Beaches everywhere have sea life and seashells, but some beaches are better for collecting seashells than others. The secret to collecting seashells you will want to keep, and display, is twofold. First, figure out what it is you are looking for, in general. Do you want a great big fabulous shell for the coffee table or mantle? Or, are you looking for a bunch of shells to use in a craft project? Maybe you dream of finding a whole sand dollar, or you need more cockle shells for a picture frame.
There are shells that are very common and others that are rare finds. Some people search for years for that special junonia or lion’s paw or other coveted shell. Every vacation to the tropics is partially spent eyeing the beach sand and snorkeling in hopes of getting lucky. The shell must not be occupied, which further narrows down the availability. Taking seashells that are inhabited is usually against the law. Often empty shells become a home to hermit crabs or some other sea creatures which move in after the mollusk dies. You can’t collect those either.
Obviously if you want to collect special shells, sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins, you should know where to go to find them. There are no guarantees, but it’s a good idea to search where there is a greater possibility of success. Know the laws of the area before you collect anything. Also, don’t spend all your time searching at the waters edge. Shells wash up with the tide, so check out the dune area for shells left behind after high tide.
Do your research when planning a vacation, or traveling to a nearby beach. The west coast of Florida is known for it’s wonderful beachcombing opportunities. The Keys also have an abundance of shells, and the water is so clear that it may be the perfect place to easily find a beautiful specimen.
Small, whole shells can be found almost anywhere, and they can be quite striking as well. Even bits and pieces that belonged to large shells are interesting finds. It’s best to just enjoy the variety and hope for something extraordinary. That’s the fun of shelling.
Collecting your own sea glass assures you it’s real, but buying on line may give you pause. Is that necklace (with the hefty price tag) made of the real thing?
I may have come across sea glass during my treks to the ocean, but I never paid much attention to it. The kids and I collected seashells only. Jelly fish and horseshoe crabs that had washed up on the beach were interesting, but I don’t recall finding any pretty, worn glass. But there are collectors of sea glass, and they know what to look for. Just like seashells, certain ones (colors) are rare, and therefore demand a higher price. Continue reading Collecting and Buying Real Sea Glass→
The shoreline at Venice Beach, on the Gulf coast of Florida, is known as the best place to find shark’s teeth. I have never visited this beach, which is located about halfway along the west coast, but my kids would have loved to collect sharks teeth there.
Just like beachcombing for good seashells, you will find more sharks teeth after a storm comes through. The teeth are fossilized remnants of the large creatures that died some time ago. Eventually the teeth make their way to shore, usually in rough water. As sharks are abundant in the warm Gulf of Mexico, so are their teeth. And we all know that sharks can have many rows of teeth, losing them over a lifetime. This also adds to the large number of teeth deposited on the ocean floor.
Now here is something interesting that I came across. You can also hunt for shark’s teeth in freshwater rivers in Florida! I’m going to give you a link to a page that will tell you why, but briefly it is because all of Florida used to be under the ocean. There are safety factors involved when you do anything in fresh water, one of them being cottonmouth snakes and the other is, of course, alligators. Florida fresh water areas are not inviting – not to me anyway. Florida is full of creepy, and deadly, wildlife, but the bodies of fresh water are the worst! Read more about this challenging way to Hunt for Shark’s Teeth in Rivers (Shark Teeth Store website). The article link is to a site which also sells shark teeth, in case you are interested in buying.
Personally, I would stick to the beach to find my shark’s teeth, but the more adventurous could find some nice specimens in and around rivers. Diving and snorkeling could yield some terrific artifacts. And while you’re looking for teeth, keep your eyes peeled for other fossils. Because of the nature of the beach, with it’s tides and storms, each day contains the possibility of finding something new. Once you have that special tooth, wrap it in wire and hang it around your neck proudly.
If I was walking along the beach today I would be looking much more intently at the treasures beneath my feet than I did ten years ago. Shelling has taken on a new meaning for me now.
Going to the beach was a regular activity years ago, but I lived around 30 minutes away. I’ve never been lucky enough (or rich enough) to live on the beach but in Florida you are always fairly close to a beach of some kind. And like so many things we get used to, we don’t appreciate it nearly enough.
I’d be walking at low tide – and hopefully that timing would coincide with few visitors to the area so I’d have the place mostly to myself. (Good luck, right?) And I’d check the seaweed washed up along the water line for hidden things caught in it.
I’d walk with my pants rolled up and my feet in the soft sand near the surf, peering out into the water for any sea life just off shore.
Maybe I’d find some limpet shells like the ones pictured, or maybe I’d find something more interesting and beautiful – like a whole conch or sand dollar. I only know that I would be looking more closely knowing that it was not an activity I can do all the time any longer.
If you are walking on the beach today, enjoy every moment and happy treasure hunting!
After hurricane Irene comes by and does her damage to the east coast, one thought to make you smile is that possibly the seashells washed ashore will offer a nice variety.
The churning ocean water will most likely dredge up some empty shells (and other things) and deposit them along the beaches. Even in Florida, where Irene won’t be felt as much, you may have some good pickin’s along the coast.
Which are the most popular seashells to collect? I think it depends on where you are collecting your shells. Not every type of shell is found on all beaches so if you are collecting in Maine you will find a different variety on the beaches compared to what the sheller on the Gulf of Mexico will find. But scallops are found all over.
The scallop shell is one of the most common and it can be quite colorful. Generally it contains a small raised area at the top where the two halves are joined when alive, and spreads out with notched ridges that can be white pink, brown or have stripes or colored markings of purple, red and orange. Scallops also usually have protruding squarish “wings” at the top.
Collecting seashells is one thing that is done worldwide and a favorite pastime of many. Whether you are a casual collector, or are searching for that special, elusive specimen, you will want to clean your shells before displaying.
Clean shells won’t smell and they will look more beautiful, yet still very natural. As a word of caution I suggest you make sure there is nothing living inside your shells before you bring them home. Mollusks are the sea snails that build their homes around them as they grow, and those homes are the shells you find at the beach. Usually you will know right away if the shell is occupied when you can see the creature or it’s “trap door” in the canal of the shell.
Sometimes hermit crabs will occupy an empty shell and they can hide way down inside the shell and may be difficult to see.
Take a bucket of sea water and add the shells to it and wait. If something lives inside, it will most likely begin to move and be visible after a while. Do some more collecting while you wait. If the shell is occupied, you must leave it at the beach. In many areas, collecting living seashells is against the law. Read my page about Types of Shells to learn about what you collect.
Once your bucket of shells is home, rinse the sand off and fill a bucket, or the sink with a weak solution of bleach and water. Info on the ratio of bleach to water varies but a cup or two of bleach to a gallon of water should suffice. Drop the empty shells in and wait ten minutes or so. Be sure to rinse them well in clean water.
Although I don’t advocate collecting live shells, and in most places it’s illegal, if by chance you do bring home an inhabited shell, the How to Clean Seashells post at About.com has some ideas for getting the dead animal out of the shell.
The echinoderms (sand dollars & sea urchins) are much more brittle than shells and must be handled carefully. Rinse them or soak in a very mild bleach solution for a minute or two and then let them dry. Putting them in the sun for a short period of time may help whiten them.