By Connie Leinbach
Members of the North Carolina Shell Club are like kids in a candy box when they come to Ocracoke for their spring meeting.
“Everyone wants to come to Ocracoke and Portsmouth to try to find the state shell—the scotch bonnet,” said Everett Long, president of the club, about the upcoming meetings at 7 p.m. tonight and tomorrow (Saturday) in the Community Center. “From Hatteras to Cape Lookout are the best places to find a fresh bonnet.”
Everyone is invited to attend the meetings where there will be lots of shells, speakers, door prizes, books and a silent auction. The club has about 84 members from all over the state and Eastern shore.
During the day, the members will visit the island beaches for their treasure hunts. At the evening meetings, they compare their finds of the day.
“A lot of shells get passed around,” he said. “We have boxes and boxes of them.”
Door prizes will be shells. “It’s always a new adventure,” he said about his hobby that began in 1973 when he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. “There’s always a new shell that’s being found.”
Long, of Cedar Point, Carteret County, and one of the few men in the club, said there was nothing to do on his days off in Japan. “Nights and weekends I’d go out walking the beach and collecting shells,” he said.
He’d research his finds in the library and became fascinated with these beach deposits. “Then it became a treasure hunt,” he said about his growing knowledge of gastropods and bivalves. “I have about 40 books about shells.” His hunt takes him and the club to other parts of the world to seek exotic shells—the Dominican Republic, Oman, Panama, Venezuela and the Philippines.
His research showed him the best times and places to find shells: after storms and where dredging has occurred, for example. His prized find is a heretofore unknown shell he found in the mangroves on an island near Haiti years ago.
Shell expert Ed Petuch of Florida, who has identified 300 new shells around the world, certified that it was a new gastropod (a shell with a single hole). The small, brown shell was then named “Planaxis Nancyae,” after Long’s wife, Nancy.
Among the activities the club will conduct during their meeting here will be a decision on their new logo, which features a scotch bonnet. Long said there will be four designs from which to choose. The chosen design will be registered with the state.
Long is a frequent visitor to Ocracoke, having begun visiting here as a youngster in the 1950s.
Proceeds of the silent auctions will help fund a scholarship for a UNC Wilmington student studying marine science. The club has a large shell show every year in the Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington. This year’s show will be Nov. 17 and 18. To learn more about the club, visit the website www.ncshellclub.com.