Pearl hunting
Overview
 
Pearl hunting or pearl diving refers to a largely obsolete method of retrieving pearl
Pearl
A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other...

s from pearl oyster
Pearl oyster
Pearl oysters are saltwater clams, marine bivalve molluscs of the genus Pinctada in the family Pteriidae. They have a strong inner shell layer composed of nacre, also known as "mother of pearl"....

s, freshwater pearl mussel
Freshwater pearl mussel
The freshwater pearl mussel, scientific name Margaritifera margaritifera, is an endangered species of freshwater mussel, an aquatic bivalve mollusc in the family Margaritiferidae....

s and, on rare occasions, other nacre
Nacre
Nacre , also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some mollusks as an inner shell layer; it is also what makes up pearls. It is very strong, resilient, and iridescent....

-producing molluscs, such as abalone
Abalone
Abalone , from aulón, are small to very large-sized edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Haliotidae and the genus Haliotis...

.
Before the beginning of the 20th century, the only means of obtaining pearls was by manually gathering very large numbers of pearl oysters (or pearl mussels) from the ocean floor (or lake, or river bottom). The bivalves were then brought to the surface, opened, and the tissues searched.
Encyclopedia
Pearl hunting or pearl diving refers to a largely obsolete method of retrieving pearl
Pearl
A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other...

s from pearl oyster
Pearl oyster
Pearl oysters are saltwater clams, marine bivalve molluscs of the genus Pinctada in the family Pteriidae. They have a strong inner shell layer composed of nacre, also known as "mother of pearl"....

s, freshwater pearl mussel
Freshwater pearl mussel
The freshwater pearl mussel, scientific name Margaritifera margaritifera, is an endangered species of freshwater mussel, an aquatic bivalve mollusc in the family Margaritiferidae....

s and, on rare occasions, other nacre
Nacre
Nacre , also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some mollusks as an inner shell layer; it is also what makes up pearls. It is very strong, resilient, and iridescent....

-producing molluscs, such as abalone
Abalone
Abalone , from aulón, are small to very large-sized edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Haliotidae and the genus Haliotis...

.

History

Before the beginning of the 20th century, the only means of obtaining pearls was by manually gathering very large numbers of pearl oysters (or pearl mussels) from the ocean floor (or lake, or river bottom). The bivalves were then brought to the surface, opened, and the tissues searched. More than a ton were searched in order to find at least 3-4 quality pearls.

In order to find enough pearl oysters, free-divers were often forced to descend to depths of over 100 feet on a single breath, exposing them to the dangers of hostile creatures, waves, and drowning
Drowning
Drowning is death from asphyxia due to suffocation caused by water entering the lungs and preventing the absorption of oxygen leading to cerebral hypoxia....

, often as a result of shallow water blackout
Shallow water blackout
A shallow water blackout is a loss of consciousness caused by cerebral hypoxia towards the end of a breath-hold dive in water typically shallower than five metres , when the swimmer does not necessarily experience an urgent need to breathe and has no other obvious medical condition that might have...

 on resurfacing. Because of the difficulty of diving and the unpredictable nature of natural pearl growth in pearl oysters, pearls of the time were extremely rare and of varying quality.

In Asia some pearl oysters could be found on shoals at a depth of 5–7 feet (1.5–2 meters) from the surface, but more often than not divers had to go 40 feet (12 meters) or even up to 125 feet (40 meters) deep to find enough pearl oysters, and these deep dives were extremely hazardous to the divers. In the 19th century, divers in Asia had only very basic forms of technology to aid their survival at such depths. For example, in some areas, they greased their bodies to conserve heat, put greased cotton in their ears, wore a tortoise-shell clip to close their nostrils, gripped a large object like a rock to descend without the wasteful effort of swimming down and had a wide mouthed basket or net to hold the oysters.

For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers working in the Indian Ocean, in areas such as the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

, and in the Gulf of Mannar
Gulf of Mannar
The Gulf of Mannar is a large shallow bay forming part of the Laccadive Sea in the Indian Ocean. It lies between the southeastern tip of India and the west coast of Sri Lanka. A chain of low islands and reefs known as Adam's Bridge, also called Ramsethu, which includes Mannar Island, separates the...

