Once the pearl farm has been constructed, divers must begin searching for oysters on the sea bottom. They are towed across shell patches by large luggers in the direction of the tidal flow. Each lugger tows two to four divers, whom hold onto a rope while swimming or running back and forth along the sea floor.
Photo courtesy of Paspaley Pearls, Australia
|Oysters are generally located on a flat rock bottom and are usually covered with marine animals and a thin layer of silt. Therefore, it is often very difficult for divers to recognise them. The shells collected by the divers are placed into their individual net bags, followed by their main bag, once they have gathered a sufficient number of oysters. Using their air regulators, the diver inflates a bladder attached to his main bag, so that it floats, instead of dragging along the bottom where it may stir up the silt. At the termination of each divers drift, they detach their main bag and ascend to the surface. They eat and have a short rest while the next lugger tows more divers along the bottom. A day's work consists of twelve, forty minute drifts, totaling around seven to ten hours under water each day.|
Each diver is paid according to the total number of shells they collect, therefore competition under the water is fierce. The shells collected, are cleaned, sized, and placed into baskets for storage until they are transferred to the pearl farm.
Looking After Oysters