Collecting Sand Dollars on
Hilton Head Island
One of the oldest pastimes when visiting the beach is
collecting seashells. Since Hilton Head Island is a barrier island it does not
get an abundance of varied shells. However, it does get some of the most popular
collecting shells. One of the most sought after is the Hilton Head sand dollar,
we call it mermaid money.
With its more than 12 miles of beaches, Hilton Head Island is a multi millionaire when counting in sand dollars. The Flat Round sand dollar is the most commonly found on Hilton Head. The sand dollarsí natural habitat is just beyond the mean low tide either on top or just below the sandís surface. They are easily found when it is low tide, often times laying on the sand's surface.
When a sand dollar dies, its skeleton (called a test) will
often wash onto shore. At times these tests appear with out the velvety coating
and have been naturally bleached,. This is what you want to collect.
Sand dollars do not have legs or fins leading many young minds to ask how they can move. They are able to move around because of the many spines covering their bodies.
Next time you gather one; take a close look at the body. If there appears to be fine hairs (called cilia) covering the body, and these hairs seem to move then you have a live sand dollar. Please do not collect this one, but rather let it thrive.
If it is low tide or the tide is going out, you can
help this beautiful creature by placing it on the oceans sandy bottom.
When doing this please be careful to place it bottom side down. On Hilton Head
Island it is against the law to gather live sand dollars.
The best time to hunt for sand dollars is when the tide is
going out, especially after a storm. When there has been a storm, the excess wave
action will cleanse the sand of many tests. If you gather dead sand dollars that
still have the velvety coating, there are numerous ways to clean. Below is one
we have found to work well.
Cleaning Sand Dollars
Although this method is great for cleaning sand dollars, it
can also be used to clean almost any seashell.
When cleaning other shells ensure all animal tissue has been removed. The
flaky covering of most shells is called the periostracum. If not cleaned
properly after a few days you will notice a stench. The decaying organic
material causes this stench. So, remember do not pack unclean seashells in your
I hope you enjoy walking Hilton Head Islandís beaches
looking for shells and sand dollars. Hereís a little story to tell when hunting.
of the Sand Dollar
There's a pretty little legend
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of Jesus
Found in this lowly shell
If you examine closely,
You'll see that you find here
Four nail holes and a fifth one
Made by a Roman's Spear.
On one side the Easter Lily,
Its center is the star
That appeared unto the shepherds
And led them from afar.
The Christmas poinsettia
Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday
Our Happy Christmastide.
Now break the centre open
And here you will release
The five white doves awaiting
To spread Good Will and Peace.
This simple little symbol,
Christ left for you and me
To help us spread his Gospel
Through all eternity.
Photo credits to GA Music Maker
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