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Collecting seashells on the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva and the world

My Inner South Carolina Seashell Artist Is Channeling Whelks

Posted by on Mar 29, 2016 in Cape Romain, Channeled Whelk, Eastern Oyster, Knobbed Whelk, Knobbed Whelk Egg Case, Oyster, South Carolina, Wentletrap, Whelk, World shelling | 14 comments

channeled whelk shells

I am channeling my inner artist looking at these CHANNELED WHELKS as I look back on our shelling trip to the Carolinas earlier this month (Beach Combing Trip To Portsmouth Island). I could have taken hundreds of photos of these incredishelly beautiful works of art as I saw them laying in the sand half buried in the islands of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

channeled whelk

Seeing KNOBBED WHELKS and OYSTER SHELLS rolling up in the surf was a masterful sight to behold.

South Carolina shells on the beach

Mother Nature artfully placed a SAND DOLLAR as though she staged this still-life for me to photograph.

South Carolina sand dollar

I didn’t find all of her still-lifes in obvious places. These 2 KNOBBED WHELK shells, an ANGEL WING and oodles of OYSTER SHELLS were behind a large wrack line of driftwood, seaweeds and various sticks from sea oats and sea grasses.

shells in beach wrack

The EASTERN OYSTER SHELLS are so beautiful as well, especially the juveniles as they form stunning sculptures.

eastern oyster sculpture

After searching for miles, we found an area filled with the sweet adorable miniature shells. There were even WENTLETRAPS!

miniature shells south carolina

And then, Whelp… another WHELK.

empty knobbed whelk

How can they be this gorgeous?

knobbed whelk with oyster shells

We found dried KNOBBED WHELK EGG CASES too. They are so similar to our LIGHTNING WHELK egg cases we find in Sanibel but the KNOBBED WHELK EGG SACK disks are little more oval in shape.

knobbed whelk egg case-1

But this just may have been the find of trip….  a GIANT EASTERN MUREX. Boom Shellalaka! It may not have been he prettiest shell on the beach but it really is giant and it just seemed impossible that we would find one.  I can’t claim finding it- our friend (our hostess with mostest) Karen found it then gave it to me. Omigosh really? We don’t normally bring home shells that we don’t find ourselves (we are fortunate to already have enough) but it is an amazing memory from that day and an awesome shell. Very cool- thank you!

Giant Eastern Murex

Clark and I (in red colors) are still smiling from our shelling trip with Nanette, Helen, Jackie, Karen and Captain Dan. We met all of them in McClellinville, South Carolina where Karen’s buddy Captain Dan Scarborough took us out on his boat to the out islands. I can’t even explain how much fun it was island hopping out on the boat all day with this crew.

shell trip guides to South Carolina

We brought back a few brilliant shells with different color patterns that look like Mother Nature had a field day with her architectural designs and paint brush.

shell basket filled with South Carolina seashells

Clark and I are so grateful to these Three Crazy Carolina Girls- Jackie, Helen and Karen for inviting us on this unforgettable shelling trip. Love these girls!

Shell guide friends Jackie, Helen and Karen

To join me on a shelling trip adventure in SW Florida…

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Crazy Carolina Beach Combing – Shelling Trip To Portsmouth Island, North Carolina

Posted by on Mar 22, 2016 in North Carolina seashells, Portsmouth Island, World shelling | 16 comments

whelk shells beach combing north carolina

I feel like I just got back from being on the Amazing Shell Race in the Carolinas! Look at the colors of our shell-loot found on our trip to the beaches of Portsmouth Island, North Carolina. Can you believe it?

Portsmouth island North Carolina seashells

Oh yea baby, I gotta QUEEN HELMET! Errrr…. But then I’ve heard it’s also called a CLENCH HELMET or even the CAMEO HELMET. The HELMETS are always so hard to identify but what I do know is that I sprung into the air when I found it I was so excited. In the next photo, it’s sitting next to one of the many KNOBBED WHELKS we found and a SCOTCH BONNET – that’s North Carolina’s state shell.

