National Geographic : 1967 Oct
and always the villagers shook their heads and replied, "Tsy misy-There is none." Beyond the last village the road trailed off into sand and fields of maize. Here we ques tioned a youth who said casually, "Oh, yes, I can take you to the place." The Bara threw the Land-Rover into four wheel drive, and we bumped across hum mocky fields toward the sea. At the edge of the sandy slope we stopped, and on foot entered a swale between two high dunes. Shattered Eggs Carpet Southern Dunes I slipped and slid down the slope after our guide. The heat was like a blast furnace; between the dunes we were shut off from the slightest movement of air. The sun, reflected from the dazzling sand, reverberated in my eyes until my head buzzed. Far down the slope our guide gesticulated. When I reached him he waved his arm in an arc, grinning broadly. What I had taken to be a field of sea shells was a carpet of aepyornis egg fragments, literally thousands of them 478 stippling a shallow bowl among the dunes (above). There were at least fifty sherds in each square yard. Most were two to three inches square, but we found one shell end as big as a skullcap. It was impossible to walk without crushing the eggshells, and the sherds cracked under foot with a tinkle of breaking porcelain. In less than an hour we had filled a large basket. We now had at least twenty-five pounds of shell, and we could have gathered a hundred. We rode back to Ambovombe to present a letter I carried to Father Joseph Kiefer, a Lazarist missionary from Lorraine. Father Kiefer, a slender, quick-moving man with a pointed beard and a twinkling eye, had spent 12 years in the Antandroy country and spoke the dialect fluently. Pulling a cigarette from the folds of his white cassock, he eyed our basket of fragments and said, "Tiens, a good collection, but we must see about a whole egg. A couple of years ago I heard one had been found; it ended up in the hands of an Indian shopkeeper; he sold it to a foreigner."