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Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon

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is generally found in the beard. I need not tell you that the shells are highly valuable articles of commerce. When the opener has passed his hands in to feel for the pearl he throws it to the cleaner who does his work, the shells are packed up in hogshead?, and when they arrive in London they are sold by auction in Mincing-lane to go to the manufacturer, for the shell has taken the place of ivory. The pearling season lasts from March to the middle of December, for iii the summer months the hurricanes render their fishing impossible. The plan of operations is something in this wise: the fleet is distributed over the fishing grounds, and one or two of them see to the supply of fresh water and stores. The mother ship generally lies at anchor in the bay, and the small boats leave her every morning to go to their various grounds close by. At night they return with their cargoes. The decked boats go further afield, and bring the results of their labor at longer intervals. At certain times the mail steamer which calls at Freemantle ships the cargo which comes home, the pearls themselves being sent through registered letters, and passing through post."
"A year or two ago the divers suffered great hardships, always going ia naked, when they could not stop beneath the water ,for a longer period, than a minute and a half. The apparatus we use is made by Mr. Heincke, and of these we have about twenty, each costing .£130. The dress is not like that \re se« used on our own shores, comprising oniy a headgear and a breastplate, the legs being free, but the natives like it very much, for they are able to stay under far longer, about two or three hours. 1 have ■•ver lost any men through sharks; they don't seem to like niggers; but the divers, by a trick which they have learned, when they see a shark approach­ing, squeeze out some air, which throws out a most vivid stream of air bubbles, effectually frightening the beast away.'' Each diver has a tender, that is the man who directs the rope, and four pumpers, so that the working gangs are divided into quintets.
In one of Mr. Streeter's rooms hang a dozen imposing rolls, each of them worked by a string. Pulling the one marked Australia and South Pacific, the whole of that immense area was placed before my eyes by his son. Upon these trackless oceans, studded with a million isles, many of them laid down upon the chart without much pretence to accuracy—for the reefs and the sounds and the channels are always shifting—among these tropical wastes Mr. Streeter's brave little fleet has found its way, and the King of Pearls, although he has never visited foreign parts, is able to follow the various routes which they have adopted, and these are marked by tortuous lines on the map. Somerset I was informed was played out. Somerset lies to the north of Carpentaria, and sure enough there was the mark on the map.
THE LATEST NEWS FROM PEARLING GROUNDS. "We are working," says Mr. Harry Streeter, in his last letter from the fisheries, which was read to me, " with small open boats and two four-ton ketches, which are perfect in any weather, only coming every second day to give up their shells. The only flaw in our arrangements is that the open boats are too small for the work; in case bad weather sets in they get too leeward, and have to be out in a heavy sea and take their chance of swamping, while the ketches, being decked in, ride like ducks. Many a time after a hard day's work, and all hands thouroughly tired out, we have had to get up anchor and make sail after some poor beggar going out to sea, and not able to reach the ship. If a boat sinks the pump goes down with her, and there is a dress lost. One of the boats has sunk twice
Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon Page of 442 Ch. 2: Gems in Ceylon
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