Morning Trumpet

October 18, 2007

While walking on the beach at Cape Hatteras Point – our pilgrimage to the “utter East” or the “end of the world” – I found two large whelk shells.  Three species of whelks are commonly found as broken beach shells on the Outer Banks.  The Point is one of the best places to find whole shells.  Shown on the left is the Lightning Whelk (Busycon contrarium) which is unusual in having a sinistral spiral – a left-handed opening.  Most snails are “right handed”.  This particular shell retains some of its natural colors.  On the right is its heavier cousin, the Knobbed Whelk (Busycon carica).  This shell is more wave-battered and is stained brown with iron oxide and gray with iron sulfide.

whelk shells

As soon as I picked it up and shook the sand out in the surf, I saw that the larger shell would make a good trumpet, as is done with conch shells.  I didn’t want to saw off the beautiful terminal spiral, but one of the knobs on the shell had several small wormholes in it, so I drilled that out and flared a piece of copper tubing for the mouthpiece.  The fringe is white silk, and the bead is a rusty iron beach pebble.

whelk horn


3 Responses to “Morning Trumpet”

  1. Debbie said

    I would like to hear that sound! Is it copper on the inside of the mouthpiece?

  2. ironwing said

    The mouthpiece is a 1″ piece of recycled copper tubing that has been given a green patina on the outside and a smooth polish on the inside. It’s glued in with epoxy. The sound is similar to the conch that is used in Buddhist rituals – it’s not as loud as the big flared Florida conch.

  3. debra said

    This is lovely. I admire your creativity and appreciate this site–also the Ironwing tarot majors.

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