[Footnote 1: Paper by Mr. J.T. PEARSON, Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng., vol. viii p. 551.]
[Footnote 2: Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng., vol. xi. p. 963.]
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Ceylon has long been renowned for the beauty and variety of the shells which abound in its seas and inland waters, and in which an active trade has been organised by the industrious Moors, who clean them with great expertness, arrange them in satin-wood boxes, and send them to Colombo and all parts of the island for sale. In general, however, these specimens are more prized for their beauty than valued for their rarity, though some of the “Argus” cowries have been sold as high as four guineas a pair.
[Footnote 1: Cypraea Argus.]
One of the principal sources whence their supplies are derived is the beautiful Bay of Venloos, to the north of Batticaloa, formed by the embouchure of the Natoor river. The scenery at this spot is enchanting. The sea is overhung by gentle acclivities wooded to the summit; and in an opening between two of these eminences the river flows through a cluster of little islands covered with mangroves and acacias. A bar of rocks projects across it, at a short distance from the shore; and these are frequented all day long by pelicans, that come at sunrise to fish, and at evening return to their solitary breeding-places remote from the beach. The strand is literally covered with beautiful shells in rich profusion, and the dealers from Trincomalie know the proper season to visit the bay for each particular description. The entire coast, however, as far north as the Elephant Pass, is indented by little rocky inlets, where shells of endless variety may be collected in great abundance. During the north-east monsoon a formidable surf bursts upon the shore, which is here piled high with mounds of yellow sand; and the remains of shells upon the water mark show how rich the sea is in mollusca. Amongst them are prodigious numbers of the ubiquitous violet-coloured Ianthina, which rises when the ocean is calm, and by means of its inflated vesicles floats lightly on the surface.