North Carolina shells and sand dunes

We went on this trip with a bunch of other crazy shellunatic extreme shellers… Joan, Susan, George, Greg, Helen, Clark, (me) and on the front row- Carly, Hilda, Nanette, Jackie and our fabshellous leader Karen and the best shell hound ever- Roxie. We had a blast together!

Shelling trip Portsmouth Island NC

Colorful weathered shells were scattered along the beach of the entire island peaking out of rippled sand dunes and half buried by high winds and heavy surf. The LIGHTNING WHELKS look so different on the east coast than they do in Sanibel.

lightning whelk north carolina

SHARK’S EYES were mixed in with shards of broken OYSTER and SCALLOP SHELLS.

Sharks eye shell Portsmouth Island North Carolina

Most of the SCOTCH BONNETS were broken or cracked so it made it that much more fun to find a whole one… especially darkened with black or gray. The shells in the Carolinas stained with black or gray were likely darkened by iron sulfide from the sulfurous muck from years past.

Scotch Bonnet shell beach combing North Carolina

Some of the shells like this KNOBBED WHELK have a bright orange, rust, pink or brown color due to being exposed many years to iron oxide minerals in the Atlantic Ocean sediments and fade in the sunlight when washed up on the beach.

beach combing north carolina

The colors, pattern and architecture are unique to each stunning shell.

Beachcombing Portsmouth Island NC knobbed whelk shell on the beach

We found this amazing empty KNOBBED WHELK shell with almost a neon orange aperture that recently washed up maybe a few weeks before we got there.

Orange opening knobbed whelk

Our first CAMPECHE ANGEL WING shell! It’s smooth, long, thin and has that high swoop by the hinge compared to our Sanibel ANGEL WINGS.

Campeche Angel wing sea shell North Carolina NC

The internet makes the shell world even smaller… I “met” Greg Diesel about 6 years ago when he showed some of his amazing photos of shells and sunsets of North Carolina on iLoveShelling Facebook page . It was such a fun surprise to run in to him to meet in person for the first time on Portsmouth Island with his girlfriend Chrissy. We saw (well, I should rephrase- we raced passed each other haha) several times driving on the beach – they found a TUN SHELL!

Greg Diesel tun shell North Carolina

I was thrilled to find a black TUN SHELL too even though the tip was broken off- I’ll take it. Yahoo!

black tun shell portsmouth island nc
Are you sitting down? Good, because you might have fallen over after looking at NANETTE’S super-colossal (colosshell!) NORTHERN MOON SHELL.

Northern Moon snail Portsmouth Island North Carolina

She was over the MOON SHELL! It’s one of many of her spectacsheller shells…

Nanette with shells Portsmouth Island NC


North Carolina seashells

Joan’s faves were a baby QUEEN HELMET and a huge BANDED TULIP.

Joan with helmet and tulip shells

It was a total score for all of us to find a HELMET – Greg’s was absolutely perfect.

greg with queen clench helmet

How did we explore this whole island? We four-wheeled it!

Greg and Carly drove their 4-wheel drive Nissan so Jackie, Clark and I piled in to ride the beaches until we saw an area with loads of shells…. then…. “Whoooaaa! Ssssst-aaaaahhhhp!  Huuuuge WHELK!”. We all raced out of the truck to scour every inch until someone went back to get the truck to move it down the beach.  We’d just stumble on a gorgeous shell sticking halfway out of the sand – Greg named us “The Helen Shellers”. Haha- It was wild!

Four shell wheeling Portsmouth Island

How do you get to Portsmouth Island? You can only get to Portsmouth Island by boat so we took the morning passenger and car ferry from Morris Marina in Atlantic, NC and while we enjoyed the boat ride we watched a beautiful sunrise over the island. 

Ferry to Portsmouth Island NC
We stayed a couple of nights in a rustic little beach cottage not far from the ferry dock. And yes, it had electricity and hot running water-  thank goodness. Beach house Portsmouth Island NC

A special thank you to Karen (and Roxie) for organizing this amazing shelling trip for all of us- it was spectacsheller.

So… does she look familiar? Karen, Helen and Jackie were on the first Shellabaloo. They are the crazy Carolina girls! It’s so cool we have kept in touch throughout the years and shared our shelling adventures with each other.

