Sponging at Key West

Sponging at Key West


  • Sponging at Key West

Published Date

  • published 1940


[page 3]
the water is very smooth and clear, a wooden water-bucket with a glass
bottom is used. The fisherman places this in the water, peers through, and is
able to easily see the sponge he is hooking. Great care must be used in
removing the sponge from the bottom, for sometimes it is so firmly attached
that it is mutilated by the hook. Its value is then materially reduced.

Preparing for the Market

The sponges are transferred from the dingies to the large boat. When
brought up, they are alive and filled with a thick rubber-like substance.
Most of the porousness of the commercial sponge is, in its natural state,
taken up by living tissue. They are laid on the deck of the deposit boat
where they are exposed to the air for three or four days to allow this living
matter to die and decay. Decomposition sets in, and much of the liquid
organic matter drains away. During this process the sponges are shaded
from the sun in order to prevent the outer surface from hardening and
rendering subsequent cleaning difficult.

The sponges are then beaten with a short heavy club to loosen the
remaining skin, dead tissue, and foreign matter. After this, they are strung
on a strong cord, thrown overboard, and allowed to remain in the water
several days for cleaning by tidal action. Sometimes the sponges are placed
in crawls, small enclosures made with stakes set closely together in shallow
water near the shore, or kept in a trough on the boat.