Wednesday, February 16, 2011


(The last story, at least for a while,  from our ten day visit to the Yucatan in January 2011)

Maybe because I am Capricorn, water is my second home.  My primary reason for traveling to the Caribbean was the clear sea and the world below its waves.  On our first visit twelve years ago we were only able to spend a short time with fins and snorkel exploring the reefs in the shallow warm water.
 On this trip there was much more time to investigate the goings on under the sea.

“Darling it’s better down where it’s wetter under the sea.”

We did our best to keep our hands off the coral and other sea plants and animals; both for their safety and ours.  But when I saw a large mossy shell on the sandy bottom I couldn’t resist diving down to investigate.  It was a full grown Queen Conch (pronounced conk) snail.  I thought at first it was a hermit crab living in an abandoned shell since there was a big claw down inside.  I hauled it back to our bungalow for further inspection.

 Here is the conch on its back in a basin of sea water.

We left it undisturbed with the base down, and before long two little tentacles poked out to survey the new surroundings.   The foot came out with the big claw to dig in and pull the shell around.

We did a Google search to discover more about my find.  We learned the meat is second only to escargot as a delicacy, but the usual method to extract the snail is to cut the tip off the shell which releases the animal.  There was no way I was going to get this guy home alive and I really wanted the shell intact.  I finally found a site that gave instructions to remove the snail without harming the shell.

 I tried not to think about it too much and immersed the conch in water and heated it almost to boiling. 

When the water cooled I used a pair of scissors as large tweezers to pull out the snail.

It was a bizarre creature that lived in that little spiral house.

There were all kinds of recipes for conch chowders, and fritters on the internet, but this would require a lot of shopping and cooking.  So I asked Deeno, the little Mayan man who was the caretaker of our building, if he would like the conch meat.  He was very happy to take it home.  He said his wife had a great recipe for ceviche and could put it to use. 

He also brought back some bleach and a bucket so we could soak the shell and remove the moss and algae.

I asked him if there would be a problem taking the shell out of the country.  “It’s just a shell, no problem,” he said.

He was right.  So my Queen Conch and a few other shells we gathered came back to high, dry Idaho to remind us of our vacation.  And, yes, you can hear the ocean when you put it to your ear.


Linda Sue said...

And Leenie if that is you in the black suit behind the flippers- OOO LA-LA! What a babe! The underwater shot is fabulous- the fish smiling so sweetly for their photo session. Looks absolutely lovely.

TALON said...

Poor little guy - but nice to know he didn't go to waste. And that conch is a beauty! I have one from Jamaica and every time I put it to my ear, I close my eyes, listen to ocean and take a mini mental vacation back to sun and surf :)

Nutty Gnome said...

I bet diving there was fantastic! I've only dived in the cold, murky waters of converted quarries or the North Sea off the UK coast - verrrry cold! I dream of diving somewhere warm and clear :)

thanks for a nice blog, I really enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

We snorkelled on a wonderful holiday in the Maldives some years ago - a great achievement as neither of us is a very good swimmer. It was only slightly marred when I was bitten by a trigger fish!! Your shell is fabulous - I have some tiny purple shells that I brought back from New Zealand.

Buttons said...

Nice shell. I love shells what a great way to find one. I have only found small ones on a beach once in Vancouver B.C. I thought that was great. Wow good for you. B

susan m hinckley said...

What a lovely shell! And so fun to have the bragging rights of having retrieved it yourself (and dealt with the inhabitant -- you're a braver woman than I am!)

Just glad I didn't have to eat the meat -- snails are not in any of my food groups.