Thursday, June 10, 2021

Further on diving, Jeju Island and elsewhere


I deviated from Nazi treasure after discovering the Youtube videos of the diving women of Jeju Island.  I didn't know much about them when I was there and hadn't thought much about them since; so not only did I enjoy the education, but much of what they did was something I also did.  A big difference was that I used a spear gun and went only after fish whereas they dove for delicacies, most of which I've never heard of. Some of them did spear small fish, but they were forbidden spear guns. 

I did know about abalone.  That is the one thing we could get before we learned how to spear fish.  We didn't have much money when we were 15; so a cheap lunch for us was to dive for a bunch of abalone, pound them up and fry them.  Years later when I began diving again, taking abalone was illegal. Perhaps the Koreans who came to California after that war took too many.  I was down there once when a Korean was arrested with 30 abalone in his bag. 

One of the Youtube videos showed a woman diving with only one arm.  the other had been taken by a thresher shark.  Her husband was interviewed saying he tried to talk her out of diving but she said she wouldn't feel right about herself if she stopped.  She said she had to work twice as fast as the others because of having just the one arm.  One sequence showed her getting ready to dive and asking the camera person to help her with her mask.  She seemed happy.

One sequence showed a woman who was said to be 91, spindly legged and feeble, but nevertheless loaded up with all her diving gear.  She stumbled on the rocks and fell.  She lay on her back in frustration yelling that she was going to die.  She didn't look strong enough to make it all the way into the sea.

In the videos they all had the same sort of floats.  In my case I tied an old gunny sack to an inner tube.  I had to swim after my float after I came up; so on windy days I had to swim a little farther.  I thought about an anchor, but there was much on the bottom for one to tangle in. 

The diving women all made whistling noises when they came up.  They said that helped them in some way, maybe with the bleeding.  I never learned to do that. 

A typical diving day for them was five hours.  Perhaps my dives would have added up to about five hours, but I came in when I got too cold to hold my spear-gun steady.  I would then sit on a rock until I warmed up.  If my hands continued to shake then I just went home.  The longest I would stay out on a single dive was three hours.  After warming up I was usually good for another hour or two.  One of the videos asserted that women were less affected by the cold water because they had more body-fat than men. 

The women dived in groups.  That never worked for me.  I didn't want to dive near anyone else using a spear-gun.

Some of the women in the videos were funny.  One woman said that she had to work long hours diving so her husband could afford to buy enough liquor to get drunk.

What those women do is hard work, and they enjoy doing it, but some of them were quoted as saying they were continuing on as long as possible (one 80 year old women planned to keep diving until she was 85) so she could pay for her daughter's education.  Someone commented that they all wanted their daughters to get educations so they wouldn't have to do the difficult work they did. 

In my case I slowly gave up free-diving after Susan became too ill to enjoy being out on our boat.  She never tried diving.  I tried to make the outings enjoyable for her.  One day she, along with some guests, were in our boat (a Catalina 22) when I excused myself and slipped over the side.  I found a rock with a lot of seals on or around it.  A couple of them looked as though they were going to object to my presence, which was interesting, but I went ahead and speared several fish and then dashed back to the boat.  I dumped the fish into the cockpit because that is what I always did (I'd normally clean the fish at sear and store them in a cooler before heading home), but in this case Susan shrieked and yelled, "get those fish out of here." 

"Where shall I put them" I wondered outloud?

"Can't you tow them behind the boat?"

"No, that won't work."  I thought for a moment and then decided to put them back into my gunny sack and store them in my anchor locker.  I was going to have to clean them later at home which Susan wasn't going to like either.

Our friends were amused; so Susan turned to them and explained, "they were flopping on my feet."

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