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Jul
23

Treasures Found in Guantanamo Bay Cuba

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Caribbean shells collected in Gtmo Gitmo Guantanamo Cuba

Shellzam! It’s astounding to me that in one long weekend visiting Guantanamo Bay Cuba, Clark and I collected oodles of stunning sea shells, containers of colorful SEAGLASS, gobs of gorgeous SEA URCHINS and buckets of bountiful BEACH BLING. These are the shells Clark and I found in just one day…

second day shelling beaches guantanamo bay cuba

Guantanamo Bay (aka GTMO or Gitmo) is a 45 square mile U.S. Naval Base on the island of Cuba surrounded by picturesque Caribbean waters, rock, sand and CORAL… perfect for our favorite sport of shelling.

finding seashells and sea glass in Guantanamo Bay Cuba

How did we get to go there you ask? Because of this handsome, super fun couple.. our friends Lee and Susan.

Susan and Lee Merrill overlooking Guantanamo Bay Cuba

Since Lee and Susan work at the base and have lived there for almost 4 years, they were our sponsors for our trip when Clark and I were able to visit last year (CLICK HERE) and again to visit this past weekend. Good grief, how did we get so lucky?!

Guantanamo Bay Cuba Rambos

We feel so very fortunate to have been able to be there but much less shell so many beaches in such a short time.

Beaches of Guantanamo Cuba. Windmill, Cable, Kittery, Ferry Landing, Chapman

We collected sooooo many amazing treasures!

sea urchins collected in Guantanamo Cuba

It was a whirlwind shelling adventure as we combed the beaches through rock and CORAL…

Collecting shells on Guantanamo Bay Cuba Beach GTMO

To find sweet mini shells…

miniature caribbean shells on Gitmo Guantanamo beach

We climbed up and down stairs on the cliffs…

Stairs to glass beach gtmo cuba

… to find SEA GLASS and more shells.

Seaglass, small shells and pottery collected at Glass Beach Guantanamo

We snorkeled the bay …

snorkeling guantanamo bay cuba

… to see fish and find more awesome shells.

shells found on guantanamo beach

We went boating…

boating with Lee Merrill in Guantanamo Bay Cuba

… to find SEA HEARTS, BEACH BLING and absolutely more shells.

 

Day 1 Shelling GTMO Guantanamo Bay Cuba beach combingWe climbed up and down boulders and cliffs…

rock climbing by the sea of Guantanamo Bay Cuba

… to find gems and you guessed it- more shells.

collecting seashells in rock beach of Guantanamo Bay Cuba

We boated to more beaches…

Boating Guantanamo Bay Cuba Rambos and Merrills

… to find more treasure and Voila! even more shells.

sea glass and shells on GTMO coral

We combed through scrub brush…

collecting shells in scrub brush at Guantanamo

…to find old Cuban bottles and yup, more shells.

collecting cuban hatuey beer bottle and sea shells

Even when we had to take refuge in the shade for a few minutes…

Finding shade in rocks of GITMO Guantanamo Bay Cuba

We found a cool breeze, a place to refuel and of course, more shells.

scotch bonnet in rocks of GTMO Guantanamo Bay beach

But that’s not all! Okay, so you’re not gonna believe this…. While we were there… Clark, me, Susan and Lee were written up in their local newspaper the Guantanamo Bay Gazette!

Clark Pam Rambo and Susan Lee Merrill on Guantanamo Beach

We were interviewed by Public Affairs Officer, Kelly Wirfel about how the shelling stacks up on Guantanamo Bay (no pun intended- heehee) against some of the other places in the world we’ve traveled to collected shells. It was soooo muuuuch fuuuun to talk to her!! Omigosh, thank you, Kelly for writing such an amazing article in such little time.

Clark, PAO Kelly Wirfel and Pam Rambo at Windmill Beach Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

You can read the article too! Just CLICK HERE or click on the article. Cool!

GTMO Gazette newspaper logoGTMO newspaper Pam and Clark Rambo shells

We cleaned, sorted and researched while in Gtmo and we are still cleaning, sorting, researching at home. I could look, pick and photograph these shells for days and not get tired of it but it sure was super fun at the end of each day when we all got together at their picnic table to clean and sort…. I love a good Shell N Tell!

