Sea Biscuit Close-up, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)


Recently I posed the question whether sea biscuits, like sand dollars contain ‘doves’. I had one in my hand, it rattled, I took a photograph through its ‘mouth hole’ and the question was answered. Biscuits do indeed contain doves – see HERE for details and comparisons with dollar doves.

Sea Biscuit 'Doves', Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

However, I spinelessly* failed to break open the biscuit to check out the contents more closely. I theorised that, because of the 5-way symmetry of these creatures, there would be 5 doves (which are in fact segmented mouth parts) in a biscuit exactly as with a dollar, and amiably challenged anyone to disprove it. [* biscuits and dollars are types of sea urchin – see what I did there?]

Dollar dove in close-up – one of 5 segmented mouth parts inside the ‘test’ (skeleton)Sand Dollar 'Doves', Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

Melissa Ann Guinness from Hope Town has a far more robust attitude to these things and, taking up the challenge, she heartlessly smashed open a sea biscuit from her collection to investigate further. I said I’d publish a correction if my theory was wrong. This is it – though in one arguable sense the theory holds good. It just didn’t go far enough…

Sea Biscuit 'Doves', Abaco (Melissa Ann Guinness)

In the above picture you can see (a) 4 quarters of a sea biscuit skeleton (b) 10 demi-doves (rather than 5 whole doves) and (c) a small mummified 5-limbed brittle star that was presumably in the creature’s digestive system when it died.

10 ‘demi-doves’  (or, when assembled, 5 doves that (unlike sand dollars) are in 2 parts
Sea Biscuit 'Doves', Abaco (Melissa Ann Guinness)

Complete doves

Sea Biscuit 'Doves', Abaco (Melissa Ann Guinness) Sea Biscuit 'Doves', Abaco (Melissa Ann Guinness) Sea Biscuit 'Doves', Abaco (Melissa Ann Guinness)

The final reconstruction – 5 doves and a bonus brittle star

Sea Biscuit 'Doves', Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

Photo Credits: Keith Salvesen (1, 2, 3, 10); Melissa Ann Guinness (4, 5, 6, ,7 ,8 ,9)


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


Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder


One of the smallest museums in the world has just opened on April 15 in the picturesque settlement of Cherokee on Abaco, Bahamas. Other contenders for the title include the MmuseumM in New York, housed in an elevator shaft (look through glass window + audio guide); a converted red telephone kiosk in Warley, Yorkshire UK dedicated to local history (one visitor at a time); and a tiny shed of 134 sq ft in Arizona featuring what might broadly be called ‘ephemera’, including a Beatles poster…

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Abaconian

Whatever the size comparisons, the new shell museum is beyond doubt the very best one in the Bahamas, not least because it is the only one. “Gifts from the Sea” is housed in the former 1950s telegraph office that ceased to operate in 1987 and had fallen into disrepair. Leased from BTC for a nominal rent, the little building was restored, and given a smart new roof and a complete makeover. The new museum provides the perfect space for displaying a selection of the wonderful shells to be found in Abaco waters.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The whole community has got behind this project, which is the vision and creation of Curator Lee Pinder. Derek Weatherford fitted cabinets for the exhibits, and artist Jo-Ann Bradley has painted a fabulous interior Cherokee-themed mural as a fitting backdrop to the displays.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The exhibition shows more than 200 shells, each catalogued with its Latin and common name, and clearly labelled in the display. Most were found locally; a few are from further afield. Some specimens are very rare. It is hoped to expand the collection as people make shell donations to the museum. 

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Abaconian

The building has a door at each end to give natural light and provide a ‘walk-through’ arrangement, which will make viewing in the confined space easier. Entry is free but there’s a glass jar for donations towards the upkeep of the museum. I’m guessing here, but I reckon donations that are made ‘outside the jar’ (so to speak) are very welcome too…

Museum Curator Lee PinderCherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The opening ceremony took place on Easter Saturday, when Cherokee resident Rev. Bateman Sands performed the official ribbon cutting ceremony preceded by a prayer at precisely 12 noon. As Jennifer Hudson in an Abaconian article points out, he was the ideal person for the task, having been “the first telegraph operator in Cherokee Sound, working in the little building using Morse code and in charge of the one and only telephone in the settlement until 1987 when the new BTC building was opened”.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

The shell museum is not left open all the time, but visitors are welcomed and private tours can be arranged by calling 475-7868.

Cherokee Shell Museum, Abaco Bahamas / Gifts from the Sea / Cinder Pinder

To see a selection of the many types of Abaco shells, check out my shell page HERE

Sources and Credits: Bradley Albury / Jennifer Hudson / Abaconian; Cindy James Pinder for her great photos

Sand dollar, Abaco (Rolling Harbour)


Rock Pool, Abaco 2


Here’s a promising-looking rocky outcrop a short distance south of Crossing Rocks. The action of the sea over centuries has eroded and pitted it – ideal for the formation of pools in which marine life can thrive.Rock Pool, Abaco 1

Time to clamber up to see if the theory holds good… the prospects are encouraging. There are certainly plenty of sea urchins here.Rock Pool, Abaco 4

Let’s zoom in on the nearest pool. There are clearly 2 different-coloured sea urchins here, but I’m not sure if that’s an age thing or a species thing. Rock Pool, Abaco 6

Apart from the sea urchins, there are some shells and other things that need a closer look…Rock Pool, Abaco 5

At the bottom of these photos, you can see that a zebra-marked nerite is quite happy to share a hole with an urchin. There are two brownish accretions on or in the rock. My tentative suggestion is that these are the shells of some sort of worm, perhaps petaloconchus.

UPDATE Rick Guest helpfully comments “Yes, it’s quite the invertebrate hotel mostly due to the urchin’s talent for scouring out protective “rooms”. Of interest is the Magpie shell (Livona pica) in frames 4 and 5. The rather ubiquitous Livona’s very thick shell, (Up to 5″ diameter) and ability to withstand most attempts at removal by predators, including Homo sapiens, assures their continued presence on littoral shore lines. They are edible, but not particular tasty to my palet. All these “Condo” residents “party” at night and will even leave the rock in search of food and perhaps romance, so a flash pic of the condo at night would be an interesting contrast to a daylight shot”.ROCK POOLS, ABACO 11

In a snug little cave (top right) just above the water-level of the pool is a primitive-looking chiton, a species that has been around for millions of years. Below, there’s a clearer image of one from a different pool. These creatures always remind me of school projects on prehistoric trilobites.Rock Pool, Abaco 7Rock Pool, Abaco 10

The rough rocky surfaces close to the pool are covered in shells. The stripey nerites are small, the grey shells really are miniature.  They are mostly littorines/ periwinkles and perhaps ceriths, I think.Rock Pool, Abaco 9Rock Pool, Abaco 12

Close-up views of nerites showing their distinctive markings and spiralsRock Pool, Abaco 13Rock Pool, Abaco 14