Wednesday, 4 July 2012


Gloria maris sea shell.  The largest and smallest (ever) found.
Once the most rare shell in the world.  Wally reveals the details behind his discovery - recorded just a few months before he passed away in 2006.  Gloria maris ("Glory of the Sea")


Wally Gibbins put an end to that when he found dozens in the Solomon Islands. It was a location where few divers ventured – protection of the shells guaranteed by saltwater crocs and a few sharks. i.e. river mouths on black sand at night in 60 feet of water under rotting tree’s.
Not where tourists and ‘sporting divers’ are likely to frolic.
The price of Gloria Maris dropped from thousands of dollars each to a few hundred bucks today when dozens of the shells slowly crept onto the market.


When a shell collector is a mega billionaire, the effort to find a new species can be staggering. No expense is spared. John duPont (USA) mounted an expedition in search of the volute thatcheri in the 1960′s, even producing a motion picture film of the quest.
Today, scuba diving has taken a different direction There are more distractions than in the old days when you either speared fish or talked about aqualungs. Underwater photography was a complex and difficult hobby – pre automatic Nikonos camera’s in the 1980′s.
A final point on sea shells is the number of species in the ocean. Something like 4:1 of the known fish species. What exists in the very deep depths is the final frontier.

 Friends visiting Wally at his Sunday market 'sea shells for sale' stand. 
A small part of Valerie Taylor's former collection at home in the Sydney suburb of Roseville.

Ted Louis began collecting shells in 1959, being inspired by Wally Gibbins collection.
In the center left to right are Gloria maris, perplicata and thatcheri volute shells that are legendary among collectors. Each species has a unique and sometimes exciting story that lead to it’s discovery.
The three brilliant colored shells are Golden cowries.
Diving played a part in some recent discoveries. In other examples it was the extreme location of the shell that kept it hidden from the world. 
Distant Coral Sea reefs especially where the cost of fuel today now protects these locations. Few boats are prepared to travel this vast distance.
To understand the value and rarity of shells easier: volute shells have markings according to their habitat location.
A volute at Chesterfield Reefs has different marking to those on the Great Barrier Reef. Heron Island has a volute not found outside its zone. And so it goes.

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