Sea Biscuits, Delphi, Abaco (Clare Latimer)

Sea Biscuits on the Beach, Delphi, Abaco Bahamas


A couple of years ago I wrote a post called ECHINODERMS, DOLLAR DOVES & PETRIFIED BISCUITS. It dealt with the… fact? rumour? old wive’s tale?… that within each sand dollar test (i.e. the white skeleton) are hidden 5 ‘doves’. You can hear them rattling inside if you shake the dollar… 

Sand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 6

Sand Dollar from Abaco containing 5 miniature white doves…

I investigated the theory with senior granddaughter, and we broke a sand dollar in half. And as you can see, the answer was undoubtedly yes – there were 5 tiny white doves, thus fulfilling the prediction of the famous ‘Sand Dollar’ poem that contains the lines  “Now break the centre open And here you will release The five white doves awaiting To spread good will and peace”.

Five white doves (in fact, the separated parts of the creature’s feeding apparatus)Sand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 1

A single dove, a picture of dovelinessSand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 3

I never thought to extend the experiment to sea biscuits, another object prized by beachcombers. All that changed last month when I picked up a sea biscuit and found that it, too, rattled.

A rattling good sea biscuit

So I turned it over to take a closer look at the underside. And there, unmistakably, was the source of the rattle – some kind of internal arrangement inside the feeding  hole (let us not pause overlong to consider the purpose of the other hole). But it wasn’t conclusively a dove.

So I shook it around a bit (sorry, doves) and zoomed in. And there was a small white columbine-type contraption remarkably similar to those found in the dollar dove. And no, I did not smash open the sea biscuit (it wasn’t actually mine). And no, I didn’t doubt any longer that sea biscuits also contain doves.


I predict there will also be five. Both dollars and biscuits have ‘five-way symmetry’ (look on the topside of a biscuit or dollar to see how); and so the mouth (from which the ‘doves’ derive) will have a single part for each of the five sectors, all linked. 

If anyone would like to smash up one of their precious beach finds and test the theory, please feel free. Prove me wrong… and I’ll publish a correction! [Photo please…]

All photos Keith Salvesen except Header, Clare Latimer at Delphi


Sand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 6

Sand Dollar from Abaco containing 5 miniature white doves…


Echinoderms (Gr. ‘Hedgehog Skin’) comprise a large variety of sea creatures characterised (mostly) by radial symmetry, often five-way. For Abaconians, the most frequently encountered are starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars and sea biscuits. I am going to look at two particular aspects of dollars and biscuits, conscious that my illustrative photos of white objects were stupidly taken against a white background.


I’m sure all Bahamians know or are aware of at least one version of the famous ‘Sand Dollar’ poem, in which the various characteristics of the test (the skeleton of the creature) are given religious significance. One verse of the poem may be puzzling: “Now break the centre open And here you will release The five white doves awaiting To spread good will and peace”.

Recently, Senior Granddaughter (10 this week) was looking at some Abaco sand dollars in her unfeasibly huge collection of shells. She picked one up, shook it and it rattled. She said a friend at school had told her that a rattling sand dollar has ‘doves’ inside it, and asked if we could break it open and see. I’ve learnt that it is useless to argue with her – she has the tenacity of a trial lawyer – so we did. This is what we found.

Sand Dollar with a spiky interior like a white cave with stalagmites and stalagtitesSand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 4

Five white doves (in fact, the separated parts of the creature’s feeding apparatus)Sand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 1

Two broken pieces showing where the doves are centrally locatedSand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 5

A single dove (best viewed the other way up for full-on doveliness)Sand Dollar Doves (Keith Salvesen) 3

The photo below, from Pinterest, shows the ‘mouth’ with its 5 dove-parts intact, an arrangement called ‘Aristotle’s Lantern’.

