Shell Collection

A vast collection of sea shells from the Eastern Cape and around the world is on display at the Kowie Museum.

Herewith is an excerpt from “The Marine Shells of Port Alfred South Africa” by Lt Col W H Turton DSO.

“At the close of the Boer War, in 1902, I decided to go to Port Alfred as I heard it was a good place for shells. I found them so extraordinarily abundant that I have kept to the place ever since. Altogether, I have paid six visits to Port Alfred. The first three were in 1902, 1904, and 1905; the next three visits were in 1911 and 1923-4 and 1930-1. And as I stayed there ten, sixteen and ten months, respectively, I quite hoped to complete the collection: but far from this being the case I kept finding fresh species up to the last week I was there.

All the shells were found on the beach, between high and low water mark, and they were all found within ten miles of the village, the ten-mile mark conveniently marked by the Kasouga River on the West, and the West Kleinmond River on the East. AS London shell dealer told me once that he thought 400 species would be a world record. I have found 1571 not counting varieties and those not good enough to name (1843 altogether). I found the best places for shells were Kowie Point, three miles west of Port Alfred; Rufan’s (sic) River, or just beyond it, three miles east; and Black Rocks, or Three Sisters, nine miles east.

In December 1905 I presented these collections, with duplicates, to the Washington Museum……I went out to Port Alfred again in 1911 and gave them my fourth collection as well. The shells were described by Dr Bartsch in the Smithsonian Bulletin, July 1915.

I offered to exhibit the collection arranged in picture cases at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, 1925, and it was accepted. Subsequently, I presented a case to the chief Public School Museums: Clifton, Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Bedford Modern, Rugby, Cheltenham, Wellington, Marlborough, Stonyhurst, &co.

The whole collection, amounting to 1843 species and varieties, was finally presented to the Oxford University Museum, July 1932, where it is now exhibited.”

This book was published by Oxford University Press, London: Humphrey Milford 1932.

All these shells may have left our shores, but there is a very substantial collection to be admired in the Kowie Museum. You are invited to come and view them.

Support the Kowie Museum by coming to view these rare sea shells.