Pam Lee and Clark sorting shells

We can’t thank you enough Lee and Susan for an unbelievable adventure on this special island “The Pearl of the Antilles”!

Lee and Susan at the Jerk House in Guantanamo Cuba

And I am very thankful to Susan for taking photos and sharing her excellent photos with us throughout the weekend so I could share them with you too (photos 5, 12, 18, 25, 28). She’s as much of a shutterbug as I am- i love it!

Boating with Susan Merrill in Gtmo

I will be sharing more close-ups of the absolutely stunning shells we found as well as some of the very cool Bling (geez… the SEAGLASS! You won’t believe it) so our story will be continued soon. But just so you know, all of the shells and the ones I will identify on my next post are shells you can find in some of the other Caribbean islands. So don’t worry! Gtmo is not the only place you can find these amazing treasures. Here is a map of where Gtmo is on the island of Cuba and also in relation to some of the other islands. See how close Turks and Caicos is to Gtmo? We found so many of the same shells on our trips to North Caicos, Middle Caicos and also Cat Island and Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas so now you see why.

To be continued so don’t miss Part Two of Our Adventure in Gtmo!

GTMO map

 

 

Jul
21

Gone Shellebrating

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seashells guantanamo bay cuba chapman beach

Gone Shellebrating… in the Caribbean! Oh yaya baby, we took a quick weekend shelling trip to one of Super Sheller Clark’s favorite shelling holes to celebrate his birthday!

happyb-day

Happy Birthday Clark!

Clark's bday photo by Susan

More photos to come but until then, can you guess where we went?

caribbean with piles of coral rocks

happy birthday super sheller clark

Thank you Susan Merrill for the spectacsheller photo of Clark’s “birthday cake”- He loved it!

Categories : Shelling birthday
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Jul
18

i Love Learning About Pen Shell Pearls

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Stiff Pen Shell with Blister pearl

While talking to Gary on our iLoveShelling shelling cruise last week, he told me about four huge HORSE CONCHS and other great shells he and his family Cameron, Mary and Lauren found on Sanibel during their visit from Nashville. Amazing!

Cameron, Mary, Lauren and Gary with large shells found in Sanibel

He also asked me if PEN SHELLS could make PEARLS and I immediately answered “It’s rare to find the PEARLS washed up on the beach but… Yes they can!”. He found something that looked like a PEARL inside a PEN SHELL while looking for other shells like TRUE TULIPS which can hide or get trapped inside them (CLICK HERE for a video to show this). Of course I had to see it.

Gary and Lauren from Tennessee find a blistered Pen shell pearl

If you look closely, you can see a milky circle on the inside of his shell and at about “9 o’clock” on that circle (the MOLLUSK’s muscle scar where it was connected to the shell) you can see a little ball on the shell. That’s a PEARL.

Stiff Pen shell muscle scar with blister pearl

This type of PEARL is called a BLISTER PEARL. Cool! BLISTER PEARLS are attached to the shell so mostly likely the PEARL would break if he tried pop it out to make any jewelry from it but it’s still cool for him to have seen it…. questioned it…. and ask me about it so we can all learn more.

Blister Pearl on the shell of a Stiff Pen shell

The only reason I knew anything about PEN SHELL PEARLS was by seeing my friend Rachel Fields’ scientific display at the Sanibel Shell Festival this year…about Natural Pearls and being fascinated by her blue ribbon exhibit.

rachel fields natural pearls display sanibel shell festival

After sending her photos of Gary’s PEN SHELL, she responded by saying…

That does look like a pearl!  It’s called a blister pearl when formation occurs and the growth is still attached to the shell”.  

Then she explained “When pearls form often times it happens because some exterior object kind of puts pressure on and crushes the shell inward causing a piece of the shell to fall off into the body of the mollusk and if it happens near the mantle the mollusk will secrete a protective coating around that piece of shell that’s broken off.  Sometimes it happens far away from the shell and more internal which causes free-formed pearls and sometimes it happens up against the side of the shell which causes the pearl to form merged to the shell (and is called a blister pearl)”.

