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Finding shelling’s ‘Holy Grail’

Tim Croft
The Star

Brooks Brock had no idea what he recently discovered while looking for shells along the beach near the former site of Butler’s Restaurant.

The find was a shell both pretty and unique in appearance, but Brock had little clue of its intrinsic value until a visit on the Internet.

What Brock had found is that he had discovered a fully-intact Junonia shell, a true rarity.

“I didn’t realize was a rare find the Junonia shell is,” Brock said. “I happened to luck-up I suppose.”

Luck because a Junonia is not your typical beach shell; it’s not typically found on the beach at all.

The shell comes from a species of large sea snail which lives deep beneath the ocean water, is named for the Roman goddess Juno and has a shell prized by shellers for its rarity and unique beauty.

And, here is the rare aspect: Junonias are only tossed as far as the beach by strong storms or hurricanes.

“I have lived here since 2009 and I have been here for all the storms,” Brock said. “I am sure (Hurricane) Michael had something to do with it being beached.”

The shell is so rare, for example, that when found by any visitor to Sanibel Island, considered one of the world’s great shelling hot spots, those who discover the shells are typically featured in the local newspaper.

(Come to think of it, that is exactly what we are doing, and have done just twice before over 20-plus years).

In any case, most Junonias are found by deep-sea fishermen who often discover the shells as by-catch in their nets.

A Junonia is not valuable in the monetary sense, but to find an intact Junonia is something of a Holy Grail for experienced shellers.