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Sunday, June 12, 2011

"In Search of the Intact Scotch Bonnet"

The Scotch Bonnet

North Carolina's State Shell

In 1965, a shell resembling a traditional Scottish woolen cap or Scotch bonnet, was named the state shell of North Carolina, in part to honor early Scottish settlers.
Scotch bonnet shells wash ashore in abundance on North Carolina's Outer Banks.
They are rare elsewhere in the state.

Where are Scotch bonnets found in North Carolina?

The Gulf Stream moves tropical waters close to the North Carolina coast.
Tropical water mollusks, like the Scotch bonnet, can survive cold winter months in the Gulf Stream.
After storms, hundreds of Scotch bonnets may be washed ashore on the Outer banks especially bewteen Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout due to the close proximity of the Gulf Stream to that section of the coast.

Life Cycle of the Scotch Bonnet

Female Scotch bonnets lay eggs in the spring.
Shell-less free-swimming larvae or veligers hatch from the eggs.
They drift with the ocean currents.
When they begin to form a shell, they settle to the bottom as crawling mollusks.
Scotch bonnets feed on sand dollars.
Scotch bonnets mature in one to six years.
The juvenile shell has a thin, delicate lip.
Mature shells have a thickened, rolled lip.

When a shell washes ashore, its color fades quickly upon exposure to the elements, especially the sun.

The shell is fragile so a complete specimen is always a prized find.
And finding a complete specimen that retains its color is a special treat, even to the seasoned collector.
* * * * *

FACT: North Carolina was the first state in the USA to name an Official State Shell. This move was initiated by The North Carolina Shell Club.

copied from the 

We have been coming to the Outer Banks, in particular to Hatteras Island, for ten seasons now. Our first year here, I was introduced to the Scotch Bonnet shell and was facinated by the beauty of the intact shells I found @ the gift shop. So thus began my penchant for finding an intact Scotch Bonnet on my many wanderings up and down the beach.
I'm certain there is a metaphor for life here. Someday I may even expound on it.

For now, I'll be content merely in the search. You see I've found many fragments of Scotch Bonnets, from beautiful, charcoal, grey versions to soft, translucent cream colored pieces. I'm not really certain why I am drawn to pursue, what seems to be an impossible task, but I am somehow. The waves relentlessly pounding the Hatteras beaches are probably not conducive to finding an intact shell, but with perseverence and perhaps a bit of luck, I may find one to treasure.
Front of my treasured find, a relatively intact Scotch Bonnet.
The back of it is damaged, but it affords you a view of the intricate spiral inside.
Lovingly submitted, von die Baroness von Thomas Haus, Queen Yours Truly

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Breathing at Hatteras; 7 June 2011

It is a grueling trip...16 hours of almost constant driving, stopping briefly for fuel, a quick meal to eat on the road and bathroom breaks for ourselves and the hounds of Thomas Haus. Yet our spirits revive as our wheels touch the causeway leading to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the town of Kitty Hawk. Even the dogs, Australian Shepherds, Dash and Dara, sit up and take notice of the smells brought to their noses by the ocean breeze. This, however, is not our destination. We travel another 70 miles down North Carolina highway 12 to the fishing village of Hatteras. We rent a 4 bedroom home named "Dolphins' Reach" for two weeks in the beginning of June. It sits behind a sand dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. From the upper third floor deck, just off the kitchen, one can gaze at the beach and the perpetual lapping waves of the Atlantic.
We began our annual treks in 2002. It's hard to believe that we've been making this trip for 10 summers now. Although "Dolphins' Reach" is our current lodging since 2006, other homes were the predecessors...."Patch of Blue" from 2002-2003, "Stargazer" in 2004, "Lighthouse Point" in 2005 in the town of Buxton, NC.
Something transformative and rejuvenative occurs when one finds oneself here. Perhaps it is the getting away that does it. However, we've vacationed elsewhere and the same does not occur...only here in Hatteras. It's as if once again you find yourself breathing, like coming up for air after holding your breath underwater for an extended period of time. Everyone that makes the journey with us over the years has felt the same and long to return here. To date, Rick's brother began coming with us in 2004 and now comes annually, Erin(our daughter) and her two little girls, Madison and Aubrey( who by the way have been coming here as infants), both boys, Ian and Trevor, our niece, Brooke, my sister Ingrid and her husband Bart, have all found themselves under the spell of Hatteras. This year, the boys can't come because of their schedules. They wish to see more of the world and probably won't return to Hatteras until their own wanderlust has been satiated. That's alright, too.
The only requirements, mandated by the house mistress (that would be me, Her Royal Highness, Yours Truly), is that we plan nothing in particular other than meals and the time to head onto the beach. Oh don't get me wrong, we have and will continue to discover the area in and around Hatteras Island, but the main focus is our time together in this place, to revive our spirits in the gentle comfort of family. Lest you think we are always blissful in each others company, worry not, we've shared some certain drama in our time together, but those are best forgotten.
We arrived for this visit this past Sunday, 5 June 2011. I'm planning on taking the time to ponder many things and blogging about them here. May this visit, by the Grace of God, bring us ever closer to one another and leave us refreshed to return to the daily battles back home.
~respectfully submitted; Her Royal Highness, Duchess of Thomas Haus, Queen Yours Truly