Sand Dollar : Aristotle's Lantern : Doves (Pinterest)


In common parlance ‘petrified’ is an extreme version of ‘terrified’. Literally, it means ‘turned to stone’ (L. Petrus, a rock). It is descriptive of a state of fossilisation, where an animal skeleton or dead wood or plant matter turns over aeons into stone. Undaunted by her Doves discovery, SG (a most inquisitive girl) also discovered a box containing random stones and fossils. She found these two items:

Fossilised sea biscuitsPetrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 1

A closer look at the pair of rocksPetrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 5 Petrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 4

The undersides of the fossils above – looking like stones but with some tell-tale small holesPetrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 2 Petrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 3

A close-up of the pale biscuitPetrified Sea Biscuit (Keith Salvesen) 6

Sea biscuits as everyone knows them, on the beach at Delphi – skeletons but not yet fossilsSea Biscuits, Delphi, Abaco (Clare Latimer) copy

A ‘modern’ sea biscuit in close-upSea Biscuit, Abaco (Rhonda Pearce) copy


Florida has an unofficial but proposed State Fossil, the ‘Sea Biscuit (Eocene Age)’. I didn’t know it before, but it turns out that around 40 States have State Fossils. Whatever next? State Bacteria?


The fossil biscuits I have looked at, from Florida to Madagascar, are said to come from three specific historic epochs – from the oldest, Jurassic (145m – 201m years ago),  to Eocene (34m – 56m) and Pleistocene (0.01m – 2.6m). 


By all means. Here is an excellent Geochart that gives an idea of the time span. A Jurassic sea biscuit would be more than 145m years old. So maybe the next plan should be to take the 2 petrified sea biscuits plus SG to a museum to see if we can get an idea of their age…geotimescale

All photos ‘in-house’ except the Delphi biscuits, Clare Latimer & the single biscuit Rhonda Pearce; Geochart to be credited asap, mislaid the source…


Ferry Wake Abaco


What is art? *loud reader yawn* I suspect we all know it when we see it; and know instinctively when something violently overpraised and vastly overhyped has failed to shake off a strong impression of ‘utter tosh’, ‘money for old rope’ or ‘one-trick pony’. We all have inbuilt settings for “I may not know much about art but I know what I like” and “a child of 3 could have done that”. It’s just that our individual settings are all different. But secretly (go on, admit it) we all know that ours are the correct and appropriate ones…

With that in mind here are some sandy puddles I photographed on glorious day when we were idly looking for SAND DOLLARS on a sand bar at Casuarina. I don’t suppose they amount to anything, but I’ll soon know from my stats what people think of these abstract patterns. And I have a powerful delete button if this post bombs… If not I see scope here for a line of T-shirts, mugs, key rings  stickers and … mouse mats? Does anyone still use those?Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 15 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 14 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 13 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 12 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 11 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 10 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 9 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 7 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 6 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 5 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 4 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 3 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 2 Sand & Water Abstacts on Abaco 1[The header picture is the wake of the ferry from Hope Town to Marsh Harbour. Or as I prefer to call it, “Aquatextural Modifications III”]


Sea Urchin Delphi Abaco 2


It’s time we had some more shells and other beach treasures on these pages. In the absence of star Abaco beachcomber and blog-contributor KASIA I have taken a closer look at the Delphi Club collection. This has been casually accumulated by the Club, its members and guests during the past 3 years whenever a good specimen has been encountered, and is displayed in the Great Room. The first items to catch my eye were the ECHINODERMS, a family that includes sea urchins, sand dollars, sea biscuits and star fish. Their sun-bleached tests are often found, though in my limited experience the larger they are, the rarer.  The link above is to the Wiki-blurb, which has the unpromisingly daunting heading  “This article may be too technical for most readers to understand…”. Now there’s a challenge!

First up is a very large SEA URCHIN, a thing of great delicacy and fragility that weighs next to nothing. I have never seen a bigger one. Looking at the fine detail, it is hard to believe that such perfection of symmetry and intricacy can exist in a creature so very painful to tread on. 

This SEA URCHIN is smaller, with more prominent nodules and a much more random pattern – reminiscent of a cartoon of some distant white planet. It has cast a fine knobbly shadow.

