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Piauí, Brazil - January 2005

Carlos Henckes holding a Cyclodontina
Expedition members: Andre de Luca and Carlos Henckes
In a country as large as a continent like Brazil, one can be sure that many parts remain unexplored. The most populated parts are well known, but certain places are still virgin. Our destination was Piaui State, located in the extreme northern part of Brazil, 5,000 kilometers from São Paulo State where we live.

Its coastline is only 70 kilometers, very small compared to its size - the larger portion is located inland. We arrived at the end of January, during what is called "winter" - not because of the temperature (around 34°C - 93° F) - but because of the rainy season. However, it was very dry and it got even drier when we got to the coast, which was very bad for our hope of finding land snails. The few rivers we crossed were nearly dry, and the few places were we saw water were very dirty because of wild animals wallowing.

Our first target was Luis Correa, a very poor place which seemed as though it had been hit by a tsunami. They have huge problems with sand dunes encroaching on the city and many people simply abandoned their houses to try for a better life somewhere else. We arrived at night so we were very anxious to get into our wetsuits for snorkeling. In the morning we went straight to the beach: no places for snorkeling, no rocks, corals or elevation. So we went to the fishermen hoping that they would take for dredging.

Although the fishing season was closed - meaning that they were not allowed to earn money fishing - it was quite difficult to convince someone to take us. Some of them were painting their boats, others were simply doing nothing in the sun. Finally we f ound one nice guy who agreed to go out the next morning.

We left early in the morning and sailed for one hour. Already on the first dredge, we found some interesting shells and gathered around 150 liters of material, enough to keep us busy the whole night.

'Bastarda' boat
We tried to go to south hoping to find a place to snorkel but the only thing we saw was sand. We did some low tide collecting, found some common but interesting shells such as Naticas, Hastulas, Murex, Donax and other small shells.

We booked another dredging trip, but the navy officers came and told us that we wouldn't be allowed to go out again that day. Since it was raining, we took our car and tried to find a good spot for landshells, which we did: we found some Cyclodontina sectilabris, Biotocus cumingii, Sairostoma perplexum, Rhinus cf. taipuensis and other small species.

On our last day, we were allowed to go out on the boat again and we asked to go to some place where the bottom had coral rubble so the material would be different. The sea was very rough, making our dredging very difficult and messing up our stomachs. Luckily we had hired some more fishermen to help us with the hard task of pulling the dredge and dealing with cables. The last thing we wanted was to sort shells mixed with our dinner from the previous night!

The results were satisfactory considering the places and conditions we found. At least we got some very nice shells!

Translated by John Wolff

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