Shell Collecting and Diving

by B. N. Sullivan

diverAwhile back, a repairman came to our home.  As he passed through our house on his way to the offending appliance he was there to fix, he screeched to a halt beside a display case in our dining room.  Inside the display case were several hundred small seashells.

He told us he was an avid shell collector and asked if we would mind if he took a moment to look over our collection.  We told him to go right ahead.

He stood there for awhile, quietly reciting the names of the different shell species as his eyes passed over the rows in the display.  It was obvious that he knew something about shells.  At length, he looked up at us and declared, "This is a really beautiful collection!  You must have spent a fortune for these."

Jerry and I exchanged puzzled looks, and then one of us told him we had paid nothing for the shells.  We had found all of them.

The repairman's eyebrows raised in surprise.  He said, "You must be divers -- and you must do a lot of deep dives."

We acknowledged that this was so, but then asked how he knew that.  He said, "You have a lot of shells that are never found on the beach, and a lot of those only live in deep water.  If you didn't buy them, then you must do a lot of deep diving to have so many different deep water species."

Then he looked at the display case again and commented, "Funny, though.  I don't see any cowries. Most divers who collect shells have at least some cowries..."

The cowries were in the next room, we told him,  in a separate display case.  We led him there to see our cowrie collection.  His gaze zeroed in like a laser on a small cowrie in the middle of a row in the display.  He pointed to it and gasped, "You actually found this one?!"

We told him where we had found it, and he shook his head in amazement.  We took the shell out of the display case so that the repairman could have a better look.  As he turned it over in the palm of his hand,  he said he had been trying to acquire an example of that shell species for years.  Several times, he told us, he had seen one for sale at auctions, but he never could afford them.  He said they always sold for more than five hundred dollars.  

Now it was our turn to be amazed!  We never buy shells, nor do we sell them, so we never had thought of  our shells in terms of monetary value -- and the one that was supposedly worth so much wasn't even among the prettiest of our shells!  We do  have lots of very pretty shells, but the most cherished shells in our collection are those  that have a personal story attached to them. 

In the next post, we will give our readers some pointers about how to find shells while diving, and then we will tell about -- and show --  some of our favorite shells.  Stay tuned.

About the Photo: That's our friend Dan, looking for shells among the rocks in a surge area along the coast of Puako, Hawaii.


  1. I'm interested in seeing your next post. We've been in places which post signs saying to leave the shells for the enjoyment of others, just as one shouldn't pick the wildflowers on a nature trail. Needless to say, our shell collection is pret-ty small.

  2. I collect rocks and I never buy them. It ruins the thrill of actually finding them!

  3. @ LavenderBay - There are reasons why many beaches and marine preserves have "no take" policies as you describe, and my next post does touch on that issue.

    @ ScienceGuy - Yep, that's exactly how we feel about shell collecting, too. Others have different views on the subject, however.


  4. I'll be waiting to see your shells. I know nothing about shell collecting, but I'm interested just the same.
    We have collected many things in our married life, but never shells.

  5. Hi Becky - I guess most of us collect things, based on our individual interests. For us, shell collecting is a natural!


  6. Oh Bobbie - I hope you will share some photos of your shells - and don't forget the stories - that's the best part!

    It is always such a joy to visit you - take care!!


  7. Hi Kathy -

    Yes, we will be publishing photos of some of the favorites in our shell collection, along with stories about how we came to acquire them.

    And thank you so much for the complimentary comments. We know you've been a reader of The Right Blue for a long time, and we value your feedback.

    Bobbie and Jerry

  8. Excellent article. I find it nearly impossible to find dive charters in the Caribbean that allow collecting. Even if not in marine reserves. Where do you go to collect? Any tips? Thanks. TMH


We welcome your comments and invite your questions. Dialogue is a good thing!

Bobbie & Jerry