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…
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.
How did we get to go there you ask? Because of this handsome, super fun couple.. our friends Lee and Susan.
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?!
We feel so very fortunate to have been able to be there but much less shell so many beaches in such a short time.
We collected sooooo many amazing treasures!
It was a whirlwind shelling adventure as we combed the beaches through rock and CORAL…
To find sweet mini shells…
We climbed up and down stairs on the cliffs…
… to find SEA GLASS and more shells.
We snorkeled the bay …
… to see fish and find more awesome shells.
We went boating…
… to find SEA HEARTS, BEACH BLING and absolutely more shells.
… to find gems and you guessed it- more shells.
We boated to more beaches…
… to find more treasure and Voila! even more shells.
We combed through scrub brush…
…to find old Cuban bottles and yup, more shells.
Even when we had to take refuge in the shade for a few minutes…
We found a cool breeze, a place to refuel and of course, more shells.
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!
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.
You can read the article too! Just CLICK HERE or click on the article. Cool!
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!
We can’t thank you enough Lee and Susan for an unbelievable adventure on this special island “The Pearl of the Antilles”!
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!
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!
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!
Happy Birthday Clark!
More photos to come but until then, can you guess where we went?
Thank you Susan Merrill for the spectacsheller photo of Clark’s “birthday cake”- He loved it!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
But when they don’t crack and become lustrous…. Gorgeous!
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…
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!
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!
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.
Shellzam! Brenda from Indiana found an empty, big, beautiful LIGHTNING WHELK on our iLoveShelling Sight Sea-R cruise to Big Hickory Island today. Wow!
Cuties Rachel and Danielle helped her shellebrate while feeling happy with their finds too on this fabshellous adventure. So fun!
It was a fun and gorgeous morning pulling up to this small island sand bar at low tide.
Emily and Lily from Kentucky found SAND DOLLARS, shells and some cool bling…
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.
Dima and Amy (MI) found some beauties!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 Congress- thats so nice!
I think everybody on the cruise found ROSE PETAL TELLINS and CORAL.
And everybody found WORMIES!
First Mate Meg even shelled for 5 minutes and found a BEACH BLING “Sea Hero” that guarded some of her other finds. cute!
We were so lucky to have a beautiful warm sunny day to spend 4 hours hanging out and shelling together.
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.
For those of us who love to look for mini shells at low tide near the Sanibel pier, last night was a perfect evening.
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.
For shellers who love to explore the water like Anthony, Ryan and Jose from Iowa, different treasures make them happy.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!).
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!
These are just some of the shells she whipped out of her bag to show me. Fun!
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!
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.
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?
Even after getting drenched, it was a lovely evening at Sanibel Lighthouse Beach.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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?
There is something mesmerizing about watching them swim.
Talk about calm, relaxing and mesmerizing…
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.
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!