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Indrek Lepson


On our way to Honiara on the Constellation in 1979, we stopped at Shell Island.


There is a grouping of three small islands, called "The three sisters", and this is one of them.


It may be named thus because of the profusion of shells that are washed ashore there, more so than on any other island that I have visited.

Where we anchored, the beach was littered with shells, rare and common.

Among many that we collected, were four large Triton shells.

We asked a native if he had seen any golden cowries, as they are highly prized by collectors, large ones selling for hundreds of dollars.


He had three beautiful large specimens, one of which was at least five inches long.

A collector would "shell" out a lot of money for that one.

He showed us how to whistle for hermit crabs*.

He held a shell between his thumb and forefinger, and sort of warbled in a high pitch whistle, is the best way that I can describe it.

Soon the crab would emerge and look around.

He stopped whistling, and the crab returned to its habitat.

They do that for amusement, not to eat them.

One wonders how they came up with that.

A shell that I'm quite familiar with is the cone shell, a deadly beauty.

It has killed many collectors who have found them in shallow waters or while diving on reefs, and been stung, either when holding them in their hand, or, finding one at low tide, by putting it in their pocket, and got stung through their clothing.

I have handled some, not knowing of their deadly properties.

They are rather small, but pack a deadly wallop.

Amazingly, this seemingly innocuous beauty is one of the deadliest marine predators.

In a bit of gallows humor, this snail is sometimes called the "cigarette snail", because the victim has only enough time to smoke a cigarette before dying.

Google "Cone snail", if interested.

There's a video that actually shows the snail killing a victim, and swallowing it whole.

An odd epitaph to read: He was killed by a snail.

This reminds me of snail races, where you watch the escargot.

* Hermit crabs live in abandoned shells. When they outgrow their home, they leave it, and look for a bigger one, and the cycle is repeated.

While looking at the beach, it seems as if the surface is moving.

That's thousands of them, skittering around like marine cock-roaches.


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