My cousin Tom Rice introduced me to the science of the oceans when I was quite young. I collected sea shells for his Of Sea and Shore Museum. At the time of its opening, it was the largest collection in the United States and is still open in Port Gamble, Washington.
Tom recently moved to Thailand and scaled back the museum's displays. I inherited some treasures when he moved, including this Honu Ea or Hawksbill Turtle "shell"........The carapace of this beautiful sea turtle is etched with a story from Palau...........Tom brought it home from one of his many travels around the world and has since forgotten the legend or folk tale being told in the many etchings on each of the "Moons" or shields on the turtle back.
Each of these pieces of the back fit together like a puzzle and over the years, they have slipped apart a bit so that it is difficult to transport and share in my workshops about marine debris.
But as a piece falls out of the back, I can carefully hand it to a child so they can hold it to light and see the beauty of the transparent shell............No wonder people killed these creatures for the shell, turning them into sunglass frames, jewelry, and other fashion pieces..........
Ironically, the shell is a kind of pre-plastic and today, the turtles, like so many sea creatures, suffer from entanglement in nylon netting, fishing line, and other debris. Saved from harvest, they now must swim seas filling fast with plastics created to replace the more natural shell and other materials of earlier times.
I wonder if people of Palau would want this turtle returned.
If you know anything about picture stories etched into these shells, do let me know. I have also put out a question to list serves and so, will keep posting any information. In the meantime, I will bring this to all my presentations in coming years...........Kids are so inspired and enchanted on holding and touching and imagining this sea turtle's past. They seem more eager to help the turtles and the ocean on experiencing the gift from Palau!