Yesterday I posted about the mysterious creature – the Sanddollar. Today as I get myself psyched up to be able to better find the dead seashells, I am getting a jump start on how to preserve them. Let me please put out there for anyone ready this…Don’t be a dumbass and take a live one. Live creatures are meant to stay in the sea. Also check with the local authorities at your beach about rules regarding collection of sea shells.
So first off, find a bucket for your treasures if you are shore hunting. If you are diving, I have found this to be a whole new issue of getting them back intact. For shore collecting, prepare your bucket for collecting by padding it with rags or paper towels. Before they are preserved, sand dollar skeletons are extremely fragile and will shatter if you don’t provide a soft cushion. For diving, I am thinking about collecting them in a soft bag and attach it to one of my clips.
Next, try to visit the beach after a storm or during an outgoing tide. As I stated yesterday Sand dollar skeletons are most likely to wash up on the beach during times when the water level swells. Think treasure hunting. You always see the metal detectors out after a storm. Same principle.
Search for and collect sand dollars on the moist part of the shore. Between the rock tumbles and shore. If you are over in Clearwater or St. Pete Beach you will probably have luck just snorkeling or walking in knee high water. Do not look for sand dollars in the water. This is where these creatures live their lives and any you find here are more likely to still be living. Examine any sand dollars you find for a coating of brown hairs, or cilia, looking somewhat like the fuzz on moldy food. Refer back to yesterday’s post. Leave the live guy there. If you see these hairs, you’ve found a live sand dollar and should leave it on the beach. Taking live sand dollars can hurt the animals’ population and doing so is often illegal.
Stack your sand dollars on their sides in your bucket if you find a lot of them, because stacking them one on top of another may cause those on the bottom to break from the weight. remember they are fragile and will crumble easy. I have also had people tell me to put a paper towel under them to provide a platform so it doesn’t break.
When you are all done transport your sand dollars carefully home. be sure to cushion them. It is so disappointing when you find them to have the sand-dollar just crumble.
Cleaning and Preserving
First, remove your sand dollars and padding from your bucket and rinse it out good. next fill it with clear tap water and put your sand dollars in to soak. One of the keys to cleaning a live sandollar is also very often the least known. In order to get a sanddollar to bleach white it is important to soak it in fresh water first.
Empty and refill the water in the bucket periodically. It will keep turning brown and smell bad as the remains of the sand dollar dissolve. Continue replacing the water until it stays clean. You may have to do this for a few days.
After you have the smell gone, mix a 33/67 solution of water and bleach, with no more than a third of the solution consisting of bleach. Soak the sand dollars in this for no more than 15 minutes as the bleach can make the skeletons more fragile by partially dissolving them. Start with 5 minutes, less is more. Be sure to hold each sand dollar upside-down in the bleach water to allow it to fill.
Next rinse them really good in fresh water again to get bleach off.
Use a toothpick to clean any remaining hairs from the sand dollar’s mouth (the hole in the center bottom).
Allow sand dollars to air dry. For best results, I let them sit in the sun for a day.
Mix a solution of one part water, one part Elmer’s glue. Paint this evenly over each sand dollar (do one side at a time) and allow them to dry. I have also used a sponge to apply the glue. It is quicker and not as fiddly. Also does not leave streaks as much.
When you are done, you can use them for hand crafted ornaments, curtain adornments or just fill a table side bowl with some other nautical treasures like seaglass and shells.