Karen guides shelling trip to portsmouth island

Clark and I had an amazing time with everybody. (thanks to Greg Diesel for the photo)

Pam and Clark Rambo sunrise shelling trip

I hope to share more photos of our shells in another post but I still have our shelling stop in South Carolina to show you.

beach combing north carolina

So keep checking back with me here because if you think you like this place…

Whelk in the sand North Carlina shell

You’ll love our next shelling hole just as much.

sunset shell North carolina

driving on north carolina beach at sunset

Shell-love and peace.

shelling at sunset Portsmouth Island NC

Join me on a SW Florida shelling adventure…


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Learning about Seashells at the 2016 Sanibel Shell Festival

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 in 79th Sanibel Shell Festival 2016, Cockle, Eleuthera Shells, False Shark Eye, Flat Zigzag Scallop, Florida Prickly Cockle, Freak Shells, Glass Sponge, Moon Snail, Sanibel, Sanibel Shell Fair and Show, Scallop, Shark's Eye, Shell Shows, Sponge, Triton, ZigZag Scallop Right Valve | 3 comments

Eleuthra seashells October 2015 -1

The shell world is a fascinating adventure to learn about the lives of MOLLUSKS and the people who collect their shells on the beaches across the planet. Because I am one of those people obsessed with living my life in the world of shells, I love to hang out with people who love to share their knowledge about them too. The Sanibel Shell Festival is a great place to do that.

I’m thrilled Sunnye (TX) shared her colorful shell collection she found beachcombing in Eleuthera, Bahamas (top photo).

Sunnye Dinger Eleuthra seashell display Sanibel Shell festival-1

Her sister Lisa (TX) had some awesome displays too for which they both won awards.

lisa fitzgerald sanibel shell festival exhibitor 2016-1


Smooth Tellin shell Laciolina laevigata Eleuthera BahamsSmooth Tellin shell Laciolina laevigata Eleuthera Bahams

But I looooved this cool display Lisa did showing the difference between the SHARKS EYE and the FALSE SHARKS EYE. It explains and shows the difference in detail (for more info check out my post Sanibel Shark Week… Featuring The Shark Eye Shell).

difference between shark eye shell false sanibel shell festival exhibit-1

And then there’s Stef! I’m so happy for her- she won a blue ribbon for her double FLAT SCALLOP she found by Sanibel’s Island Inn.

Stefanie Wolf Sanibel Shell Museum marine biologist.jpg

Wait… did you miss what I said? Okay, lemme slow down… she found both sides of her FLAT ZIGZAG SCALLOP still hinged together. Exactly like she displayed it… on Sanibel… and with amazing color. Wow! Years ago, I was thrilled when Clark found just the other half of a FLAT (the right valve) since it’s rare to find them here (CLICK HERE to see what the other side looks like) … and she found both perfect valves still together. Shellzam! Congrats Stefanie!

Ziczac Zig zag scallop both valves shell festival blue ribbon-1

There were lots of displays showing ALBINO shells this year but this one by Ken and Joyce Matthys was really very cool. Here they shows tons of ALBINO FLORIDA PRICKLY COCKLES they’ve found through the years…

Albino shells prickle cockle

In the next case they show FLORIDA PRICKLY COCKLES which are ALBINISTIC. They explain… “Some shells lack their normal color, but they are not pure white. Instead they may be pale yellow, cream-colored, or have other hints of color. These are referred to as being albinistic”. Hmmm Haven’t you seen some like this? I have and now we’ve learned a name for this color form… ALBINISTIC.

Albinistic shells lack normal color

Anne Joffe’s seashell emergency room display was hilarious and voted best for People’s Choice award. Freak and damaged shells that repaired themselves to form in odd shapes were propped in mini doctor’s offices, emergency rooms and surgery rooms with bandages, crutches and doctors notes.

ann joffe freak shell exhibit sanibel festival-1

Check out this PALLID CARRIER SHELL with an attached GLASS SPONGE (from the Philippines) by exhibitor Robert Linn. Wildly beautiful.