SEA BISCUITS have similar five-way symmetry to their first cousins SAND DOLLARS but are generally pebble-shaped rather than disc-shaped. I have included 2 close-ups to show the fine details of the pattern – almost like lace-work

This SEA BISCUIT is a different type, with the 5 radials reaching right round it. For some reason it only has 4 and not 5 small holes (as one might expect) at the centre. Unlike SAND DOLLARS they tend to be more oblong than round.



First I thought it best to look up in the dictionary the meaning of the word ‘Sound’ in relation to ‘Cherokee Sound’ – it has such a poetic name. Sound: a long arm of the sea forming a channel between the mainland and an island or islands; or connecting two larger bodies of water.

“No one knows for sure where ‘the place’ got its name but one theory is that it was named after a local wild cherry tree and according to some old-English sailing charts was identified as ‘Cherry Cay’ (cay pronounced ‘key’ locally). Another story about the first settler being an old Indian woman who was supposed to have come from the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina during the American Revolution, and she named the settlement after her ancestors.”          By Lee Pinder, Cherokee Sound, Abaco.

About 40 kilometres or 25 miles south of Marsh Harbour, capital of Abaco, is the seaside settlement of Cherokee Sound. It is only fifteen minutes from the superb Delphi Fishing Club at Rolling Harbour where we were based. We set off for a day’s fishing at Cherokee, the home to fewer than 150 families, where most make their living fishing for crawfish, bonefish guiding and taking parties out deep sea fishing. Some of the finest bonefish guides live at Cherokee and none better than young Dana Lowe, daughter of Delphi’s senior guide Donnie Lowe. She has learnt since childhood from her experienced father and knows every inch of the complex waters, and where best to fish under various tide and cloud conditions (perish the thought, it is almost always gloriously sunny).

Dana has developed her own relaxed approach to guiding, and takes a missed opportunity in her stride, seldom getting upset by a client’s failure to engage with the incredibly spooky fish in the Sound. She calls clearly to the fisherman on the bow from her poling platform high above the 40 horse-power Yamaha at the stern of the 14 ft skiff: Fish 40 yards off, prepare to cast (and a minute later) give me 40 (feet) at 11 (o’clock, the bow is always 12). The angler has sufficient line stripped from the reel and with one false cast and a slight single haul lands the fly in the fish’s path.

After a momentary pause she quietly asks (with reference to the line): ‘strip, strip, stop, strip, raise the tip, GOT IT’ as the fish yields to the temptation of the inviting fly – and in a moment, like a bat-out-of-hell is 100/120 yards off, heading for the horizon! Then it pauses and turns which is the start of a real good angling experience until it gives up and is released from the barbless hook to rejoin its pals and recount the experience, often being honoured with leadership of the shoal. Such is the order of nature!

Dana is at one with her surroundings and encourages her guests to take in all that Cherokee has to offer. At low tide she loves to have her guests wade in bare feet on the silvery golden flats, sand as far as the eye can see, and cast to the occasional meandering fish or even a shoal of them. Easy to visualise the silvery sand, the blue green of the water, and the royal blue sky off set by soft fluffiness of the pure white clouds and almost uninterrupted sunshine. I love the lunch stops on a little mangrove island under the limited shade of a coconut tree, and the opportunity to collect a few shells for my nieces. I particularly like the sand dollars that have the appearance of engraved roman coinage, but are transparent porcelain white. And the various shades of pink of the conch shells are much liked by our local jeweller for engraving most appealing cameos. From the boat again she can show you, in season, the Ospreys nesting in their very square constructions of straw and wattle, green turtles snorting, and a plentiful number of ray, shark and barracuda cruising sinisterly around and with no evil intent to the peaceful anglers! As the evening draws in we call it a day and say our goodbyes to Cherokee Sound. Dana brings us back to the little jetty where our jeep from Delphi is awaiting us and we wave our fond farewell for another year and watch as Dana punts quietly out into the bay to her lovely home further along the shore line. The slow-paced tranquil daily life here feels as if it has not changed for many years and we hope, if that is fair to the residents, that it remains so for years to come.

Trish Findlater June 2011

AND FINALLY… unknown to Trish, rh was on the other skiff with a camera. For an independent view of what was going on in this idyllic place CLICK HERE