A fossilized sand dollar. Photo: Kristin Hissong

The Outer Banks is known for its shoaling, where sand is being tossed around by underwater currents which creates shallow bars that can be there one day, and gone the next. These currents can be so powerful when storms are approaching, that they can bring up sand that is thousands of years old. On rare occasions, this old sand has equally old seashells, which is how you can find fossilized sand dollars.

These fossilized sand dollars are as hard as rocks, encrusted with extremely hard sand. They could have become fossils from an underwater magma leak from an opening in a fault line, or just died of natural causes before being buried under the depths of the sea for thousands of years. In many of the ones I have found, I can see a part of their five-star pores, which is like their signature marking to most collectors. To the untrained eye, and sometimes even to experts, they can appear to be camouflaged, as they are flat and usually sand color.

Whether it’s freshly deceased or an ancient fossilized sand dollar you are looking for, if you walk a little slower and think a little less about all that stuff that matters, you may have a chance of finding one of these spectacular gifts from the ever generous ocean.

This story is provided courtesy of the Island Free Press, a digital newspaper covering Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Free Press to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest along our coast.