season and are serviced by a mother ship which brings them supplies and
picks up the shell. (5)
Being Japanese owned, these boats attract the best divers, leaving
available the less skillful men for the Australian boats. The Japanese
costs, outfitting, wages, fuel, food, and so forth, are much less than those
which the Australian owners must pay. The Japanese also escape shore
charges. Besides these advantages the Japanese boats, since they do not
put into port to discharge their cargoes, lose no time on the grounds.
World consumption stands at about 4,000 tons of shell a year. In
1937-1938, 7,400 tons were thrown on the market, Japan alone supplying
4,000 tons. (5) In the face of such competition the supply of shell in
New York and London, the world's largest trading points, was enough
for two years.
We have spoken of shells as though they were something apart
from pearls but in reality the two products are associated in one industry.
In pearl fisheries, shell, from which mother-of-pearl is taken, is the basic
commodity. Pearls are only a side-line. (5) About one shell in a
thousand will contain a pearl and but few of these are of considerable
Many of the best pearls find their way to Bombay markets, for
Indians are connoisseurs of these gems and the world's most fabulous
pearl treasures are in India. Many princes and wealthy men in the various
provinces employ staffs of "pearl wearers," girls who sit