Pallid carrier shell with glass sponge Sanibel festival

Last week I posted about the artistic side of the show with SAILORS VALENTINES, shell frames and all sorts of shell art and craft but when you look at some of these shells like these ATLANTIC TRITONS exhibited by Holly Nordyke, you realize you are looking at the most perfect work of art ever made. Stunning.
atlantic triton shell festival Holly Nordyke exhibit

Hope to see you next year at the 80th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival!


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What Do Sanibel And Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Have In Common?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2016 in Cuba Seashells, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, Lined Sea Star, Millipede Starfish, Starfish | 19 comments

Sanibel millipede nine arm sea star

Great Beach combing! We had such a fun weekend on Sanibel with Lee and Susan finding perfectly dried MILLIPEDE SEA STARS (aka NINE-ARMED SEA STARS) at Gulfside City Park beach…

lee and susan with Sanibel sea stars

There are still so many STARFISH, FIGHTING CONCHS and other bling on the beach left over from the storms I showed you from my video last week (CLICK HERE). Now there are STARFISH in the high wrack lines that are dried out and shells without any critters in them. It was like the perfect storm with variable conditions to make all this happen… it is mating season for FIGHTING CONCHS and HORSE CONCHS (so they were already out in masses in the shallow waters), we had days (actually weeks) of unseasonably high winds, high rough water (which washed all of those shells up high on the beach), crazy cold unseasonable temperatures (live creatures feel lethargic), then the receding gulf water after the storms calmed,  then coupled with extreme low tides… this is how many of these shells were stranded high on the beach.

Masses of shells stranded on Sanibel beach

Looking through some of them, we all found abshellutley gorgeous empty fighting conchs with bright purple apertures. They are a-mazing and seriously, they have this color opening!!!

purple color fighting conchs Sanibel

We also ran over to Blind Pass Captiva and found a few goodies like some “Candy”…

candy corn shell

Oooooh, and look at Clark’s nice sized candy.

clark rambo shell find

Tom and Janet from NY (too shy for pics ;)) cleaned up with a bucket full of beauties on the new sand bar on the pass side of the jetty rocks.

seashells found on Captiva Island

If you remember, we visited Lee and Susan a couple of time when they lived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and found some amazing shells. Over the weekend, Lee was asked to be a speaker to share his shell collecting experiences in that part of Cuba at the 2016 Florida United Malacologists meeting at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum while they were here visiting. He did such a great job!

FUM Lee Merrill exhibit

Since Guantanamo Bay isn’t a place that most people get to visit, he described their shelling days of “life on the rock” with a fabulous slide presentation and brought examples of the shells they found in GTMO. He made it fun for us to go to our first “FUM” meeting.

Lee Merrill Malacology meeting

Thank you Colin, Rodger and Dr Leal (pictured with us) for organizing the event and for encouraging us to come.

Sanibel Rambo, Merrill, Jose Leal meeting-1

So after seeing Lee’s presentation and reminiscing about our visits to GTMO, I had to look at my blog posts again to take a trip down memory lane. It’s still so unbelievable we got to go there (thanks again Lee and Susan) you’ve got to check out our trips again too – just CLICK HERE .  I really laughed out loud looking at one of my videos from the trip- I kept calling them “rocks” haha … it was actually a beach full of CORAL chunks but I guess I was so overwhelmed it all just felt like I was picking through a huge pile of rocks.  Do you think I was a little excited???


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Sea Glass Beach Finds While Beach Combing Okinawa

Posted by on Jul 6, 2015 in Beach Glass, Japanese Glass Float Sea Glass, Okinawa Japan Beach Combing, sea glass, Sea Marbles | 19 comments

Colors of Sea Glass and Sea Marbles

Goodie Goodie SEA GLASS gumdrops! This is what the BEACH GLASS looks like tucked in every nook and cranny of sand, coral and rock of Okinawa, Japan. Beautiful, sugary chunks of eye candy.

Sea glass beach finds beachcombing Okinawa Japan

Each and every SEA GLASS fragment is razzle dazzle frosted seaglass-el .

