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Useful Seashells: The Baler

Updated on June 23, 2013
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Bronwen and her family have enjoyed collecting many things, including fans, clocks, books and shells.

Two Small Baler Shells
Two Small Baler Shells | Source

The Family Volutidae

The Baler seashell belongs to the family called Volutes, or Volutidae. These are large, colourful gastropods and while they are useful they are also popular with collectors, sometimes commanding quite high prices. Altogether, there are over two hundred different types of Volutes. Most of them live in shallow, tropical waters, but some come from deep seas and even colder climates.

Volutes are univalves of the Order Neogastropoda, which means that they are often known simply as sea snails and like other sea snails, they are carnivorous. Most of them can crawl along surprisingly quickly.

Upper Side of the Two Smaller Balers
Upper Side of the Two Smaller Balers | Source

The Baler Seashell

The Baler seashell grows to quite a size. They are usually found in the range from six inches (15 cm) to 14 inches (36 cm), but have been found up to 16 inches. They are often used as decoration in a bathroom or under a tap in the garden, although as they can now fetch as much as around $100, the latter is not seen so often today.

The Baler seashells in my photographs have not been polished, as I rather like them in their natural state, but they do polish up very well.

Useful Baler Seashells

Have you ever used a Baler Seashell for baling?

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Types of Baler Seashells

There are only a few types of Baler seashells and they are fairly easy to identify. I have read that they are sometimes called Melon seashells, but I have never heard them called that.

  • The Mammal Volute, Livonia mamilla Gray, is found in South Australia. It grows to about ten inches.
  • The Indian Volute, Melo melo Sol, is found in Southeast Asia. It grows to about eight inches.
  • The Ethiopian Volute, Melo aethiopicus LinnĂ©, so-called because it was first named in that area, but it is found in the wide Indo-Pacific area, and that, of course includes Papua New Guinea.

Uses For the Baler Seashell

The Baler has been useful to humankind for hundreds of years.

  • Balers were used by Australian aborigines and other indigenous peoples for storing water.
  • Balers were used by many Pacific Islanders for baling out their canoes, which is how they received this name when this use was noticed by English speaking settlers.
  • Balers were found to be both useful and ornamental by the newcomers, too, as explained above.

Bob Your Head! A Short Cut Through the Mangroves
Bob Your Head! A Short Cut Through the Mangroves | Source

Baler Seashells as Balers

When we were living in Papua New Guinea, I discovered the use of baler seashells at firsthand. I was travelling with a group of three small canoes to another part of the island. We took a short cut through mangroves for part of the way.

The sea was calm and as it was daytime the crocodiles were asleep, or we hoped they were, anyway.

The Baler I Used in the Photograph Below
The Baler I Used in the Photograph Below | Source

How the Above Baler Was Useful

However, on our return journey it was beginning to become dusk and that does not last long in the tropics. We could not risk returning through the mangroves and needed to go out into the sea. A wind had sprung up and the sea was choppy.

The inevitable happened, and our small dugout outrigger was taking in water. As my companion was one of the Teacher Training College students, he was strong, so we decided that he would paddle and I would bale.

It was dark and we were very weary when we all beached the canoes and plodded back up the jungle track to our homes.

I was given the Baler shell as a keepsake and still have that memento of our adventure.

Paddling in an Outrigger
Paddling in an Outrigger | Source


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      SANJAY LAKHANPAL: Yes, they fascinate me, too, there is such great variety. Thank you for your comment.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 2 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      I have always been in love with sea shells ever since my childhood. The colors, shapes, designs and textures of sea shells always fascinate me.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      stars439: I'm glad you enjoyed it. We have been blessed in living in such interesting places and there are many happy memories, although the climate in some places was very difficult. God bless you, too, my friend.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Dear Mr.s Blossom : This was a pleasant read, and you're joy in keeping you're special places in you're thoughts is wonderful. You're travels have awarded you with interesting memories. God Bless You, and Everyone You Love.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      rebeccamealey: I love them, too. Especially ones that bring back memories of special events or occasions. Thank you for your comment.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I love sea shells. What an interesting account of the baler shells. Thanks for a great share!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      tonipet: yes, shells are so lovely. Sorry I've taken so long to reply. I've been gathering more up on the Queensland Gold Coast. That adventure was really something! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Frank Atanacio: Lovely to hear from you and sorry for my tardy reply.

      alocsin: Except for their usefulness, the size is unimportant and I'm sure your shell is just as beautiful. Thank you for your comment.

      Seafarer Mama: It's great that you enjoyed reading about my shells. It's lovely to share about beautiful things.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 4 years ago from New England

      Very informative hub about a very beautiful type of seashell. Awesome how big they get...and how useful they are a tool! Thank you for putting this hub together!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      These are beautiful, but I've never found any so large in the Philippines. I did find it's miniature cousins though, about a centimeter or so in length. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      educational and enteratining.. I come away learning something new from your hubs.. thank you for that :)

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 4 years ago from The City of Generals

      What a beautiful hub. Shells are naturally lovely, and the baler you got was really huge! Must be one of the best adventures you had, Blossoms... very nice. I like the feeling just reading your story. Thank you :=) -Tonette

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      kufarooq: Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Mhatter99: Great to hear from you. Hope you're going along OK and thank you for your comments. I still love your poems, especially the limericks. It's so good to have a laugh.

      MsDora: Yes, it really does. When I was a child I wondered why it had such a name.

      always exploring: Thank you for your comments. Have a great day.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I love all of your hubs. You live such an interesting life. I have never heard of a baler. Thank you for sharing...

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      So the baler lives up to its name. Very interesting! Both the facts and the story.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Interesting,yet out there. very entertaining, thank you

    • kufarooq profile image

      KHAWAJA UMER FAROOQ 4 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

      Very informative and nice hub