A cowrie shell cameo, signed C. Wood, depicting the SS Leviathan ( SS Great Eastern)
4in (10cm) long
The SS Great Eastern was never a commercial success, and after making several transatlantic passenger voyages, was sold at auction in 1865 and converted to a telegraphic cable layer. Laying the first transatlantic cable was to be her only success. C. H. Wood was a engraver on Nautilus and other shells, whose work often depicted the ship. He was represented at the Great Exhibition, where a large Nautilus shell he had presented to Queen Victoria was on display. A prolific worker on several types of shell, including cowrie, it is believed he travelled to America on board the ship, setting up a booth on the dockside where he sold them as souvenirs. His work is generally engraved and inked, in the scrimshaw manner, rather than the cameo style here.