Stack of colorful Seaglass

On our vacation from Sanibel Island, Florida to Okinawa, Japan…  we were not disappointed one moment on our beach combing adventure looking for different types of seashells and BEACH BLING. Each day we discovered something new.

Seaglass marble with seashells coming beach Okinawa japan

I don’t think I’ve been more excited about any beach find than when I found a SEA MARBLE in my favorite color in the world… aqua.

(okay, maybe that’s stretching that- I actually cried when I found my JUNONIA in 2011– but still)

Happy Pam finds an aqua sea marble beach combing Okinawa Japan
Look at this Marble-ous gem!

Aqua turquoise sea glass marble Okinawa Japan beach combing

You think I was happy when I found this cool pitted CAT’S EYE SEA MARBLE too? lol

Happy finding seaglass marble in Okinawa Japan beach combing

How do SEA MARBLES form? Most of the time they start out as a real marble or round glass ball. There are different theories to answer why they washed up on the beach and the first one is the most logical… kids playing with marbles on the beach years ago. But there are way too many rolling in around the world’s beaches for it just to be child’s play. Some SEA MARBLES are from a Japanese glass bottle called Remune that used a marble as a stopper so when the bottle was discarded, the marble ended up in the ocean. Cargo ships used to use marbles as an inexpensive way to redistribute weight to provide stability so I’m sure many times they were dumped overboard. Painters used to use marbles in paint cans to mix the paint so if you think about how much “battle ship gray” paint was constantly used on all those ships, of course they’d end up losing their marbles.
Seaglass sea marbles green, aqua, golden and yellow

So we got a little carried away collecting just the shades of blues and greens but I couldn’t believe the different colors of turquoise, aqua, teal, soft blue, lime green, forest green, jade and even the clear glass was so beautiful. These were mostly fragments of old bottles but a few look like shards of old glass tableware, art glass or even insulators that have been tumbled in the salty ocean for decades to become sugary smooth.

Sea glass shards in green, blue, turquoise, aqua, jade, teal
These next pieces are from the bottom or base of glass bottles. I even found one rare pink piece of SEA GLASS!

Pink Aqua Turquoise Green Sea glass bottle bottoms

These are fragments of old glass bottle lips.

Sea glass aqua turquoise green bottle lip shard

These curled SEA GLASS pieces are shards from the old bottle necks.

Aqua Turquoise Sea glass curved bottle neck shards

I even found shards of flat SEA GLASS that was etched.. maybe from a privacy glass window etched by an artist.

Sea glass window art glass shard beach find

We found 2 very cool pieces that have formed round balls that kick-up in the middle of the glass like a button. I had an idea what they were but couldn’t be sure until I found a sea glass gal on [email protected] who verified that they were big SEA GLASS hunks of JAPANESE GLASS FLOATS. Oh yaya- Thank you! That’s “Glasstounding” (heehee). Before we left for Japan, both Clark and I were hoping to find one of those Japanese GLASS FLOATS washed up on the beach. A float would awesome BEACH BLING but finding these GLASS FLOAT chunks that have been broken, tumbled then smoothed by the sea for years and years… are very special to us. Of course I think mine (the bigger brighter one on the left) is cooler and Clark thinks his (the smaller darker one… that does have a way cool formed ball) is cooler. hahaha

Japanese glass float sea glass nipple kick up fragment


If each piece of BEACH GLASS could talk, I’m sure the stories would be … wait for it… Glasstonishing. (hee hee)

Any way you look at it, i Love Seaglass!

i Love Seaglass

See the rest of the story, photos, seashell and more info on this trip here…

Our Exshellent Beach Combing Adventure to Okinawa Japan–

Indo Pacific Seashells Of Okinawa Japan

Gone Extreme Beach Combing- Across the World–…across-the-world/


If you want to know more about SEA GLASS, I also found lots of good info in Pure Sea Glass Identification Deck.

