A friend of my sons has been visiting from New Hampshire and wanted to go fishing. While the boys were out on the boat, they jumped into the water to cool off and the friend felt something hard under the sand. He said he felt a rock, but my son quickly corrected him saying there are no “rocks” in Florida (except coquina rock). So The Friend began digging. What he pulled up was a huge, empty horse conch shell. What a vacation souvenir….!!!!!!
This is the biggest shell I’ve seen. It was buried deep in the sand which tells me the mollusk died and then the shell was buried in sand as the tide moved. No hermit crab is large enough to live in a shell this size, and if the mollusk still inhabited it, it would be very apparent (See my page about the Florida Horse Conch). It was an empty horse conch shell.
I sprayed it off with the hose and left it outside to dry. I will chip away the barnacles and other stuff, but getting the black periostracum (dark coating which covers the shell) off is difficult. The shell underneath may be very pretty, or not. One thing I know is that this is an amazing gift from the sea, created by an amazing animal.
The Friend is not interested in taking it home with him, so I will attempt to clean it up and put it in my garden.
One time when we were out on the boat exploring the islands I had found a horse conch empty on the sand and it now sits on my kitchen windowsill (the brownish one in the photo above). That shell is small compared to this beast!
And here’s a photo with Skittle the cat. She insisted.
UPDATE: I did not do any cleaning to this shell, except to brush off the barnacles and growths, which is easy when they dry up. As it sat out in the sun in my garden, the black stuff began flaking off on it’s own.
Underneath, the shell is white. I’m guessing that once the snail died, the empty shell was bleached by the sun. With the tides moving sand around, eventually it became buried, which is where it stayed until our friend stumbled upon it.
Finding the Shell Beneath the Black Coating
This shell is so large that the only place for it was in my front garden. After time, it’s become moldy simply from the Florida humidity. A lot of the periostracum coating has flaked off, so I decided to try to clean it up a bit more. I have scrubbed it with a brush using ammonia and water. Then it was left out in the sun to hopefully remove the green and black mold.
So no great coloring, but still an awesome seashell. In case you are interested in the rules and regulations about collecting seashells in Florida, read my post about the rules on collecting seashells in Florida.