Since the time of Homer, people in the Aegean Sea engaged in sponge fishing. The technique of diving gradually developed over the centuries to become a separate professional activity.The harvesting, processing and trade of sponges remained an important economic activity on some of the Aegean islands, until the 1970’s. Sponges were harvested by various methods, which can be classified in two main categories. In the first, sponges were collected without any diving, from the boat using special equipment and implements. The second, involved diving: at first, by bare divers who simply held their brath underwater, then with the use of a suit (skafandro), shortly after using the Fernez apparatus, later with the nargiles (li. ‘water pipe’) and lastly with scuba tanks.
This amazing poster from 1883 depicts sponge fishermen and sponge fishing boats with all the sponge fishing methods used during the 19th century.
From the exhibition catalogue of the Maritime and Sponge Fishing Museum of Nea Koutali, Lemnos.