03 March 2011

Phuket Snapshot : Shell World

We've all heard the tongue-twister 'She sells seashells by the seashore'. At Phuket's Shell World Museum, she'll sell shells till she's sore on the shore.

The museum was an unexpected find on an afternoon shopping at Jungceylon. It was like strolling along the beach, seeing a huge shell from afar, going towards to pick it up, and discovering that it is complete without chips, the colours still radiant, no barnacles and very pretty. It is very rare to find a big shell that is perfect.

Although the gallery is small (about the floor area of 2 medium-sized shops), I spent over an hour inside because I was just so fascinated by the variety and architecture of the shells. Have you ever wondered why shells are so beautiful when the mollusks, snails and crabs living in them don't rely on looks to attract mates?

Hmm... whilst that's a point to ponder, here're photos of some interesting exhibits in the museum. There are still a lot more very interesting shells to be found in it so it's definitely worth taking a quick educational browse. The interior of the gallery is very simple in order to allow the natural designs of shells to take centrestage as its best decoration.

I didn't bring my DSLR on this trip so the pics are taken with my compact camera. As such, do pardon the pixellations and noise due to the low light condition in the museum. Let's proceed with what I saw and learnt. Shell we? :)

Giant clams, ornate shells, & the pearly nacre of mollusks... a visual harvest beckons. Info panels in front of the glass cases are not cooking instructions but easy to digest facts about the exhibits.

Nestled within Jungceylon, Patong's gem of a shopping establishment, Shell World Museum opens up a world of knowledge about these beautiful gifts from Neptune. Entrance fee : 150bht (S$6).

As concise as a shell is snug, the gallery showcases a large shell collection from different continents. It is open daily from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm & you can expect to spend about half an hour in it.

Fossilised remains of Perisphinctes Ammonites, a prehistoric predatory mollusk much like the squid, octopus & Nautilus seen today. It is estimated that they terrorised the seas for 330 million years, way before the first fish swam in the ocean.

I'm a little confused by the Nautilus explanations. This is a Chambered Nautilus which houses a squid-like creature & believed to have direct prehistoric ancestry (hence the nickname 'living fossil'). Then there's a similar looking shell known as the Paper Nautilus but is actually an egg casing of a species of sea creature(?). I can't be sure I understood the exhibit explanation correctly.

Shell of the horny oysters. Pardon me. I meant Thorny Oysters.

The sea makes art out of our filth. Although the staghorn corals featured here (left pic) grow pretty fast, it is by no means an encouragement for people to start dumping bottles into the sea to get an organic sculpture like this.

FICTION : Giant Clams trap the foot of divers causing them to drown. FACT : They've been hunted almost to extinction as a food source. All species of these Giant Clams are now protected with farms breeding them & then releasing to the wild.

Woo... white conch shells! Called dung-dkar, they are religious symbols of peace and goodness in Tibetan Buddhism. The shells here have a spiral that turns to the left. They are the common conch. It is extremely rare to find a right spiralling conch and is considered to be very sacred. There are only a few in the world.

The gorgeous Australian Staghorn Murex (a.k.a. the Toothed Murex) is home to a species of sea snails found along Northwest Australia & Western Papua New Guinea. Murexes are carnivorous & actually bore holes on the shells of their preys to eat them.

Can you believe this delicate flower-looking thing is actually a shell? It belongs to the family of Star Shells and are very popular with collectors. Imagine stepping on one of these. That would define bittersweet!

I love collecting seashells in my childhood & finding one unusual, perfect shell free of blemishes was always such a thrill. I enjoyed that sense of accomplishment & would cherish that find because it didn't come easy. That's why I never liked buying shells off the shelf. Too easy. Am I masochistic? Or just cheap? 经苦难而争取到,所以特别珍惜。

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