Seashells, which are usually the dead empty shells of marine mollusks, often wash up on the shores but there are certain beaches that routinely have an unusually large accumulation of seashells washed up on them. Most beaches in the world are primarily composed of rock particles such as sand, grit, gravel, pebbles, etc, but in rare cases the beach is composed entirely of seashells, both broken and whole valves.
Here are 4 such unusual shell beaches in the world.
Shell Beach, Western Australia
Shell Beach is located 45 kilometers south-east of Denham in the Shark Bay region of Western Australia. Stretching for over 120 kilometers, this beautiful snow-white beach is made up of millions of tiny shells and they go up to 10 meters deep!
The seawater in the L`Haridon Bight has a high salinity due to both the geomorphology and local climate of the area. This high salinity has allowed the cockle to proliferate unchecked, since its natural predators have not adapted well to this environment. When the cockle die of natural deaths then are washed ashore, and this has been going on for thousands of years completely covering the entire beach.
The shells also forms the sea floor, stretching for hundreds of yards from the shoreline. On the upper parts of the beach, away from the water line, many of the shells have become cemented together, in some areas leading to the formation of large, solid conglomerations.
The shells are mined under special license nowadays for production of calcium for poultry feed and exotic mulch for gardens and planters. In the early years of Denham, blocks of the solidified shell deposits were mined and used as materials in building constructions.
Sanibel Island, Florida, USA
Sanibel Island attract visitors from all around the world, partly because of the large quantities of seashells that frequently wash up on the baeches. One of the reasons for these accumulations of shells is the fact that Sanibel is a barrier island which has an east-west orientation when most islands are north-south. The east-west torque of Sanibel’s south end acts like a shovel scooping up all the seashells that the Gulf imports from The Caribbean and other southern seas.
Seashells have created an economy for Sanibel's residents since the time of the Calusa Indians and are highly integrated into the culture and the economy of Sanibel. As many as 20-30,000 visitors come to Sanibel and its neighbor island Captiva each week at peak season, drawn by the desire to walk Sanibel's beaches and its shells. They parade along the sands doubled over in a stance that’s been dubbed the “Sanibel Stoop”. Shells can be purchased at local shell shops, or can be seen on display in the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, in some of the glass display tables at the Sanibel Cafe, or at the Sanibel Shell Fair in early March.
Shell Beach, Saint Barthélemy
St Barts Shell Beach, also called Grande Galet, is easily the most popular and frequented beach of the island. Many visitors and cruise passengers head over to inspect the bounty of shells washed up over the coastline. This beach is bevy of unique shells and conchs that are constantly changing and evolving the shoreline.
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Jeffreys Bay is a town located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Although not as spectacular as Sanibel or the Australian Shell Beach, Jeffreys Bay is famous, nonetheless, for abundant seashells, great seafood and calamari. The town’s Shell Museum houses more than 600 shells from species all of the world makes it one of the largest shell collections in South Africa and attracts shell fanatics from all over the globe.
In September, the town holds the Shell Festival. This festival has been held here for over 20 years, and it has become a tradition for many local travellers and families from all over the country to congregate in this small town to celebrate the shell in all its shapes, sizes and uses.
Jeffreys Bay is also a popular tourist destination because of its surfing opportunities. It is one of the five most famous surfing destinations in the world and hosts the annual Billabong Pro ASP World Tour surfing event at Supertubes during July.
Know any other shell beaches? Tell us in the comments.
Also see: Glass Beach at Fort Bragg in California