Join me on a Shelling Trip! For more info CLICK HERE

pam rambo shelling trips

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Indo Pacific Seashells Of Okinawa Japan

Posted by on Jun 24, 2015 in Indo Pacific shells, Okinawa Japan Beach Combing, World shelling | 51 comments

Beautiful Okinawa cone and cowrie shells

I’m still in awe of the beautiful beaches and treasures we saw on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Hebrew cones with conch and flea-bite cone Okinawa Japan

We found soooo many amazing shells we felt like we had to share it with someone. Days before we left Sanibel for our shelling vacation to Okinawa, I saw a fantastic photo of shells with hashtag iLoveShelling (#iLoveShelling) while I was on Instagram (follow me on Instagram iLoveShelling) . That photo had another hashtag on it too… #Okinawa. Whoa. I sent a note to the girl who posted it and we hit it off right away. Before you know it, we were shelling together in Okinawa! Timing is everything, right?

clark and u.s. marine shelling okinawa

Clarissa (from New Hampshire) is a 20 year old United States Marine stationed in Okinawa for 2 years who loves beach combing. She tries to get to the beaches as often as possible but transportation isn’t always easy from the bases so we picked her up to hit the beaches to look for shells with us.

United States Marine Clarissa in Okinawa Japan finding seashells

We found shells! It was such a special day to hang out and find a few treasures to remember this amazing adventure while in Okinawa. Good luck, Clarissa, with your future service plans and your travel plans… and thank you.

U.S. Marine Clarissa's shell collection Okinawa

Now that we are back on Sanibel Island, we have been trying to organize the loot we brought home. It’s abshellutely mind blowing how many different shell species we brought back so we’ve been trying to break them down in to some sort of organized chaos to identify each one. This might take a while so I figured I’d show y’all what we’ve done so far… but let me apologize for the photos… they’re aren’t great but it shows you how we are trying to sort.

Shells found in Okinawa Japan beach combing


leopard, lettered, ivory, western imperial, flea-bite, virgin, oak, soldier, lithograph cones shells Okinawa Japan


Marble, Striate, Tulip, Nussatella, Tender, tessellate, sand-dusted, textile cones Okinawa Japan

I could go on … but I’m overwhelmed by even more CONES…

Indo pacific cone shells from Okinawa Japan


Spider, strawberry, bubble and little bear conch Okinawa Japan shells

Look at all of these amazing shells!

Okinawa Japan Indo Pacific seashells


Troches, tops, limpets abalone shell Okinawa Japan

MOON SHELLS, OLIVE SHELLS and all sort of wonderful minis. Some look like lemon drops and kernels of corn- I’m in love.

moons, olives and assorted miniature shells Okinawa Japan

And…. Holy COWRIE! Look at these COWRIES. OMG The colors.

Okinawa Indo Pacific Cowrie mollusk shells

And then… the BIVALVES. They are to die for.

Okinawa Japan Indo Pacific bivalve seashells

Whew. So those were the shells that we collected and brought home with us. Aaaa-mazing. We actually collected more than double that but brought home only the best. We gave away 10 gallons of shells that we couldn’t bring home. Yes we did. We bought two 5 gallon buckets at the grocery store while we were there so we could clean our shells every day. Once we decided which shells we were going to leave in Okinawa, the buckets came in handy.

Buckets of seashells from Okinawa Japan

We gave some to the very friendly folks at our wonderful hotel (we actually LOVED our hotel AJ Kouki) but we gave the bulk of them to Manahu Higa, the owner of our favorite restaurant Island Marine Cafe & Bar.  His whole restaurant was decorated in local shell art and crafts that his wife and daughter made. We loved it!

pam rambo with Manahu Higa owner of Island Marine Cafe Okinawa

Marine Cafe & Bar Okinawa Japan

See why we loved it? Every inch was decorated in shells. We knew they all went to to good home.

Island Cafe Marine Bar seashells Okinawa Japan

And I still have more to show you… did you see all of that SEA GLASS in that one photo? The SEA GLASS will be coming up soon- it is sooooo beautiful.

To see all of my posts on Okinawa ...

Our Exshellent Beach Combing Adventure to Okinawa Japan–

Sea Glass Beach Finds While Beach Combing Okinawa–

Gone Extreme Shelling- Across the World–

Or Join me on a shelling adventure in SW FLorida- for more info and dates… CLICK HERE

pam rambo shelling trips

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