Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Amy sent me the following photos of some of the shells and driftwood she picked up on the beach after Hurricane Irene. As you can see there were quite a few whelks, scotch bonnets, moon snails, and lettered olives. She also found one murex, a fighting conch, and a fig shell. Friends and neighbors found helmets (some "early birds" picked up dozens of them), nutmegs, and other uncommon shells. Of course, Amy also discovered an octopus in one whelk (see our September 12, 2011 post). Click on a photo to see a larger image.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092111.htm.


  1. Anonymous9:59 AM

    Now that's the kind of stuff a beachcomber likes to see a hurricane suck up and dump along the Eastern Seaboard. what fun projects do Islanders create with such booty?

  2. at the bottom of the pics laying on a large whelk are 2 small spiral shells. I have only 1 but don't know the name. Can you help?

    1. Anonymous2:02 PM

      Those two small spiral shells are augers

  3. Anonymous10:38 AM

    I was having a fine old nerdy time when I was there, just after Irene, because I picked up a copy of _How to Read a North Carolina Beach_. Ever wondered about those black shells? I always thought they were the result of an oil spill.

    "Black shells were not stained on the beach but instead came from the backside of a barrier island, where they were deposited in the oxygen-poor mud of a lagoon or sound. Under these conditions of low oxygen, the iron in the shells turns to iron sulfide, which gives them their black color. At some point after the staining occurs, the barrier island migrated over the old lagoon deposits, and eventually the shells arrived on the beach."

    We found a respectable pile of conch shells on the flat up by Hatteras Inlet. We even found a battered milk crate in which to put them!


  4. The small shells are auger shells. They can often be found in sand that has been dredged up, as well as on the beach. Some people make earrings and other jewelry from them. Larger shells are often used to line flower beds, or simply displayed on porches, railings, or in baskets.

    The black shells are probably thousands of years old. Pilkey & Dixon (in "The Corps and the Shore") write that "there is no better proof of island migration than the presence of black oyster shells on the beach. Where the beach shells are found, a lagoon once existed and the barrier island was well to seaward. When the island migrated to avoid drowning by the rising sea level, the black shells were overrun and released to the sea floor by erosion and then washed up on the beach by the waves."

  5. Anonymous11:03 AM

    We found a respectable pile of whelk shells, that is. Guess my next book needs to be about shells!


  6. Anonymous5:57 PM

    I am blown away with these pictures and all the shells found along the O.I. beach. I would have been like a child in a candy store had it been me. I can't get enough of these photos....honestly! Thank you for sharing. Incredible!

  7. debbie s.7:24 PM

    what a haul!