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Female Free Divers of Jeju

Discussion in 'Snorkeling / Freediving' started by Altamira, Dec 14, 2019.

  1. Altamira

    Altamira ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
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    After reading a SB thread about diving in Jeju, South Korea, it jogged my memory about the story of the female free divers of Jeju that I heard about on a stopover a couple years ago. Below is a one link to their very interesting story.

    The Female Free Divers of Jeju
     
    John C. Ratliff and David Wilson like this.
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Indeed. More people will know more about the Ama women of Japan than their Korean counterparts. I collect basic gear and a while ago I purchased a snorkelling mask on eBay from a Korean seller. The mask came in a good old-fashioned cardboard box. The top was printed with the words "DAIHAN DIVING MASK" in English and "대한 황대 수경" in Korean, while one of the flaps featured the following imagery:
    img310-jpg.551548.jpg

    These pictures led me to do a little online research into the Daihan Diving Sports company that had manufactured the article:
    img662-jpg.551559.jpg
    I located some Korean online retailers stocking the masks pictured left and centre on the middle line and centre and right on the bottom line:
    ee0185873-jpg.54876.jpg d6f72d8d6_1-jpg.54879.jpg
    I then proceeded to see what I could find out about the top line of images of fins made by the company. No luck this time on the retail front, but then I chanced upon pictures of the Haenyeo "Sea Women" of Korea who dive for seafood off the island of Jeju and earn their living by selling their catch to dealers and restaurants:
    bluefins5-png.551554.png
    haenyeo_lowres_shutterstock_1099157915-960x640-jpg.551552.jpg
    From my perspective, these yellow full-foot fins are clearly the same as those pictured on the top line left and centre on the mask box flap. If you're still unconvinced, take a look at the toe openings, which are particularly distinctive. Here's another image of a black pair:
    img_1099-png.54881.png
    The Daihan Diving whale logo is just visible, while the distinctive toe opening and the centre line on the blade are both there. I've also found examples of Haenyeo divers with the blue open-heel adjustable fins pictured top left on the box flap:
    pyh2016070610490005600_p2-jpg.54882.jpg
    What interests me as a historian of diving gear is the fact that these women divers have chosen locally made traditional underwater swimming equipment to pursue their trade as seafood collectors. If the Haenyeo women freedivers have sparked your interest, you can read more about them at Haenyeo - Wikipedia, which references videos showing them at work.
     
  3. Altamira

    Altamira ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Canyon Lake, TX
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    The things that most amazed me about the history of the Jeju female divers was the age range of the divers, some in their eighties, and the amount of time spent in the usually chilly water of Korea diving for sea life to provide food and income for their families.
     
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  4. John C. Ratliff

    John C. Ratliff Instructor, Scuba

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    haenyeo divers are fascinating to me. I would love to spent a day or two diving with them. I did notice something about their wetsuits. These appear to be custom made for them, and made the way we in the Pacific Northwest used to have our wetsuits made. They are pullover tops, with attached hoods, and no zippers anywhere. This is the warmest way to make a wetsuit! I am happy to see that somewhere, these are still available

    SeaRat
     
  5. John C. Ratliff

    John C. Ratliff Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Beaverton, Oregon
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    This YouTube video confirms my thoughts on the wetsuits.



    The other thing of interest to me is that these diver freedive slightly positive, buoyancy-wise. When they want to surface they simply release and stop kicking, and float up to the surface. According to this quote from Wikipedia, they sometimes now dive 5-6 hours a day without a break while wearing the wetsuits.

    Haenyeo - Wikipedia

    SeaRat
     
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    The fins worn by the Haenyeo women in the video look like 88a model fins, made in Taiwan and popular as rentals in the Far East and Australia:
    MAR-3716_L_MAR-3716.jpg mienshiushu-img600x450-123569945055069____-6.gif
     

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