KLIPSAN - In a find that is sure to excite a fresh flurry of beachcombing, Colleen Bardonski found a perfect abalone shell the size of a dinner plate while walking on the shore near 177th last week.

After the find, University of Washington scientists identified it as red abalone, Haliotis rufescens, which is found from southern Oregon down to Baja Mexico. It was attached to a large kelp stalk and Bardonski said she was thrilled to see it when she went over to check out a large wad of washed-up material.

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is the first such shell reported on our beach in at least three decades.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a retired UW oceanographer who specializes in studying ocean currents and beach debris, said last week, "The Davidson Current could have transported the kelp from as far south as Santa Barbara Channel to Washington. The Davidson Current reverses to heading to the north about October. That would give the drift some 100 days to transport the shell here over a distance of some 500 miles."

He said it looks like the abalone had grown on a rock and the kelp had attached itself to the abalone. "Then along came a storm that ripped up the kelp, taking the abalone along with it."

Abalone is one of the most beautiful Pacific seashells, producing a bluish rainbow sheen of polished colors. The native peoples of the Pacific Northwest treasured the shells for ceremonial use and traded them up and down the coast.


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