the search for the ellusive scotch bonnet
The sexy Scotch bonnet is celebrating! 50 years ago it was named the North Carolina state shell, which unfortunately doesn’t make it any easier to find. It’s been years since I’ve found an intact Scotch bonnet on a northern Outer Banks beach, but have come across them occasionally on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, and there are rumors that Portsmouth Island beaches are covered with them after storms. This great article by Catherine Kozak, writing for Coastal Review Online, highlights what is so wonderfully different about this lovely and mysterious shell.
“As warm-water inhabitants of the Gulf Stream, the Scotch bonnet is usually found on nearby Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, where they’re pushed to the shore by storms.
“I think it’s fairly accurate to say that it is the most sought after shell on the North Carolina beaches,” says John Timmerman, the chairman of the N.C. Shell Club. “It’s a thrill to find one. If you don’t find one shell except a Scotch bonnet, your day is made.”
Timmerman, who works as an exhibit designer at the Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington, says that Scotch bonnets can be abundant from Cape Hatteras to Cape Lookout, but otherwise, the rest of the state coast is pretty much out of luck. Although, he adds, he did find one once at Fort Fisher after a hurricane and another time on a Georgia beach.”