The World War II-era flash bomb that washed ashore in St. Pete Beach over the weekend may be the noisiest thing to hit Florida shores since Spring Break, and it's certainly not the kind of shell people expect to find at the beach.
But it's far from the strangest thing to wash up on a Florida beach.
Because Florida has more coastline than any of the other contiguous 48 states, passing ocean currents toss a lot of oddball flotsam and jetsam our way, according to Stephen Leatherman, a Florida International University professor known as "Dr. Beach."
All over Florida, government cleanup crews go out every morning to scoop up the hundreds of pounds of seaweed that land in the wrack line overnight. Their job is making a natural beach look pretty for the tourists. While cleaning, though, the crews also find such things as a cow's head, part of a European rocket and 1,000 pairs of shoes.
Florida's beaches are a constant reminder of the joys of serendipity. Beachcombers have found everything from body parts to wild boar carcasses to bales of marijuana, better known as "square grouper."
Take the softball-sized eyeball that turned up on Pompano Beach in 2012. The unblinking blue eye caught the world's attention, prompting widespread speculation. Could it be from a giant squid? A whale? Maybe Chthulu?
Biologists finally concluded it belonged to a swordfish — although nobody could explain how the fish lost an eye, or whether it might now be wearing a patch like a pirate.
In 2011, beachgoers in Sarasota discovered an eight-foot-tall Lego figure made of fiberglass. On its chest were the words, "NO REAL THAN YOU ARE." The sheriff's department took it into custody, but later handed it over to the founder of the Sarasota Chalk Festival, who shipped it back to the Dutch artist who made it, who calls himself Ego Leonard.
Early Florida settlers counted on using whatever washed ashore to survive — lumber, food, clothing, dishes, and so forth. Sometimes they found a mystery, too. Once hundreds of casks of Spanish wine landed on the Atlantic beaches, although there was no sign of any shipwreck to explain their origin.
In 1878, a ship called the "Providencia" traveling from Havana to Barcelona was wrecked in a storm and washed up near Lake Worth. When eager settlers checked the cargo hold they found nothing but coconuts. At a loss for what else to do, they planted them.
The trees that sprouted gave Palm Beach its name.
Sharks, dolphins and ink-squirting octopi have beached themselves in Florida with some regularity. The most famous bit of sea life to ever land in Florida was a weird blob of flesh found in 1896 and dubbed the "St. Augustine Monster."
Although there has been speculation it came from a giant squid or even a space alien, more recent tests have determined it was blubber from a passing whale.
Some of the stranger sights on Florida's beaches involve creatures that are still alive. A crowd gathered on Pompano Beach on Monday morning to watch a dozen manatees thrashing around in the shallows. The sea cows were mating.