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Islander’s shell blog celebrates five years, worldwide feedback

By Staff | Oct 29, 2014

Pam Rambo this month celebrates five years of her Iloveshelling.com blog. CRAIG GARRETT

Here’s how Pam Rambo spends a morning in Sanibel on her laptop: “After a week sailing, snorkeling and beach combing in the Bahamas, I’m feeling in the pink. So are our seashells! As I unpacked each of these lovely gems admiring their beauty and remembering how much fun it was to find them, I realized how many Caribbean seashells from the Bahamas are pink. Even the OLIVES are pink! We found lots of NETTED OLIVES but 2 of them were gorgeous glossy passionate pink.”

Sweet work, if you can get it.

Rambo this month is celebrating five years of her ILoveShelling.com, a blog so popular that the New York Times has coined the term “shell-ebrity” in describing her work. Since 2009, Rambo has received and answered thousands of questions about shelling, travels to shelling paradises, including Sanibel and Captiva, regarded as meccas in shelling circles. She has visited Thailand, Belize, much of the Caribbean in researching and searching for shell treasures, reporting the findings on her blog.

She blogs several times a week, reviewing travel spots, shell finds, mostly responding these days to queries and posts she gets from island visitors and enthusiasts from around the world. Shelling is a billion-dollar industry, with workshops, trade fairs and collectors counted in the millions. Sanibel’s Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is considered one of the world’s finest and boasts an unequalled shell collection.

That she sort of stumbled on the idea of writing and responding to bloggers about shelling — what she terms “beach bling” — adds to the joy in her work, said Rambo, an artist by trade and former island merchant. She started the blog in 2009 to troll for interest in gift cards that she had made, with her art on the cards and whimsical inserts reading things like “Happy Hanu-Conch” and “Shell-om.”

“I’m still pretty shocked someone out there in the universe thought it (blog) was cool. After my first response, I was hooked,” she said.

Rambo’s webwork today is a cottage industry of sorts: She sells shirts, shell identification guides and some advertising on her site, leads shell adventure tours. It is mostly a break-even project, she said. But her work is mostly about the passion of shelling. She has received in five years thousands of comments, photos and questions on her blog. She and her husband, Clark, have also been invited to exotic shelling venues, to explore and blog about the experiences, she said, including rare trips to Cuba. She is also considered an expert on the thousands of species of mollusks and shells the critters use as home, shell crafting, the handling of shells washing up on thousands of beaches throughout the world.

She works mostly from a “Shell-abatory” in the bottom room of her Dunes home, collecting and sorting shells, urchins and egg casings. It is a fun and happy room, underlined by a life-sized cardboard Pam Rambo gifted by friends.

The obvious question for a nonsheller is why, that it seems silly to collect a vacated apartment that is certain to spread sand and clutter in our homes?

“I believe,” she said, “that it’s from childhood, collecting shells on a beach. Something sticks with you, all those treasures coming in. It’s a draw.”

Rambo’s role in shelling over five years has evolved, she said, from the adventurer’s joy to serious advocacy. She preaches conservation in her blog, during the many encounters on beaches with her blogging fans in Sanibel and beyond.

Her message: “(People) have shoeboxes of shells in their closets. You see the bags and bags of shells on the beaches. We’re over-shelling. In the next five years, we’re going to promote only taking what (you) can use.”