The second round of the Presidential election is scheduled for Saturday, between the top two candidates from the first round. However the candidate who came third claims there’s been a major fraud (despite international observers giving high praise to the process) and has been arguing his case in the Supreme Court all week. The Court has ordered the election be delayed until they hand down a decision, but the Electoral Commission is torn between the court order on one hand, or the Parliament and Constitution on the other telling them to go ahead – there’s much confusion about which way they will lean. Widespread protests and disruption seem likely either way.
So it seems like a good week to write a piece about seashells.
I love walking on beaches and exploring what has washed in with the tide, and can’t resist going home with a few treasures in my pocket. Here, I walk on a beach sprinkled with interesting seashells every day so I have set myself some rules for collecting. After all, my baggage allowance for the flight home is limited.
My self-imposed guidelines are:
1) Just one good example of each species.
2) Don’t take shells that are inhabited.
3) Only keep shells I’ve found myself – no outsourcing to souvenir shops or schoolboys wanting to earn pocket money (because shops and schoolboys don’t follow Rule #2).
Rule #1 gets relaxed a bit because some are just too nice; a range of sizes is interesting; and I want to share some with grandkids, but I’m inflexible on the other two.
I’d have a much more interesting and diverse collection if it wasn’t for Rule #2 and hermit crabs. There’s a few beautiful species of shell that I don’t have because, no matter how soon I get to the beach after high tide or storm surge, hermit crabs have been their first. They are discerning, only taking up residence in the very best quality shells. However a colleague tells me that on his island a population explosion has caused an accommodation crisis and homeless hermit crabs have started moving into Coke bottle lids.
Ambitious hermit crabs are particularly annoying. They’re the ones who move into a shell several sizes too large and can hide around the corner when I check if there’s anyone in residence. I only find out about them when I’m half way home and start getting nipped through my pocket lining.
Today I saw a species of shell that I particularly wanted, and that hermit crabs particularly like. It was lying on the beach surrounded by half a dozen hermit crabs, but was still vacant. It looked like they were having a meeting of the housing committee to decide who should move in. More likely, they were all waiting to grab it but weren’t game to move out of their current home and expose their tender parts while others with sharp nippers were watching, so it was a standoff until I dashed their hopes and pocketed their prize.
The spider conch makes the most spectacular shell I’ve seen around here. They’re too big and awkward for hermit crabs but the creature is delicious to eat so I’m competing with humans for this one. Around the island they were wiped out long ago but people still bring them back from outer reefs – piles of smashed shells on the beach are evidence of barbecues. Too bad they can’t extract dinner without destroying the shells.
I did find a small one on the beach after a storm. Its owner/builder was deceased but hadn’t entirely vacated the premises so I had to let the ants in my courtyard work on the clean-up for a few weeks before it could come inside.
I don’t know whether I’ll be able to take my small collection home. I’ve been told that Maldivian Customs will only allow you to take out shells if they were purchased from souvenir shops and have ‘Maldives’ stamped on them – this proves that they are actually from Thailand. There may also be problems at the Australian end despite my ethical collecting practices, so I’m taking plenty of photos just in case I can’t keep the real thing.