Ballona Institute Publication 17
March 2019

The Best of the Nautilus, Women Pioneering on the Pacific Coast:
Shell Collecting Joys and Natural Philosophy with 19th to 21st Century Wisdom

by
Robert Jan van de Hoek
"Roy"
Ballona Institute
Los Angeles, California
roy@naturespeace.org
March, 2019

FOREWORD
Robert Jan van de Hoek
March, 2019
          I am not the first person to look back in time into the history of shell collecting on the Pacific coast of Los Angeles County. Before me, in 1976, R. Tucker Abbott, about 43 years ago, edited a book entitled: THE BEST OF THE NAUTILUS, that included a chapter that he called, Pioneering on the Pacific Coast. In that chapter, R. Tucker Abbott selected several historical articles from the journal known as Nautilus. He included the writings of several women, such as Sarah Monks and Martha Williamson, but mostly focused on Martha Burton Woodhead Williamson and her plentiful sea shell studies in the Pacific Ocean near San Pedro and the adjoining Palos Verdes Peninsula. In addition, Dr. Abbott included a diary excerpt of Martha Williamson entitled, "COLLECTING CHITONS ON THE PACIFIC COAST" which was prefaced by a brief biographical statement of the life and times of Martha Burton, and is presented here for your consideration. Two corrections of the biography by Dr. Abbott need substitution for accuracy including one change in the spelling of the middle name from "Woodhouse" to Woodhead" and the second correction is the Historical Society name from "Los Angeles" to "Southern California" Historical Society.

THE BEST OF THE NAUTILUS: PIONEERING ON THE PACIFIC COAST
Book Chapter Introduction
by
R. Tucker Abbott
1976
          Martha Burton Woodhouse Williamson was one of the leading lights among Keep's followers, and came to make some very creditable scientific contributions to the Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum and the Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Science. She submitted 48 articles, many of a popular nature, to The Nautilus. Born in England on March 6, 1843, she came to America at about the age of 10, and was brought up in the Midwest where she later attended Burlington University in Iowa. She married Charles W. Williamson. Mrs. Williamson was a large and imposing woman, an active editor of the Terre Haute Enterprise, and a very ardent worker in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. She moved to Los Angeles, California in 1887, and was active in civic affairs, including the Los Angeles Historical Society. She was secretary of the Isaac Lea Chapter, which was a shell group under the broader auspices of the then popular Agassiz Association. Mrs. Williamson died on March 18, 1922, at the age of 79, at Los Angeles.
AFTERWORD
Robert Jan van de Hoek
March 2019
          Between Pacific tides on the Los Angeles coast, Martha Burton Woodhead Williamson explored for seashells at low tide, beginning in the late 19th Century, circa 1880s to 1890s. She wrote and published her discoveries as an astute and brilliant natural historian, with deep curiosity, awe, wonder, and wisdom for nature and we must be grateful today for her pioneering exploration and reporting about the sea shells of the Los Angeles County Pacific coast at San Pedro, but also including Santa Catalina Island and San Clemente Island, as well as the shores of Santa Monica Bay. For example, in 1892, Martha Williamson wrote about "Ballona" in the heart of Santa Monica Bay in a major monograph, number 898, of the Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution:

"In this bay Tivela crassatelloides and Tapes staminea are most abundant. A laguna known as Ballona Harbor, lies between Santa Monica and Redondo Beach."

Consider the phrase, "most abundant" that Martha Burton used for the two clams, Tivela and Tapes, in terms of their current decline and potential recovery of these two shallow water mollusks today in Santa Monica Bay! The zoological name of Tivela is known by the English name of Pismo Clam and Tapes is known as the Littleneck Clam, neither of them is "abundant" today, not at Redondo Beach, nor Ballona Harbor, nor Santa Monica in the shallow waters of the littoral and sublittoral 'wave surf' zone! Both of these clams are prey for marine birds, marine fish, and a marine mammal, in a unique sea shore habitat with complex food chains and food webs that human beings take for granted!