Shell ovate, with eight whorls, more or less inflated, covered with transverse coarse striae; waved or undulated obliquely, covered with a yellowish-brown epidermis; length about four inches. The aperture large, nearly half the length of the body whorl. Columella strong, pillar lip smooth, and bent back; interior white, very polished, sometimes lemon-colour, or orange; canal short; operculum of a reddish horn colour.
Buccmum un datum. Whelk.
del _ G. B . Sowerby, lith. Vincent Brooks, Im.
The shell of the common whelk, or buckie, the Buccin ondé and Ran of the French, varies very much in colour, being sometimes yellowish, without bands, and other specimens having chestnut spiral bands, or wavy blotches. White varieties are occasionally taken, and the shell figured, being dredged up in deep water, has still the rough olivaceous-coloured epidermis on it. It is found often on the beach, and is a great enemy to other mollusks, boring holes in their shells, and sucking the pieces of the fish within, by means of its spiny tongue. Dr. Harvey, in his 'Seaside Book,' says, "that the proboscis of the whelk consists of two cylinders, one within the other, the outer of which serves for the attachment of the motor muscles, and the general protection of the organ; while the inner, opening near the extremity with a longitudinal mouth, armed with two strong cartilaginous lips, encloses the tongue, and a great part of the oesophagus. The tongue is armed with short spines, and acting in concert with the hard lips, which can be opened or shut, or strongly pressed together, it forms a sort of rasp or auger, by which very hard substances are rapidly perforated; and then the tongue being protruded, the hooked spines with which it is armed, are admirably fitted for the collection of food". Whelks are taken in great numbers in wicker baskets baited with offal, and Pliny describes the taking of "purple fish" by a similar method, viz., in a kind of osier kipe, called Nassis, baited with cockles.* Billingsgate market is chiefly supplied from Harwich and Hull, and some of the steamers from the North bring six or seven tons at a time.† Mr. Charles Harding, of King's Lynn, informs us that the principal sources of the supply of whelks "on that part of the coast are as follows : Saltfleet, about twenty miles from Grimsby, Sherringham, near Cromer, Lynn Deeps, Docking Channel, Blakeney Coast, Wells, Boston Deeps, Bran-caster, Thornham, and Hunstanton. The Lynn fishery supplies about 20,000 bags, or 1250 tons of whelks a year. . . . The average amount paid for them before the expense of boiling and carriage is about £10,000. The Great Grimsby fishery supplies about 150,000 wash of whelks annually. A wash contains 21 quarts and a pint, and the average price for the season would run about 3s. a wash, or a total of £22,500".‡
* M. S. L.
* Pliny's 'Nat. Hist.' vol. ii. bk. ix. p. 445.
† 'Curioities of Food,' p. 345.
‡ 'Molluscs, Mussels, Whelks,' etc , by Charles Harding. 'Papers of the Conferences held in connection with the Great International Fisheries Exhibition'.
Whelks are sold at 1s. 6d. to 2s. a measure; and are in season from August to September, though they are really good to eat at any time. Children are frequently seen buying a saucer of whelks in London in the spring; and the shellfish shops near Billingsgate market are well stocked with them. There are, as Woodward remarks, two different shellfish sold in London under the name of Whelks or Buckies, namely, the common Buccinum undatum, and the more prized Fusus antiquus. Whelks are very troublesome to the lobster-fishers, for they often devour the bait, and I have seen at St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe, on the Kentish coast, the lobster-pots drawn up, one after the other, baitless, and full of these greedy mollusks; most trying to the poor fishermen, especially when bait was scarce, and they had been obliged to walk some miles in the morning to purchase it.
On some parts of the coast the fishermen use the Bucrinum for bait for the long-line fishing, and Mr. Smethurst, of Grimsby, says that when the fishermen get on to what is called the "shawl" of the Dogger Bank, in the spring, when the fish (such as cod, ling, halibut, skate and haddock), begin to accumulate in the warm weather, whelks are used as bait, and that when they fished at the north end of the Dogger, at the fall of the year, and in deeper water, lampreys were used along with whelks.*
The Lamprey (Petromyzon fluviatilis) is considered very valuable as bait, and in the winter and spring numbers are found in the river Trent, at Sawley, in Leicestershire, and are collected in baskets from the weirs to which they adhere, and sent off alive in large cans to Hull, and other places for the cod-fishery. This bait-fishing lasts about a fortnight.
* 'Mollusks, Mussels, Whelks,' etc, by Charles Harding.
The fishermen know whelks by the following names, viz., Conches or Buckies; and at Youghal they call them Googawns, and Cuckoo shells.
In 'Popular History of the Mollusca,' by Miss Roberts, she mentions this species of shell being used in North Wales as trumpets by the farmers, for calling their labourers; and shells of a similar kind are also used in Muscovy and Lithuania by the herdsmen for collecting their cattle, horses, mules, goats, and sheep. The Italian herdsmen use them also. Dr. William Russell tells us, that at Casamicciola, in the Island of Ischia, morning, noon, and night, the air was filled with the monotonous Notes of conch shells, sounded by the watchers over the vineyards and gardens, to scare away thieves and birds.*
In some parts of Staffordshire the farmers call up their cattle by means of a horn or trumpet. In Tahiti shells were also used as trumpets - a species of murex being the kind generally employed for that purpose. The largest shells were selected, sometimes a foot in diameter at the mouth. A perforation, about an inch in diameter, was made near the apex of the shell, in which was inserted a bamboo cane, three feet in length, secured by being bound to the shell, the aperture rendered air-tight by the outsides of it being cemented with a resinous gum from the bread-fruit tree. These shells were blown when any procession marched to the temple, and at other religious ceremonies; besides being used by the herald, and on board the native fleets. The sound is described as very loud, monotonous, and dismal.
* 'Memories of Ischia,' 'Nineteenth Century,' Sept. 1883.