The moon’s gravitational pull affects the ocean water and the creatures living in them. And interestingly, the number of shells that appear on the beach change with the phases of the moon. As a shell collector, it’s worth finding out which phase of the moon is best for picking up shells.
The new moon and full moon are the best phases for discovering seashells on the beach. During these phases, the gravitational pull on the ocean is strongest, leading to extremely high and low tides. This phenomenon exposes more of the shoreline than usual, so you can find plenty of shells.
As the phases of the moon have such a significant impact on shell collecting, learning how the moon affects the tide can help you make the most of it. In this article, we’ll explore which phase of the moon is best for finding shells and mention a few other conditions that are ideal for shell collecting.
Why the New and Full Moon Are the Best Phases for Shelling
If you’ve ever been at the beach during the new and full moon, you may notice how the waves are higher than usual. If you spend enough time, you’ll see that the tide tends to rise and fall more than normal during this time of the month. These phases of the moon produce the highest and lowest tides, making them the best times to collect sea shells.
When the tide is higher, it means a greater volume of water is being pulled up from the ocean and onto the beach. This rise in the tide is due to the additional gravitational pull from the moon during this time of the month. Because a greater volume of water is displaced, there is an increase in the number of sea shells that will wash up on the beach.
Additionally, the tides also recede more than usual during this time. As this happens, the ocean reveals a greater portion of the shoreline, exposing sea shells that may have been previously hidden.
To sum up, the ocean pushes out more sea shells than usual and, as the water recedes, it reveals more sea shells. The combination of high tides and low tides during the new and full moon make these the best phases for picking up shells at the beach.
If you’re wondering why the tides rise and fall the most during these moon phases, here’s a quick explanation.
The new moon occurs when the moon is between the Sun and the Earth, while the full moon occurs when the Earth is between the Sun and the moon.
In both phases, the Earth, Sun, and moon are in alignment. We know the moon exerts a gravitational pull on the Earth, but so does the Sun.
As such, when the moon and Sun are in a straight line, the tides are affected by the gravitational pull of both bodies simultaneously. This phenomenon causes extra high and low tides known as spring tides.
Tips for Finding the Best Shells
As we’ve established, the new and full moon are the best phases to search for sea shells, as most of the beach is exposed during these times. Armed with this knowledge, you can make the most of your shell-collecting shenanigans.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind to ensure you find the best shells.
High and low tides come in cycles that occur twice every day. This means that twice during the day the tide will rise to its highest possible level and recede to its lowest point. The best time to look for shells is during low tides, as the beach is completely exposed.
The first phase of low tides typically occurs early in the morning on most beaches. To make the most of this phase, you want to head to the beach as early as possible, when the tide reaches its highest point. Here, start collecting shells as the tide begins to recede during the low tide cycle.
Using this method, you can take your time shelling and find the perfect specimens as the water gradually reveals them over time. Picking shells this way will also restrict your area of search so you can spend more time looking carefully.
Starting early also gives you the advantage over the stragglers who decide to sleep in, so you have most of the beach to yourself. Sure, there’s another phase of low tide in the afternoon or evening, but the best shells may be gone by then.
Wait for Storms
The ideal conditions to find shells would be early in the morning, during low tide, and right after a storm the previous night.
Of course, the three may not align, but if you’re sleeping through a storm at night, be sure to visit the beach in the morning as you’re likely to find the most sea shells.
During a storm, the water is churned up more than usual, and buried shells are tossed about by the waves and brought to the surface. As such, shells that may have been buried for months are suddenly washed up on the beach. So if there’s a storm coming, be sure to stick around to enjoy the sea shell bounty that’s sure to follow.
Look in Weird Places
During new and full moon phases the tides rise more than usual. And if there’s just been a storm, the ocean is sure to spew out more shells than normal. The force with which these shells are expelled may cause them to land up in various parts of the beach hidden from the naked eye.
You’re sure to find shells on the exposed sand, but take some time to look at spots behind the rocks and even in bushes you find on the beach. Chances are, a few shells may have landed there during the storm or been placed there during high tide.
Visit in the Off-Season
Going to the beach off-season may sound like a bad idea, but it’s probably the best time to collect sea shells. The main reason for this is that there are few (if any) other visitors on the beach.
And unlike us, the ocean doesn’t know it’s off-season and will continue to experience high and low tides while being affected by the moon.
Fun fact: Did you know that someone who collects seashells is called a conchologist? Check out my article to learn what to call other types of collectors: What Do You Call Someone Who Collects Things?
What To Keep in Mind While Shelling
Now you’re aware of how the moon phases affect your shelling prospects. If you visit the beach at the right time of the month you can maximize your chances of finding rare and beautiful specimens. And while shell collecting is a great way to pass the time, there’s one crucial point to keep in mind when collecting shells.
Return Live Sea Shells to the Water
Most people (especially poachers and commercial trawlers) look for shells that contain live mollusks as they are typically in better condition than dead shells. When they find these specimens, they forcibly remove them from the shell or leave them out to dehydrate and die.
As a shell collector, you must avoid repeating such cruel behavior. The only time you should take home a sea shell is when you can be sure that there’s no one living in it. Most mollusks can’t survive more than a few hours outside the water, and leaving them out to dry is unnecessarily cruel.
Aside from ethical concerns, removing a live shell from its environment can disrupt the ecosystem in ways we can’t comprehend. This disturbance can have a ripple effect for generations to come.
For starters, these live mollusks will reproduce to create more of their own, and removing them can reduce the overall population down the line. Additionally, there may be other creatures who depend on these shells for sustenance, and taking the shells home deprives them of a food source.
Finally, smaller marine creatures latch onto live sea shells to anchor themselves and keep from being washed up on shore. As you can see, taking live sea shells home can have negative repercussions on other marine animals.
As such, you want to ensure you’re only taking home dead shells to minimize damage to the environment.
Here’s how you can be sure:
- Look for the operculum. It’s like a trap door that seals the mollusk in its shell. It looks like a flap at the opening of the shell. If you see one, the mollusk is probably alive and should be returned.
- Look for movement when you pick up the shell. Even sea urchins like starfish and sand dollars have spiny legs that move when they’re alive.
Collecting shells during the new and full moon phase can be exciting as various shells get washed up during this time. The beach also seems like a more magical place when the tides are at their extremes.
Just be sure to check for signs of life before you bring home a sea shell.