Now you can see from Gary’s shell that his PEARL formed against the shell and it still attached…. a BLISTER PEARL. Yep, it’s just like our type of skin blisters although we make just fluid inside our blister instead of a PEARL, right? When I get a blister, I’d much rather go through the pain to get a PEARL instead of crummy fluid. LOL

Formed blister pearl in stiff pen shell

When a PEN SHELL produces a FREE-FORM PEARL, it can be a gorgeous lustrous PEARL like Rachel showed in her exhibit. The problem with finding pretty PEN PEARLS is that they crack easily after a week or two and if they do make it without cracking, it may take about 4 or 5 years for them to become pearlescent.

Pen shell Atrina rigida with Pearl

But when they don’t crack and become lustrous…. Gorgeous!

Pen shell pearl from Atrina rigida

Rachel was kind enough to share more information from her Natural Pearl presentation, so I thought it would be easier to publish a page dedicated to her research- CLICK HERE. This will probably answer all of your questions because it answered mine! Like… “What other shells make PEARLS?”.

She shows us QUAHOGS…

Mercenaria Quahog pearls

QUEEN CONCHS produce PEARLS as well- They are pink! Captain Brian let me borrow his book Pink Pearl: A Natural Treasure of the Caribbean before we went on a shelling trip to Turks and Caicos last year so I could study up and keep my eye out for them. Of course its like looking for a needle in a haystack but you bet your bottom sand dollar… I searched. After I returned Capt Brian’s book, I realized how stinkin expensive it is- wow! (so happy I didn’t damage it!) If you have an extra copy laying around that’s not expensive, let me know- Rachel should have a copy!

Strombus gigas queen conch pink pearls

This one should really get your goat… a LION’S PAW. Oh my! Just to find a LION’S PAW is special… but to find a LION’S PAW PEARL? That would send me two clouds above nine!

Nodipecten subnodosus Lions Paw Pearls

Thank you Gary, Mary, Cameron and Lauren for coming on the iLoveShelling cruise with me and asking me about your PEN SHELL PEARL and also to Rachel (NYC) for sharing so much invaluable information with all of us about Natural Pearls. This is another example about why i Love Shelling, Shellers and the Shelling Community! It’s so edshellcational!

CLICK HERE to see and learn more from Rachel’s Natural Pearls exhibit and more photos.

rachel fields natural pearl exhibit

Jul
16

Small Island, Big Shell

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lightning whelk with dark toplightning whelk with dark top

Shellzam! Brenda from Indiana found an empty, big, beautiful LIGHTNING WHELK on our iLoveShelling Sight Sea-R cruise to Big Hickory Island today. Wow!

Brenda with large lightning whelk

Cuties Rachel and Danielle helped her shellebrate while feeling happy with their finds too on this fabshellous adventure. So fun!

Rachel, Brenda, Danielle find seashells on a west coast Florida island

It was a fun and gorgeous morning pulling up to this small island sand bar at low tide.

Florida shelling boat anchored on a sand bar

Emily and Lily from Kentucky found SAND DOLLARS, shells and some cool bling…

Visiting from kentucky, emily lily find sw florida shells

some shells found in sw florida

Jessica (NY) found a nice size ALPHABET CONE, SHARKS EYES, ROSE PETAL TELLINS and lots of WORMS SHELLS and her mom Kathy found a very cool ROSEATE SPOONBILL feather in the wrack line.

Jessica and Kathy find shells and feathers on an island in Florida

Sandy handful of seashells of southwest florida

Dima and Amy (MI) found some beauties!

Dima and Amy MI find shell on west coast of Florida

shells found in Estero

Kelsea and Lori from South Carolina showed me their fave finds which included that cool BRYOZOAN COLONY, LACE MUREX, an awesome dark twisty WORM SHELL, GAUDY NATICA, WHITE CRESTED TELLIN and ROSE PETAL TELLINS.

Kelsea and Lori from SC find shells on a shelling cruise

favorite shells on a Florida west coast shelling adventure

Kim and Jon from St Louis showed me their faves too… a sweet baby ALPHABET CONE, a gorgeous FLAT SCALLOP, SUNRAY VENUS, ROSE PETAL TELLINS  and wormies.

