13th Australian National Shell Show Arrives in WA
Looking around the Perth Shell Show I was astounded– there was an abundance of specimens (volutes, cowries, cones, ranging from size, colours and textures from inexpensive to expensive) right from our doorstep and around the world.
President of the WA Shell Club and conchologist diver, Merv Cooper, kindly welcomed me to the 13th Australian National Shell Show, proudly sponsored by WAFIC, and explained the programme of events.
“This year, held at the South Fremantle Football Club, is the shows 13th event in Australia. This weekend, in Perth we are proud to host the world’s most remarkable shells.”
“The show features both competitive and non-competitive displays of beautiful, interesting shells from Australia and around the world. Visitors also have the chance to shop for shells, books and more,” he said.
For Callum Berry, a conchologist diver from South Australia, it was the chance to meet with people in the industry face-to-face that brought him to Perth.
A solo diver, he said that the reason he collects, in 30m waters, 25km offshore, in often dangerous conditions, was because of his dad who used to dive for shells “back in the day.”
“I remember waiting for him to get home from a night dive and seeing some shells crawling around in a bucket.”
“I like the search, but also having something in my cabinet, with a story attached to it,” he said.
“The shows give me that opportunity to meet and become better acquainted with the people of the industry that I have been talking too via Facebook shell collecting pages,” he said.
At 74 years old, Merv Cooper, said his passion for collecting nature’s jewels began early on in his marriage.
“I was scuba diving, racing motor bikes, playing squash and all of a sudden I was asked to play night tennis with all these 65-year-olds. One of them was a shell collector who worked at the museum – and from there it was history.”
“I love collecting – I still dive for sea shells, up to 100m ft, from Esperance to Broome and travel around the world each year to sell my collections.”
Merv said that he has attracted more than $10,000 for individual shells, due to their rarity.
“Western Australia and South Africa are home to some of the richest and rarest shells in the world – making WA collections highly sought by shell enthusiasts across the world.”
“WA has the Leeuwin Current, warming the waters along the south-west coast. From Broome along Kangaroo Island there are certain shells that thrive in that channel – where the warm water is. This means that many of these shells are endemic to Western Australia.”
“Depending on the species, I can guarantee people will pay a lot of money for them”, he said.
The Australian National Shell Show is organised by shell clubs every two years, rotating through different states allowing , dealers, sellers, divers and the public the chance to meet with other collectors to exchange views and information, purchase or swap shells. 1500 people attended this year’s event.
“The show brings together people from all around Australian and the world – it gives the buyers an opportunity to purchase, and people like you (fish out of water), a chance to learn and discover how big the shell collecting industry really is,” he said.
Concluding, Merv recommended to anyone that wants to start shell collecting to begin now by checking if it is low tide, putting your goggles and flippers on and going out and exploring.
To learn more about ‘nature’s treasures’ go to www.perthshells.com or contact Merv Cooper via (08) 9528 2733