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Ch. 10: Pearl Fisheries of Venezuela & the Americas
in securing divers. This was relieved in 1508 by transporting large numbers of Indians from the Lucayan or Bahama Islands and impressing them into the service. These were so expert in the work that individuals sold for upward of 150 ducats each.
With their aid the fishery prospered so greatly that in 1515 a settlement, called New Cadiz, was established on Cubagua Island by the governor of Hispa-niola, Diego Columbus, son of the discoverer. This small island was dry and desolate, without water or wood, which were brought from the mainland twenty miles distant, or from Margarita Island about three miles to the northward.
An interesting description of the manner of securing the pearls by these early adventurers was given by Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes (1478-1557) in his "Historia natural y general de las In-dias," written less than thirty years after the discovery of the mainland of America. A translation of this book was published in 1555 by Richard Eden in his "Decades of the New World"; from which we extract the following account, the retention of Eden's quaint phraseolog}' seeming permissible owing to this being one of the very earliest books on America.
Of the maner of fyshynge for perles
The Indians exercise this kynde of fyschynge for the moste parte in the coastes of the North in
And manye of theym which dwell in the houses of certeyne particular lordes in the Ilandes of
resort to the Ilande of
for this purpose. Theyr custome is to go fyve, syxe, or seven, or more in one of theyr
or barkes erly in the mornynge to sume place in the sea there about where it appeareth unto them that there shulde bee greate plentie of those shell fyshes (which sume caule muscles and sume oysters) wherein perles are engendered. And there they plonge them selves under the water, even unto the bottome, savynge one that remaynethe in the Canoa or boate which he keepeth styll in one place as neare as he can, lookynge for theyr returne owte of the water. And when one of them hath byn a good whyle under the water, he ryseth up and commeth swymmynge to the boate, enterynge into the same, and leav-ynge there all the oysters whiche he hath taken and brought with hym. For in these, are the perles founde. And when he hathe there rested hym selfe a whyle, and eaten parte of the oysters, he returneth ageyne to the water, where he remaynethe as longe as he can endure, and then ryseth ageyne, and swim-meth to the boate with his pray, where he resteth hym as before, and thus continueth course by course, as doo all the other in lyke maner, being all moste experte swymmers and dyvers. And when the nyght draweth neare, they
Herrera, "Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos en las islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano," Dec. iii, Book VII, eh. 3.
Table Of Contents
Kunz. The Book of the Pearl.
Contents & Introduction
: Pearls Amongst the Ancients
: Medieval and Modern History of Pearls
: Origin of Pearls
: Structure and Forms of Pearls
: Sources of Pearls
: Pearl Fisheries of the Persian Gulf
: East African Pearl Fisheries
: Pearl Fisheries of the British Isles
: Pearl Fisheries of the South Sea Islands
: Pearl Fisheries of Venezuela & the Americas
: Pearl Culture & Pearl Farming
: Mystical & Medicinal Properties of Pearls
: Value & Commerce of Pearls
: Treatment and Care of Pearls
: Pearls as Used in Ornaments & Decoration
: Famous Pearls and Collections
: Pearls, Aboriginal Use & Discovery in Mound Graves
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