Kim and Jon from St Louis find shells on shelling cruise

rose petal tellins , flat scallop, coffee melampus and alphabet cone

Leah, Julianna, June (MD) and Gramma Diane (NJ) found most of their shells in a little honey hole in the water. Way to go girls!

Leah, Julianna, June and Diane find seashells in southwest florida

On the way to the island, we saw ROSEATE SPOONBILLS, STINGRAYS and DOLPHINS as I chose a winner for the Sealife By Congress sterling silver sand dollar pendant giveaway. Congratshellations Mackenzie! It was such a pleasure to meet you and your mom Tammi and your sister Peyton.

Mackenzie Tammi Peyton win jewelry on shelling cruise

Everybody else on the cruise was happy too. They received a $25 certificate towards a jewelry piece of their own. Yay! Thank you Sealife By Congressthats so nice!

Jewelry certificate Sanibel

I think everybody on the cruise found ROSE PETAL TELLINS and CORAL.

rose petal tellins with coral and worm shells

And everybody found WORMIES!

worm shells button and pear whelk on sandy hand

First Mate Meg even shelled for 5 minutes and found a BEACH BLING “Sea Hero” that guarded some of her other finds. cute!

Meg's minutes of shell finds

Oh and Ingrid (from my last post) joined us as well and showed us her JUNONIA she found in front of the Island Inn on Sanibel yesterday. Boom Shellalaka!

ingrid found a junonia in sw florida

We were so lucky to have a beautiful warm sunny day to spend 4 hours hanging out and shelling together.

boating to a shelling hole in sw florida

I am so happy to announce that starting in August, Sight Sea-R Cruises has changed the hours for their regular shelling cruises EVERY Wednesday to go from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm (instead of leaving at 10am). Spectacsheller! So our iLoveShelling Sight Sea- R shelling cruises will be the same.

sight sea-r adventures aug-oct 2014

 

 

Jul
14

It’s Raining Seashells

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seashells by the Sanibel pier

For those of us who love to look for mini shells at low tide near the Sanibel pier, last night was a perfect evening.

mini shells in a hand

Gwendolyn, Hailey, Sarah and Viet from the Orlando area found some sweet minis too. I especially loved that little black and white WEST INDIAN FALSE CERITH Viet found.

Sarah Gwendolyn Viet Hailey on Sanibel beach

For shellers who love to explore the water like Anthony, Ryan and Jose from Iowa, different treasures make them happy.

Anthony Ryan Jose shelling Sanibel

Anthony was amazed by the live LIGHTNING WHELK he found so while showing his family this live creature he made sure he held the shell so the MOLLUSK still had water covering the inside until he walked it back out so return to the sea- so thoughtful! He and Ryan found lots of other loot (including that gorgeous LACE MUREX) while Jose found two SAND DOLLARS that were still grey but without any cilia/fur/hair/breathing apparatus so he knew these were dead. Jose told me he saw hundreds that were still alive so he left them alone but knew these two were ones he could keep.

live whelk and other shells of Sanibel

As the sky opened up and it began to rain (without lightning), I met these three beautiful ladies Christine, Lindsey, and Caren from Connecticut just as we were heading off the beach.

shellers on the beach before the rain

We got to talking while I looked at some of their sweet minis, and I completely lost their names! Ack! So embarrassed! Thanks for reminding me! Yes, I remember so much about y’all (first time finding wentles, watching the vids and even a first time sheller) but names? psh- sometimes they get lost. Sorry!

handful of miniature shells from Sanibel

Notice what unusual colors the changed in all of these photos before and after the rain? Every 15 minutes it seemed as if I had sepia toned glasses on then back to colorama glasses. As I was running off the beach, a rainbow appeared for a few minutes when I saw Holly from Fort Myers again.

