Visitors who come to this balmy and breezy little island that shares its size with Manhattan, NY are immediately swept up by its untamed natural beauty. Passing over the bridge that connects the island with the mainland, the fast-paced world is transformed into a place of quiet solitude. Sanibel is a place visitors of all ages do not soon forget.
The island is situated at a special place in the Gulf of Mexico - it has an east/west alignment. From the south comes a prevailing wind and strong currents that cause this eleven mile-long, 3 mile-wide island to become a scoop for seashells (Scherman, 159). It is one of the top places in the world to observe, collect and admire these natural treasures.
Interestingly, modern day islanders and visitors are not the only ones who have benefited from the island's abundant natural resources. Through archaeological studies, it is known that indigenous peoples, the Calusa Indians, lived on Sanibel Island long before the arrival of the first Europeon explorers. The Calusa inhabited the Southwest Gulf Coast of FL within a diverse ecosystem, abundant with many species of animals and fish. The politically dominant people of the middle-late archaic period in Florida, they thrived for thousands of years and lived in a highly-stratified society, complete with extensive navigable canals that linked towns together. The abundant nature of shells on the island was incorporated into the Calusa culture and had both utilitarian and aesthetic purposes.
An Island For All Senses - Tropical Sun in The Day, Starry Sky in the Nights
sunset walks like this one captured by award-winning Sanibel photographer,
David Meardon, is your idea of slipping into a calm, relaxing tropical
evening, Sanibel is the place to be. Even after dark, take a good look
upward into the dark sky - it will be absent of bright city lights.
The Sanibel sky is strewn with a palette of thousands of bright stars.
The Economy of Seashells
No matter where they come from, tourists of all ages spend their time learning about the island's history at the Sanibel Historical Museum, learning about the diverse wildlife that inhabits the island at the J.N. Ding Jarling Wildlife Refuge, or the ecology of the most famous island inhabitants, mollusks, during their visit to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. Visitors also enjoy the art of local artists in many cozy little boutiques and shops that sell wind chimes, jewelry, lamps, paperweights, decorative boxes and ornaments. And of course, conversations in these shops are usually centered around shelling. They provide a good stopping point between a day's activities, and a good place to catch up on island news and the tide report!
Of the many expeditions that sailed to The New World,
shells were among were among the items brought back to Europe. The pages
ahead address the significanct uses and meanings of shells in societies
in addition to the Calusa Indians of southwest Florida.
Many thanks to the individuals who have contributed materials and suggestions for this website. Please visit the acknowledgements for a complete list of contributors. A full list of source materials can be viewed on the source link.