Souvenir Horse Conch Seashell

white knobless wonder horse conch

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….!!!!!!

big horse conch seashell

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.

big horse conch seashell
Skittle the Cat checks out this big seashell

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.

huge horse conch seashell
The big horse conch is 17 inches long!

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.

horse conch seashells
Two shells and one black cat

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.

big seashell in the garden

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.

19 thoughts on “Souvenir Horse Conch Seashell

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  6. ileen roos

    Did you wind up cleaning it or keeping as is? If you cleaned it, please show an updated photo. Thanks.

    1. Pam

      Thanks for reading, and that is a good question. I did not clean it, but the black has flaked off to reveal a mostly white shell beneath. I will update my page and add a photo.

      1. ileen roos

        I’ve been collecting shells for a few years now, but I haven’t been to FL. I started when I was on a trip to the Bahamas in 2015 & continued in Mexico in 2017 & 2018. However, I live in NYC & grew up on Long Island beaches & never thought to collect there until I started elsewhere. I’ve found some great shells, and thanks to you I know why the jingle shells are black. I was in Mass near the Cape last weekend & found tons of jingle shells in their natural yellow & orange colors. This is a hobby that’s become habit forming for me.

      2. Pam

        I’ve actually learned a lot from writing this blog, and it’s nice to hear I have helped others too. I think that a lot of people really don’t think much about shells, until they are in a place where there are beautiful shells to collect. My area of Florida does not have great shells along the beach, so all the years I lived here I took them for granted. The kids collected a few, but that was it. Once I visited the Gulf coast, I found beautiful shells and began to wonder how they were made and what lived inside. Now that I can travel off-shore in the boat, to out-of-the-way spots, it’s my favorite thing to do. Beach-combing does become habit forming!

      3. ileen roos

        I need to figure out what my plan is though. I don’t have space for a collection. I started out just gluing shells to picture frames, then I began making myself some earrings. Now I have too many shells for my own good.

      4. Pam

        Yes, I understand. Along the way I have decided to be more picky about which ones I collect. The big and broken ones go out into the garden. Others go into glass bowls and onto big platters. My house is small, and space is limited, so I have to have self-control!

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    1. Pam

      That is a nice idea Maureen. Right now I have set it out in the garden by my front door. I may not clean it after all. Besides, that would be quite a job.

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