Tasmania – The Shells of Seven-Mile Beach

2014 January 11

One of the things that Sam really wanted to do on this trip, was get to an actual ocean beach and collect seashells. While she has been to Lake Superior beaches many times, both the number and the diversity of shells are pretty limited (Lake Superior mainly just has freshwater mussels, snails, and the occasional crayfish). So, on the afternoon of June 18, 2013, my mother took us to Seven Mile Beach, which is a bit over seven miles of straight, sandy beach between Smithton and Stanley[1]. We had a little trouble finding it (the access road that actually leads to the beach isn’t marked), but we got there.

This beach is protected from wave action by Robbins Island to the west, and by the Stanley peninsula on the east, so shells accumulate here with a minimum of damage. See what looks like gravel running down the beach in this next picture?

Well, that isn’t gravel.

For that matter, I’m not so sure that the “sand” is actually sand, it may be mostly ground-up seashells.

So, Sam found all the seashells she could possibly want. The vast majority of them were thin, papery ones like this:

The next most numerous type were what I think are cockle shells.

In this next one, the paper-thin shell creature was alive, and had clamped onto the other shell somehow.

There was another family at the beach at the same time, and their little girl found this nice striped shell and let me photograph it.

As it turns out, the animal was still alive (so she let it go again after I took the pictures). And the striping pattern extended to its body, not just the shell.

There were quite a lot of these conical, speckled snails.

While most of the shells were very fragile (and survived because this is a very protected beach), there were some with quite heavy shells, like this little clam.

The vast majority of the shells were small, like this little whelk.

Although some were fairly large, like this one (I think it’s an oyster).

And not everything was a shell, like this little sand tube made by some unknown organism (possibly a worm).

The nicest one, though, was probably this very attractive clam, with delicate pink fringes.

It was still alive, so we left it at the beach.

Sam collected lots of nice shells of things that weren’t still alive, and we cleaned them all up to bring home. We were a little concerned about whether Customs was going to give us any trouble with them, but it turned out that as long as they are clean, not carrying any live organisms, and not obviously collected in commercial quantities, then the Customs folks don’t care about them.

Overall, this is a really nice beach.

[1] The most prominent landmark in Stanley is “The Nut”, a rather abrupt land feature that is the core of an extinct volcano. The softer, sloping portions weathered away, leaving just the very hard basalt core behind. It’s about 6 miles from the point on the beach where I took this picture.

The Nut can be seen from many places along the road, and there’s even a spot on my parents’ property (almost 25 miles away!) where you can see it from the top of a hill. It was originally called “The Circular Head”, by the original European explorers. But now, the name “Circular Head” refers to the entire northwest corner of Tasmania. I’m told it got the name “The Nut” because some of the early settlers tried to quarry stone from it, but gave it up because the rock was too hard. So they called it “A tough nut to crack” and left it alone.

One Response
  1. damian miller permalink
    May 23, 2014

    I from hobart in tasmania. I am deaf that deaf is a sign language. what name is road before 7 mile beach near stanley?

    take care damian

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