CONE SHELL “Gloria Maris” The Late Wal Gibbins collection

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At one time **the worlds’ rarest and most valueable sea shell** the conus \Gloria Maris\ or “Glory of the Sea”.

A keen shell collector with a memory for the latin names, Wal Gibbins discovered the previously unknown South Pacific habitat of this elusive prize in the Solomon Islands.

The shell liked deep dark water. Unlike some other cones this one can be found in daylight hours. Trouble was, the same territory (the entrance to rivers) was favoured by saltwater crocs and nearby sharks of all sizes inhabited the open water. This discouraged a lot of divers from looking there.

By late 1970 Wal has shocked the shell museums of the world with a price list that detailed specimens of many sizes.

A very rare shell in 1969, in good condition was worth $10,000 to a keen collector (in today’s adjusted values). In 1969 there were only 76 known specimens of \Gloria Maris\ which consisted mainly of dead specimens washed up on beaches in the Phillipines and New Guinea. Only three were known from the Solomons, but this was a good clue.

Diving had the ability to find perfect specimens. Wal discovered the habitat and found as many as 30 shells in one day, but usually just a couple. They were released onto the world market at half-price. But the prices dropped rapidly. Specimens were donated to three museums in Australia.

Pictured above is the smallest and the largest \Gloria Maris\ ever found by Wal, and therefore probably the two known extremes of size.

For some reason, the smaller shell seems rather cute and unique. The entire collection is therefore ‘priceless’ (not for sale).


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**We have been taught by our elders \to throw the little fish back and only keep the largest.\**

Fisheries inspectors will charge anyone for taking \any undersized fish\, (even although prawn trawler kill tonnes of undersized fish every day in their nets)! A crazy, stupid, out-of-date attitude that mocks common sense and discredits the good intentions of fisheries inspectors. Surely \they\ know better but why hasn’t a change occured?

Anglers (and spearmen) with big smiles pose with the catch, best has always been ‘the biggest’.

The first recognition a change of attitude was needed came with the long overdue protection of all large NSW rock lobster.

It was finally realised, The Big Ones were **the breeding stock,** and they are now protected, a little too late as that industry has \almost\ collapsed.

But what about fish? The largest fish produce more eggs. Shouldn’t big fish be left in the sea? The smaller fish are less contaminated by heavy metal and other pollutants anyway.

This valid point was raised 35 years ago by **Dr Richard Ibara** (our talented USA correspondent for **fathom** magazine). I’ve been a bit slow sparking thought in this area, but the level of thought and care toward the sea is now highest (as per the current TV campaign **”only rain should go in the drain” **reminding many that cigarette butts should not go onto the street drains – and ultimately the sea).

All sea creatures deserve recognition \regardless\ of size. Big is not always best, or healthiest for us to eat for that matter. Food for further thoughts……


**A mirror calm surface producing beautiful reflections underwater, a colourful and pretty model who shows self-confidence AND a unique natural history subject – the magic ingredients for a good picture.**

Turtles obviously do a lot of mating, but the trick is getting close \without\ spooking them into fright and flight.

We were diving with **Ron Isbel** and noted USA underwater cameramen on a \Wild Kingdom\ TV project near Heron Island, when my long-term model **Christine Danaher** spotted a splashing pair on the surface in the far distance.

My simple Nikonos V 15mm lens and no bulky strobe we swam toward the action. Christine modeled beautifully. She is a petite girl and a good diver in-so-far that she enjoys making contact with marine animals and has ultimate trust \ they know she means them no harm.\

It seems to work. The turtle didn’t mind our approach. A group of people in the water at the same time could have produced a different outcome.

So while there is safety in swimming underwater with a group, there are dis-advantages if you seek rare pictures like the one above, shown here, in low resolution to protect copyright.