Kalymnos Sponges

The Sponge of Kalymnos, in the Dodecanese: The usage of the sponge was first mentioned in the works of Aristotle and Homer. Since ancient times, the life and culture of Kalymnos Island were linked to this marine animal. This is the reason Kalymnos is also known as the sponge divers island. Sponge diving has always been a common occupation on Kalymnos and sponges have been the main source of income of the Kalymnians bringing wealth on the island and making it famous in the Mediterranean.

The first Kalymnian sponge divers used no uniform or equipment and relied mostly on their ability to hold their breath in the sea. The traditional way of sponge-fishing before their replacement by modern technology and special equipment was the harpoon. The new technology allowed spongers to dive in greater depths and stay longer under the water. However, this otherwise positive fact caused the appearance of decompression sickness, also known as the divers' disease.

The Greek sponge trade was centered close to the Dodecanese with Kalymnos being the most prominent for centuries and until the mid-80s, when the disease hit the eastern Mediterranean destroying a great number of sponges and the sponge-fishing industry by extension.

Sponge diving with all its traditions and history still forms the very soul of the people of this island. There is a celebration called Sponge Week taking place on the island each year one week after Easter to honor the relationship between the people of Kalymnos and the sponge, which is also known as the Kalymnian Gold. As usual on these occasions, the people sing, dance, and eat traditionally.

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