Oldest order of female divers
Last updated: July 2, 2018 at 4:33 am
Ama divers (海女 | Sea Women) of Japan have been diving for food and pearls for 2,000 years. Traditional Ama divers wear only a loincloth (isogi) and no diving equipment. The isogi is white to ward off sharks and bad luck. Today, it is worn mostly for tourists while others dive with masks, fins, and even a wetsuit. Ama divers are also known as Uminchu (Okinawa), and Kaito (Izu Peninsula).
In South Korea, the Haenyo (해녀 | Sea Women) of Jeju Island took over diving from men in the 18th century because they were exempt from a new tax. Many became the biggest earners in their families while the men stayed at home to take care of the children. Some have made small fortunes diving for high-priced abalone and conch. In 1950, the number of Haenyo was about 30,000 on Jeju. In 2003, there were only 5,650 and 85% were over 50 years old.
Not all Japanese ama divers (海人) are women. A minority of ama divers are men (海士).
Rahn, H.; Yokoyama, T. (1965). Physiology of Breath-Hold Diving and the Ama of Japan. United States: National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council. p. 369.
The Mermaids of Jeju – Korean Female Divers Haenyeo | Official Korea Tourism Organization
Comments are moderated: (1) Stay on topic (2) Be respectful (3) Refrain from vulgarity and abusive language (4) Do not publish materials that violate copyright. OFFENDING COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED.
In order to ensure your browsing experience is as enjoyable as possible, banners are kept to an absolute minimum, which means that advertising revenues alone cannot sustain this 100% FREE publication. Researching and updating the Diving Almanac requires a lot of time and dedication. If you believe the diving community needs a central body of information to record, validate and make available our shared history and accomplishments, please show your support by making a contribution to the Diving Almanac via PayPal (Porbeagle Press). Thank you!
Jeffrey Gallant is the Editor-in-Chief and Records Keeper of the Diving Almanac. He is also a contributing editor of DIVER Magazine, and the scientific director of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG). Jeffrey started diving in 1982.