We live on Sanibel Island, the seashell capital of the world! So it’s only fitting that we share some fun shell knowledge when we come across it.
These three fun facts are taken from a book that was just recently released in July, “The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans,” by Cynthia Barnett. Cynthia teaches environmental journalism at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications in Gainesville.
3 Fun Facts About Sea Shells
#1. Sea Shell Currency
Did you know the first currency was a white seashell? The Money Cowrie are those small, smooth shells that are curled with a jagged opening on their underside.
They’re a common shell used in necklaces because they are attractive and durable. For those same reasons, they were used as the first currency in many Pacific and Indian Ocean countries. Money Cowries were harvested in the Maldives for a thousand years and used as money around the world.
#2. Shell Toothpaste
You read that right. Did you know that shells are made of calcium carbonate, in the mineral form of calcite or aragonite? Ancient Greeks used crushed oyster shells as a cleaning abrasive turned into toothpaste. Still today, companies such as Crest use calcium carbonate in our toothpaste products.
#3. Shell Oil
Have you ever wondered why one of our leading oil companies is named after a shell? In Cynthia’s book, she explains the origins of oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, which trace back to a small shell souvenir shop owned by the Samuel family in the 1830s. Marcus Samuel Sr. made shell trinket boxes that built the family’s fortune. His son, Marcus Samuel Jr., later started a transport and trading company, which he named after the family’s shell business.
He started shipping oil through the Suez Canal and even named the first oil tankers after seashells. Still today, there’s a Royal Dutch Shell tanker named the Murex, which carries liquefied natural gas.
There you have it!
I hope you enjoyed these few fun facts from the book “The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans,” by Cynthia Barnett. You can pick up a copy for yourself at your favorite bookstore. Florida’s Calusa Indian tribe is even featured in the book, with stories about the Shell Mounds that you can experience here in SWFL. Click here to read our blog about the Calusa tribe on our GulfCoastHomeGuide.com website.