Pormpuraaw has two rivers. The Moonkan River to the north and to the south, the Chapman River. Beach stretches between the two mouths of the rivers and of course looks out to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Not far from the rivers are camping grounds with an amenities block and a sheltered barbecue area. The Chapman River has a boat ramp made out of cement and beside it, a platform with a bollard to tie up the barge for when it comes in the wet season and of course there’s a place to park your car.

The Moonkan River has no ramp. Just sand to get your boat into the river. Crocodiles infest both rivers so they are not places for swimming but definitely places for fishing. The beach at the mouth of the Moonkan River is renowned for something else though.

As you drive down onto the sand, you realise it’s not sand right at the water’s edge but shells. And when I say shells, I don’t mean a thin strip of some shells that have been washed up on the beach. I am talking about an embankment of shells that stretch for at least 10 metres long and 3 metres wide.

The first time I saw this mass of shells, I wished my shell-collecting sister was with me. I knew it would just be too much for her and she would not know where to start looking and touching. So I tried to capture it with the camera. This didn’t work either; there was no way I could capture the depth of the shells piled there. They were too deep, too wide, such an accumulation of them and a photo would just not do it justice. Describing it to you now doesn’t work either. You have to see it to believe it.

Since then, whenever my dear husband wishes to stand on the bank of the Moonkan River and have a fish, I tag along, happily sitting down on the shells, in amongst the shells and proceed to touch them, pick them up, examine them and even categorise them. I would never have thought I would choose to sit and play with shells. Not me!

But there is something special about this activity. Something extraordinary. First of all, I have time to think as I touch and feel and turn them. They are all different sizes, all different formations. I try to find ones that are the same and then I realise they have different shades of colour or they are different sizes or some are broken and not complete like the others. Just when I think I’ve found all the varieties there in my little space, I find more. I consider the fact that animals once lived in them. That now they just sit here in a heap, providing a border to the water washing over the beach. They are here to be noticed and enjoyed. I can’t help but marvel at the immenseness of them all piled together and then at the same time, the intricate detail of them all. To think that our loving, all-knowing God would choose to make this many kinds of shells just because He wanted to!

I have recently been reading through the book of Job and am reminded again of God’s “bigness” and my “smallness”. In Chapter 26, Job speaks about God hanging the earth on nothing and binding up the water in His thick clouds yet the clouds are not broken under it. Then in Chapter 28, that God looks to the ends of the earth and sees under the whole heavens. He establishes a weight for the wind and makes a law for the rain and a path for the thunderbolt.

Oh it is truly too grand, much too difficult for my finite brain to take it in. And as I hold the beautiful, delicate assortment of shells in my hand, I think of the greatness of my God and His awesome creation. I thank Him for the time. I thank Him for the shells. I can’t do much more than sit still and know that He is God!

Romans 11:33-36

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out.

For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counsellor?

Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”

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About Alana Milson

Alana is a primary school teacher. She and her husband, David lived in Cairns for over 17 years but are now living in Cape York in a remote Aboriginal community. Alana enjoys teaching in many different capacities, reading missionary biographies and pursuing biblical womanhood.


  1. Belinda 26 October, 2010 at 8:01 am - Reply

    HI Alana,
    I am really enjoying your posts, and look forward to each one of them. Hugs xx

  2. Lyn 31 October, 2010 at 12:21 am - Reply

    Maybe it IS just as well it is you there amongst all those shells because with you they will stay on the beach and you will enjoy them there. Your shell loving sister would have to find a place for them at home because it would be too hard to leave them behind. Then she would have to find a good reason to keep them in order to convince a non-collector husband.
    Thank you for those wonderful ‘awesomeness of God, insignificance of me’ verses. And to think that THIS Awesome One died for me and still would have given Himself if it had been ONLY me and noone else. How loved am I!! What a good thing it is to be still and know that He is God.

  3. Laura 20 December, 2010 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Alana, thanks for that. There’s nothing like a good long look at God’s creation to spark the wonder and awe…

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