One of the things that Brenda and I really enjoy doing is shell hunting. It is just so pleasant to wander onto a new beach and wade through the shallow warm waters, to see what has washed up on the beach. We have found, over the last two winters, that each beach has it’s own characteristics that make every day of shell hunting a unique experience.
You’d think that shelling on the ocean side would be great but that’s actually not the case. It would seem logical that the surf would wash up shells. However, we have found that on beaches with big surf that the shells are mostly broken up and those that you do find are quite damaged or worn down by the constant action of the waves. As the surf rolls in and tumbles shells in the churning sand, what you find is pretty well worn. Of course, one exception is sea glass, pieces of broken bottles that are worn smooth by the surf. However, we actually find very little glass bits.
The one thing that washes up in great quantities on the ocean side, however, is plastic trash. It’s pretty depressing actually to see literally hundreds of plastic oil cans and other non-biodegradable items strewn along the beach. In many areas, cruisers gather up the trash into piles which helps minimize the mess. Unfortunately, any plastic that finds it’s way onto beaches will persist for dozens of years. Even after a long time plastic bottles are still around even if they have become brittle from exposure to the sun. Over time they become brittle from sunlight and break into tiny bits but they never really go away.
It’s unfortunate that people are so casual in tossing things overboard. Given the number of items that wash up on beaches here have writing in Spanish, I suspect that much of the trash floating around has probably come up from the Caribbean via the prevailing winds and the Gulf Stream. Someone told me that in Haiti trash is just pushed into the water where it floats away with the wind and current. I don’t know if that’s accurate but it’s certainly not good to hear.
Interestingly, you don’t find much trash on beaches that are west facing, away from the ocean here. That suggests that the Bahamians and visitors are pretty good about not tossing garbage into the water. That’s encouraging.
Well, back to shelling. No, you don’t find great shells often on the ocean side but on the west facing Bahamas Banks, the shelling can be quite good. As the wave action is minimal those shells that wash ashore tend to be in quite good shape.
The great variety of shells is amazing. Interestingly though, you tend to find many shells of the same kind on any given beach with little variety at a particular location. In some spots sand dollars are very common and on others colorful “tellins”, which come on yellow, red and purple are everywhere. These little “clams” are, not surprisingly, called “sunrise” tellins if they are yellow and “sunset” if they are purple. This photo shows the shell diversity from one of our recent outings.
We particularly love the small or juvenile conch shells, the ones with the points on them, but finding them isn’t all that easy and most of the time they are alive, so we put them back. This photo has a number of really nice little juvenile conch. We tend to find the little ones on exposed sandbars at low tide. I suspect that these little guys wandered into shallow water and were exposed to the sun for too long at low tide. The juvenile conch look similar to the adult but much more delicate. When conch are about 1′ long they are harvested as a major food source here in the Bahamas.
As I finish up this post it’s mid-morning on Wednesday and were are expecting the wind to increase a lot over the next 24 hours and swing around to the west for a bit as the cold front passes through the area. After the winds settle down, from forecasted speeds in the high 20s, we will head down to Staniel Cay, a short distance away, to pick up our new iPad and parts for the watermaker.
After that, we hope to head south to Georgetown and our next opportunity for a “real” food market. However, with one cold front after another coming through these days, we may have trouble finding a “weather window” long enough to make the 75 mile run south to Georgetown.
Well, I guess I should be getting on with my day so I’ll sign off now.