Posted by: Sunset Rentals | January 12, 2012

Sand Dollars by the Seashore

Hilton Head Vacation RentalsWhether you live near the beach full-time, or only visit while on vacation, the simple act of walking along the seashore and picking up treasures from the sea is fun at any age.

Hilton Head is a great place to find sand dollars, especially at low tide or in rough, muddy surf after a storm.

A sand dollar is actually a keyhole urchin. Most of the time when you find a sand dollar, it’s white, cream or grey in color. This is the skeleton of a deceased keyhole urchin that has washed ashore. Sand dollars are distinguishable by their circle shape and a star pattern on the top. They also have five pore points on their shell.

If you find a shell that’s still brownish green in color, it’s a live sand dollar and it’s illegal to remove it from the island. There is a $500 fine for removing any living creature from the island (hermit crabs, starfish, sand dollars, etc.). You can turn over the shell and you may see hundreds of tiny little hairs moving on the underside. This is how the keyhole urchin gets around. You’ll need to help it out and place the creature back in the water. Place it underwater on the sand with the star shape facing the sky.

If the shell you’ve found is not live, there are ways to preserve it as a keepsake. First, soak the shell in fresh water, changing the water whenever it becomes murky.

Then soak the shell in a 30-to-70 bleach and water solution for 10-15 minutes at a time until it achieves the color you prefer. Remove and rinse thoroughly. You can then let the shell dry in the sunshine or simply air dry on a surface.

If you prefer, you can always just clean the shell and leave it in the sunshine to dry and bleach naturally.

Either way, you may choose to strengthen the shell by spraying it with clear acrylic. You can then display the shells on a bookshelf, in a clear vase, or even on the Christmas tree next year! And every time you look at the shell, you’ll remember your vacation to Hilton Head Island. Send us a picture of how you’ve used your preserved sand dollars!

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