What A Beautiful Picture-Perfect Tropical Setting
At the far southern end of Eleuthera, basking on the sun drenched eastern shore along Exuma Sound, lies the picture post card beauty of Millar's Beach. This was, without a doubt, my second favorite shelling spot of the entire trip - a magnificent crescent of white sand beach extending along the gently curving shore. Just offshore, and paralleling the beach, was a rocky reef covered with both yellow and purple sea fans and multihued soft corals. Brightly colored tropical fish abounded in this undersea fantasy. This was truly beautiful snorkeling - we just had to be careful of the Fire Coral, which was quite abundant. Just beyond the reef, the water was a little deeper and strewn with coral slabs. Though the shells were not as large and spectacular as at Cape Eleuthera, we did enjoy some really nice finds.
On the sea fans we found many of the Flamingo Tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum). These one and a half inch shells are a spectacular sight sitting on the purple sea fans, their shells half covered with the animal's lovely spotted mantle. I usually do not take these shells, but on this occasion I did take two rather large specimens. Both the Caribbean Coral Shell (Coralliophila caribaea) and the Short Coral Shell (Coralliophila abbreviata) were well represented on the holdfasts of the sea fans. Under the coral slabs, that lay beyond the fringing shore line reef, we found cones. The Mouse Cone (Conus mus), the Regal Cone (Conus regius), the Yellow Cone (Conus flavescens) and the small little Jasper Cone (Conus jaspideus). There were also a couple more of the small cowries, Cypraea acicularis and Cypraea cinerea. Another lovely find under the rocks was the Barbados Miter (Mitra barbadensis) of which I found three. Another unusual find was a "dead taken to be sure", but in great shape tiny little Rose Murex (Muricopsis roseus). At the low tide hour Jim stopped by some smooth shoreline rocks that in the past had yielded the Maiden Miter (Vexillum puella). Unfortunately this visit was disappointing. He found only two of the tiny little black miters. That evening he generously gave me one of them. I might add at this point that Jim and Bobbi were most generous in sharing their finds with the rest of us that were not as accomplished shellers as themselves.
When Bobbi returned, she had two Coffee Bean Trivias (Trivia pediculus) and an Ornate Scallop (Chlamys ornata) as well as the species already listed. She also found, but, as fate would have it, lost a Giant Atlantic Pyram (Pryamidella dolabrata). It seems the lid of her collecting bottle came off, and her treasure washed out. Conrad latter found the lid washed up on the beach. The good news is that, miracle of miracles, she found another one just before we left for the day. I was taken with the trivias and Bobbi suggested I try the drift line as she said they are often found washed up there. Bobbi was right! In the twenty minutes I spent searching the drift line I found two good ones, along with a False Cup and Saucer (Cheilea equestris), several good Barbados Key Hole Limpets (Fissurella barbadensis), a large Flame Scallop (Ctenoides scabra) and a Chlamys ornata, both complete with both valves. When Jim returned he had a beautiful collection of cones and miters and a live little gem of an Antillean Scallop (Lyropecten antillarium). What a marvelous morning this had been. Should I ever get to Eleuthera again, Millar's Beach will be a must. I am anxious to try the deeper reef that Conrad found around the point. I am sure it will be there. Conrad reports that it is well guarded by some very large Barracuda.
A Two Mile Walk In Search Of R. Tucker Abbott's Cone
On our last day of shelling on Eleuthera, Jim wanted to try a special place on the ocean side that he knew produced the elusive R. Tucker Abbott's Cone (Conus abbotti). These are always very special shells. There was a catch, however. To get to this "special place" one had to walk along the beach for almost two miles from the closest access point. This means lugging all one's equipment the whole way while walking in soft beach sand. Once there, the water is usually somewhat rough with a varying degree of current and, with the tides running the way they were, probably over one's head. Add to this that to successfully work this area required the turning over, and then back again, of many large rocks. And then there was the matter of walking all the way back again to the access point. Jim announced that he was going to make the journey, and he welcomed any or all of the rest of us to come with him. If we did not choose to go with him, then we could drop him off at the access point and we would still have the three cars to go elsewhere with. Each of us looked at our options and then made our choices. For me it was a difficult choice as I really wanted to hopefully find a Conus abbotti, but on the other hand, there was the question of whether I was physically up to such a strenuous challenge. At the final vote all of us, each for their own reason, decided not to join the search for the treasured cone. Jim would have them all to himself.
Bobbi asked if we would like to drive a couple of hours north and make a sightseeing journey of the northern part of the island, maybe find a couple of gift shops for the ladies and then snorkel at a couple of locations on the way back. We all thought that sounded like a good idea. We drove north, past the area we had snorkeled just days before. Soon we came to Hatchet Bay, a delightful spot with its very picturesque harbor. In Gregory Town we spotted a couple of quaint local gift shops which we promised to visit on the return trip. Finally we reached a spectacular place called The Glass Windows Bridge. This is the narrowest point in all of Eleuthera. On the ocean side were huge cliffs with a rough and rolling ocean below. On the other side of the bridge the water was calm and tranquil as it could be. Opportunities for “Eleuthera photos” abounded here and the raw natural beauty of this place captivated us. At one time the bridge was a natural one, but some years ago the sea took out the natural bridge and so a new man made one was constructed. The calm side looked like a great place to snorkel, however access was steep and rocky. We opted to find a more suitable place on the drive back home. If I ever get back to this place though, I would like to try shelling there. On the way back we snorkeled at just south of Hatchet Bay, also at Rainbow Bay not far from Governors Harbor and again at Savannah Sound.
At the pre appointed hour of 4:00 PM we went to meet Jim as he returned from his quest for the Conus abbotti. Unfortunately it had been a rather disappointing seven hours for Jim. He had found only six or seven of the elusive cones. They were beautiful cones to be sure and a couple of them were quite large. Jim described these larger 40 mm. specimens as typical females of the species, while the smaller darker ones were the males. He had also uncovered a quite large and perfect live Cypraea zebra, the first one he had found at this location. Although this was not very many shells for the time and work spent, they were outstanding specimens. I was impressed. Next time I will probable join Jim on his quest once again for this elusive and endemic (to the Bahamas) little cone.
As Always, All Good Things Must Come To An End
All too soon it was time to leave Eleuthera. As the plane took off, we went out over the ocean, banked right and flew right back over Cape Eleuthera. We looked down at the very point around which Conrad had found his Triton Trumpet, at the lovely beach where we had found the Hawk Wing Conchs, at the place where we had found those lovely Cypraea zebra and all those hundreds of juvenile Queen Conchs. Over the roar of the planes engines I was sure I could hear this magical cape, my favorite spot on all of Eleuthera, whispering "Remember me always, I shall be here waiting when again you return". And return I shall -- then once again, I can "Make Mine Eleuthera!"
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