotted something large in the murky brown water and when I got up close I saw it was a big shell. When I lifted it out, this is what I saw. The horse conch is the official Florida shell, and I’m pretty sure this is one. I wanted to keep it, and it had no living thing inside, but something attached to it was alive.
Those bumps you can see on the left side in my photo, were squishy and obviously living. I don’t know what they are – maybe some sort of coral? – but I decided to put the shell back. So I took my own advice and took some photos and left nature alone.
The only shells I brought back home were collected along New Smyrna Beach, and they are not super impressive. But this horse conch was definitely my favorite find.

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Does Collecting Seashells Really Harm Beaches?

beach shells

clam shells from the beach

Don’t you feel guilty about collecting seashells? Apparently some people think you should.

When I found this article entitled, “Hey Tourists: Leave Those Shells on The Beach Would Ya?” at the site, I had to read it.  And then I shook my head.
After all, I write about collecting seashells and that post is saying it is not a good idea.  But what is the reasoning behind this?  Well, I read that tourism to beaches has increased so much that the collecting of seashells is in danger of hampering the coastline.  Shells that could be used by hermit crabs as homes, and by sea birds as nesting material (huh?), and in beach stabilization.  Okay, the study was done over a 30 year period on beaches in the Mediterranean, where tourism to the coast has increased three fold.

Sorry folks but I find it incredibly hard to believe that tourists are collecting THAT many seashells and taking them back home.  How much room do you leave in your suitcase for shells when you take a vacation to the shore?  And even if they are significantly hoarding shells, these are most likely empty shells.  What about the living organisms that are dredged up with fishing nets, and selected for food, and sold in shops?  These are the ones doing the most damage, not a simple vacationer.

Also the damage done to the coast from building, driving on the sand and polluting the water has to be much greater.  And the study says that this was mainly a way to account for shell loss due to beachcombing, and nothing else.  But it definitely places the most blame on tourists.  In fact it is titled: Vanishing Clams on an Iberian Beach: Local Consequences and Global Implications of Accelerating Loss of Shells to TourismRead the whole study here.

So do we see negative effects from shell collecting?  I haven’t heard of any.  Just a doomsday story about how tourists are silently wrecking the beaches.  What I find incredibly typical is that all the comments after the “Hey Tourists” post have people apologizing for shelling, and promising to never do it again.  Lemmings.
Go ahead and take a few (unoccupied) shells home people… good grief.

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Get Out On The Water in a Gheenoe

Gheenoe 2

Gheenoe 2 (Photo credit: jspeaks)

Sport fishing is a favorite pastime in Florida and the fish are plentiful.  Fishing from shore is easy enough, but getting out on the water means spending money (lots of money) on a boat.  Or does it?

When I was in Florida this past summer my son’s friend had come by to go fishing at our rental house on the ICW. He works at Boston Whaler in Edgewater, and the boys got to talking about boats. My son doesn’t have a bunch of money, but would love to have an affordable boat to get out to the little islands all up and down the coast and do some fishing.  His friend mentioned a Gheenoe, saying it was a “glorified canoe”. It’s small and affordable with a motor and a good setup wouldn’t cost much more than $5,000 – with the motor and all.  They are made right in Titusville, Florida.

It sounded perfect for what my son wanted to do.  During the summer, my son looked into it more and visited a place in Maitland which sells the Gheenoe.  He ended up with one and loves it.  It’s like a canoe, but with a motor, and options to make additions, like comfy seats, lights, etc., and he says it handles big waves very well.  He’s come across some fast moving yachts in areas of the ICW which have caused giant swells for him to navigate, and he’s done so without a problem.  He even caught his first Redfish not too long ago.

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Seashells That Are Pink

pink and white murex seashells

Pink Murex

Want to make a seashell collection of only pink shells? Then you must search the sand for some small shells like the Rose Petal Tellin. This one is a rosy pink both inside and out. It’s a bivalve and lives under the sand in the ocean, but the shells can be washed up on shore. Other tellin shells can have streaks of pink, but the Rose Petal (Tellin lineata) is the one that will be an all-over pink.  In Florida the rose colored tellin can be found mainly on the southern beaches, but it is possible to find them farther north.

Certain scallop shells can be very pretty and you may find some that are pinkish.  The Zigzag scallop (Euvola ziczac) has purplish zigzag lines over a variety of pink, purple, and peach background colors.  The calico scallop is usually more of a purple, but the light red ones can pass as pink.  Continue reading

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