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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 http://www.ncshellclub.com/NCStateShell.htm 

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
 


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