New Discoveries and First Finds

New Discoveries and First Finds

I have not been north of Boca Grande in months and felt the need to travel and explore islands to the north. The thought occurred to me while on the trip with the Florida ladies. They talked about fossils and a particular coral that I have had on my list of things to find since observing a beautiful piece at the shell fair – Agatized Coral. This is the Florida state stone.  Agatized Coral occurs when ocean water hardens replacing the limy corals with a form of quartz.  This process takes 20-30 million years.  Three locations in Florida are known to have this type of coral.  I was lucky enough to receive a recommendation from one of the Florida ladies on a possible location to explore and search for Agatized Coral on an island originally known as Hog Island which is located 3 hours north of Cayo Costa.
So, the story begins early Sunday morning, armed with an empty 5 gallon bucket and 3 Publix shopping bags in search of Agatized Coral.  I began a 2 1/4 mile walk to the north end of the island.   I made it 5 steps before I found 5 Turban Shells.  I knew right then, this was going to be a long walk.  I continued to discover more and more Turban Shells until I told myself, “stop!”.  So, I did for a while as I kept trekking down the beach with my bucket in hand.  I finally made it to the northern tip where I hoped to discover Agatized Coral, but much to my surprise, while cooling off in the water and randomly grabbing shells, I felt something unique that I knew was an unusual find for me.   Not long ago, someone had given me a handful of these particular shells and told me they were “mermaid tears” from a private collection but they didn’t know where they were collected.  I had no idea that you could find these in the United States. Now, I was holding one in my hand. I scanned the beach, and much to my delight, I found more. When I arrived home, my interest was peeked, so I researched a little on “mermaid tears” and found out these small shells are known as Shiva Shells and hold the door (Operculum) to the Turban Shell.  The Shiva Shell has been known to symbolize the flow of life, constant change of the universe and creative visualism in the Hindu world.  Some of the largest Shiva Shells are 5 inches in diameter.  Wouldn’t that be a find?  There’s always tomorrow and more beaches.
The tide receded on my walk back and I focused more on the rock formations on the beach.  This is when I discovered a small piece of Agatized Coral and other fossilized rock formations.  My bucket was heavy and my tracks were deep in the sand as I made my final steps off the beach.

Brian Holaway

I have been a Shelling Guide to Cayo Costa State Park since 1995. Many people know me as the Shelling Guide and Captain with Captiva Cruises over the past 20 years. In 2016 I began solely offering private small boat charters to the islands of Pine Island Sound including Cayo Costa State Park, Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Pine Island and North Captiva. I am a certified Florida Master Naturalist, licensed USCG Captain, avocational photographer, seashell enthusiast and passionate about the history, people and culture of Southwest Florida, especially Cayo Costa. I volunteer as a member of Friends of Cayo Costa State Park and have great respect for the heritage of Cayo Costa. My goal is to provide guests with an overall experience and appreciation for the waters, islands, shells, plants, marine life, wildlife, history and people of this unique area of Southwest Florida.

  • siimone
    Posted at 16:24h, 06 July

    Great finds! Let us know more. I love Boca Grande.

  • Jen S.
    Posted at 16:24h, 06 July

    OH BOY Brian! The things you found are so AWESOME! Very cool. What a great time you had on your adventure! I really enjoyed seeing everything…great pictures 🙂

  • Shellbelle
    Posted at 21:36h, 06 July

    Oh, Karen told me you were going out to one of our favorite beaches! I was out there a couple of months ago collecting Turbans and Shivas to use in my seashell designs. I've never heard them called "mermaid tears" but it's perfect! My grandmother always called sea glass "mermaid tears" and I think that's perfect also.

    Now, I only recently learned of the Agatized Coral from Karen, but we're planning a trip out there later this year to find some for ourselves. It never ceases to amaze me that just when I think I've found at least one of everything our beaches have to offer, something else comes along.

    You do the same thing I do, pick up everything I want and then realize I have to carry it all the way back to the car.

    Great info!

  • Little Black Scrap Cat
    Posted at 21:36h, 06 July

    How interesting to start out finding the turbans, then hit the jackpot with the Shiva Shells! Great finds!

  • Shelllady
    Posted at 06:42h, 07 July

    Cool Stuff Brian….you've just shown me more that I want to go find down there on the Gulf!! I have never heard of either the mermaids ears or the coral! How lucky you are to be able to go on such adventures….and how lucky we are that you are sharing them with us!! Keep 'em coming!!

  • Kim@Snug Harbor
    Posted at 10:29h, 08 July

    What cool stuff!! Now I want to find some of all of THAT!

  • JoJo
    Posted at 00:49h, 16 July

    Amazing finds! The shiva shells and agatized coral are so cool. I've found crystalized coral here in SE Fla – looks like it might be calcite crystals. The rock was found at John U Lloyd state park beach, which has now been covered up due to a beach renourishment project(yuck).
    Thanks so much for the pictures and tales of the sea.