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A world apart where nature reigns supreme

Some of our guests went for a walk along the serene Keurbooms Beach and came across this interesting shell:

It looks similar to our Plett icon, the Pansy Shell, but where the Pansy is flat this shell was larger and domed, but still intricate and delicate. We did some research and found that it is called a Lamp Urchin.

Lamp urchin found by our guests

Lamp urchin found by our guests

It is a part of the urchin family, as with the Pansy Shell and it is incredibly rare to find one intact on the beach.  Plettenberg Bay beach walkers and nature lovers still delight in the shelly wonders washed up by the Indian Ocean.

Pansy Front

Pansy Front

Pansy Back

Pansy Back

Both the Pansy Shell and Lamp Urchin live and burrow just beneath the sand in both shallow and deeper waters. Covered in velvet-textured “spines” and fine “hairs”, they feed on crustacean larvae and algae. The classic bone-white shell found by beachcombers is once the spines and hairs have fallen off and the skeleton has been bleached white by the sun.

In other parts of the world, relatives of the Pansy are known as the Sand Dollar, Sea Cookie and Snapper Biscuit and the shell has attained mythical proportions and wonderful tales of its origins, including the lost coins of Atlantis or mermaids.  A wonderful little Christian poem:

There’s a pretty little legend
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of Jesus
Found in this lovely shell

If you examine closely
you’ll see that you find here
Four nail holes and a fifth one
Made by the Roman spear

One on each side is the Easter lily
its centre is the star
That appeared unto the shepherds
and led them from afar

The Christmas poinsettia
Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday
our happy Christmastide

Now break the centre open
and here you will release
The five white doves awaiting
To spread goodwill and peace

This simple little symbol
Christ has left for you and me
To help us spread His gospel
Through all eternity.

Pansy Shell - a Plett icon

Pansy Shell – a Plett icon

In Plettenberg Bay, the Pansy Shell has been collected to near extinction and its sale is now prohibited. Slowly the population is growing again. The Keurbooms Beach is an ideal spot for searching for Pansies and other beautiful seashells.  The Pansy Shell with its delicate beauty seems to embody all that is peaceful and magnificent about Plettenberg Bay.

  • Gordon Smart

    Today, 18th December 2013, I found a lamp urchin floating in the incoming tide below Under Milkwood!
    We have been visiting here for over 20years and this is a first for me. It is still in one piece and would like to know if there is someone that is collecting or preserving these shells in the area so that I could leave it here in Knysna for others to see? Gordon

    • Milkwood Manor

      Hi Gordon, We would love to be able to display the Lamp Urchin at Milkwood Manor on Sea if this is possible. Thank you so much for your comment, You are a very lucky man. Best wishes!

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  • Anton Gerber

    nice post! i have read your article and it is really amazing.