Holly from Ft Myers in front of Sanibel Rainbow

I snapped a photo of some of her mini finds since they were waaaay cute. See that BABYS EAR on the right? We had talked about BABYS EARS earlier in the evening… saying we haven’t seen many at the Lighthouse Beach lately… then got on another subject… walked a few feet … I looked down and screamed in mid sentence. A BABYS EAR right at our feet. LOL We both laughed and I told her that happens on the iLoveShelling cruises all the time and I swear people think I plant them. Theres NO WAY! I would NEVER do that. It’s just happens .. and yes, it’s weird but it happens… a lot (but never with JUNONIAS- dang it!).

mini shell Holly found at lighthouse

I was now soaked…and happy… so I decided to just walk instead of run to the beach access ramp to the parking lot. That’s where Ingrid and Pat from Missouri and I laughed at ourselves for hanging out in the rain. Look at that big bag filled with shells! That’s why Ingrid said it was hard to be torn off the beach- Die-Hards!

Ingrid Pat from MO shellers in the rain

These are just some of the shells she whipped out of her bag to show me. Fun!

shells Ingrid found from lighthouse

As I was talking with Ingrid and Pat, Clark showed up drenched too but with a pocket full of minis and SAND DOLLARS.  Clark found some of those grayish bald SAND DOLLARS too… and more minis- yay!

sand dollars and seashells sanibel

Just to make sure we don’t confuse the dead SAND DOLLARS with the live ones… we always check to see if there is anything that looks like “fur” or “hair” on them when they are gray-ish like this. Nope! These are all very smooth and bald- not a “hair” in sight.

dead sand dollars without cilia

 

You can compare them to these live SAND DOLLARS to easily see the cilia/fur/hair on the edges of all four SAND DOLLARS in the next photo. See?

baby sand dollar

Even after getting drenched, it was a lovely evening at Sanibel Lighthouse Beach.

Sanibel pier at dusk

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Jul
11

Summer Calm Low Tide

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Sanibel Island sea shells

There are days in the summer when all I need is an evening walk on the beach to turn a hot, hectic day into a calm, relaxing oasis.

Simply a Sanibel Sky with shells

Especially if I have my best friend with me. Even if Clark (yes, he’s my husband too- heehee) and I walk separate ways on the beach to cover more ground, it’s always fun to see what the other one collects when we finally meet back up.

Clark Rambo with mini shells

We both went for the minis at Gulfside City Park but I had to keep one large FIGHTING CONCH because of the fabulous rich color and Clark kept a “larger” one too- a GAUDY NATICA. I guess so! Is there anybody who can pass up a GAUDY NATICA if you see one? I think not.

Some small shells found on Sanibel

We both found lots of sweet, itty bitty LETTERED OLIVE shells but most of the large adult LETTERED OLIVES were alive and scooting over all the other empty CLAM shells…

Live olive mollusk shell on Sanibel

We both saw several large live LIGTHNING WHELKS as well. That’s what is so fascinating about shelling during low tide… you get to experience seeing beautiful living creatures in their natural habitat. I actually walked this guy into the Gulf Of Mexico just a bit just to get him covered with water again.

lightning whelk shell sanibel

Clark said he was also busy saving several SEA HARES that washed up on the shore. Me too! This one looked like a gooey mess lying in some SEA WEED on the beach. I gently picked “him” up then submerged him into the calm water then let him go when he started coming to life. This is the same way Bryce and I saved a SEA HARE on the Sight Sea-R cruise last month but I didn’t get a photo, remember?

Sanibel Sea Slug Hare

There is something mesmerizing about watching them swim.

Swimming Sea Hare Nudibranch

Talk about calm, relaxing and mesmerizing…

Beach chairs at low tide Sanibel

Throughout the weekend we will have nice low tides in the evenings so if you want a retreat to the beach, I would suggest heading out to the closest SW Florida beach in the early evening (hopefully we can dodge the summer rain storms!) to talk a slow walk to experience this natural paradise at its best.

Beautiful sea shells on a Sanibel beach

Join me on our next iLoveShelling adventure on Sight Sea-R Cruises Wednesday- July 16, 2014 to our newest shelling destination! Call 239-765-7272 or CLICK HERE and tell them you want to join the iLoveShelling cruise! UPDATE: July 16th is now SOLD OUT! Wow!

shelling adventures trips by pam

PS- I tool this video of a SEA HARE about 4 years ago… seriously, I can’t believe this was FOUR years go but I figured it would be fun to show again…YouTube Preview Image