 (between Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

). A surviving fragment from the book
Journey Around Parthia by Isidore of Charax
Isidore of Charax
Isidorus Characenus , commonly translated Isidore of Charax, was a geographer of the 1st century BC/1st century AD about whom nothing is known but his name and that he wrote at least one work....

, a 1st century geographer from the city of Charax
Charax Spasinu
Charax Spasinu, or Charax Pasinu, Charax Spasinou , Alexandria , and Antiochia in Susiana was an ancient port at the head of the Persian Gulf, and the capital of the ancient kingdom of Characene.The exact location of Charax is unknown...

 on the northern end of the Persian Gulf, deals with the subject of pearl fishing.

Pearl divers near the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 were also successful at harvesting large pearls, especially in the Sulu Archipelago
Sulu Archipelago
The Sulu Archipelago is a chain of islands in the southwestern Philippines. This archipelago is considered to be part of the Moroland by the local rebel independence movement. This island group forms the northern limit of the Celebes Sea....

. In fact, pearls from the Sulu Archipelago were considered the "finest of the world" which were found in "high bred" shells in deep, clear, and rapid tidal waters. At times, the largest pearls belonged by law to the sultan, and selling them could result in the death penalty for the seller. Nonetheless many pearls made it out of the archipelago by stealth, ending up in the possession of the wealthiest families in Europe. . pearling was popular in Qatar, Bahrain, and some areas in Gulf countries.

In a similar manner as in Asia, Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 harvested freshwater pearls from lakes and rivers like the Ohio
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

, Tennessee
Tennessee River
The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. It is approximately 652 miles long and is located in the southeastern United States in the Tennessee Valley. The river was once popularly known as the Cherokee River, among other names...

, and Mississippi
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

, while others successfully retrieved marine pearls from the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 and waters along the coasts of Central
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 and South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

.

In the time of colonial slavery in northern South America (off the northern coasts of modern Colombia and Venezuela), a unique occupation amongst slaves was that of a pearl diver. A diver's career was often short-lived because the waters being searched were known to be shark-infested, resulting in frequent attacks on divers. However, a slave who discovered an extra-large pearl could sometimes purchase his freedom.

Present

Today, pearl diving has largely been supplanted by cultured pearl farms, which use a process widely popularized and promoted by Japanese entrepreneur Kokichi Mikimoto
Kokichi Mikimoto
was a Japanese entrepreneur and adopter of the Mise/Nishikawa technique for production of synthetic cultured pearls.-Early life:Born as the first son of an udon shop owner in Toba, Shima Province , Mikimoto left school at the age of 13 and sold vegetables to support his family...

. Particles implanted in the oyster encourage the formation of pearls, and allow for more predictable production. Today's pearl industry produces billions of high quality pearls every year. Ama divers
Ama divers
, uminchu or kaito are Japanese divers, famous for collecting pearls. The majority of ama are women.- History :...

 still work, primarily now for the tourist industry.

Pearl diving in the Ohio River
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

 and Tennessee River
Tennessee River
The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. It is approximately 652 miles long and is located in the southeastern United States in the Tennessee Valley. The river was once popularly known as the Cherokee River, among other names...

s of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 still exists today. These pearls are called natural pearls, because they are created by nature alone, and are not cultivated by humans. Their shapes are uniquely baroque. Fewer than 1% are found in the classic round shape. They are very rare and are considered collector's
Collecting
The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. Some collectors are generalists, accumulating merchandise, or stamps from all countries of the world...

 items.

See also

  • Fijiri
    Fijiri
    Fidjeri is the specific repertoire of vocal music sung by the pearl divers of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf . A lead singer is backed up by a chorus of accompanying singers and clapping...

     - vocal music of the Arabian pearl diver.
  • Ama divers
    Ama divers
    , uminchu or kaito are Japanese divers, famous for collecting pearls. The majority of ama are women.- History :...

    , Japanese female divers

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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