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On Aug. 27, 2011, Hurricane Irena blew into North Carolina. A few days later, Museum of Coastal Carolina volunteer coordinator Judy Sobota was walking along Ocean Isle Beach, curious to see what treasures Irene might have left. She spotted what she initially thought was a large rock. Upon closer inspection, she realized the rock was actually a large Florida horse conch that had been stranded on the beach.
She approached a nearby family and asked if she could trade her backpack for one of their large pails; the family agreed. The pail proved to be just the right size for transporting the conch to the museum’s touch tank.
On Aug. 29, the conch, nicknamed Irene by the museum’s touch tank volunteers (although they are not really sure of the conch’s sex), celebrates its first-year anniversary at the museum.
The Florida horse conch is the largest snail found in American waters; it can grow to a length of 24 inches. This makes it one of the world’s largest univalves. The soft animal itself is bright orange and can retract entirely into its shell.
Like most Florida horse conchs, Irene is a solitary creature. More than 14 inches long, Irene patrols the museum’s touch tank like a large float in a parade. Sea stars often climb onboard for a ride. When she is hungry, which appears to be most of the time, Irene likes to eat clams. If you put an unopened clam underneath her, she will open the shell and devour the contents.
Come visit Irene and celebrate her anniversary at the Museum of Coastal Carolina, 21 East Second St. on Ocean Isle Beach, on Aug. 29. Admission is free for museum members. Non-member all-day admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, $4 for ages 3-4, and free for ages 2 and younger. All-day admission includes admission to afternoon and evening family programs on that day.
On Aug. 29, the 3:30 p.m. program is “Who Are You Swimming With?” and the 7 p.m. program is “Pirates Ahoy!” Call 579-1016 or visit www.MuseumPlanetarium.org for more information.