The sponge fisherman must carefully watch his sponges, however, as
they are apt to contract a disease which turns them a bright orange color, and
which sets up an iodine smell. When a sponge turns this color it is entirely
With a dull knife remaining particles of outside skin are scraped off,
and the club again beats out pieces of shell, coral, other foreign matter, and
the dead tissue. Water is then squeezed through the sponges a number of
times and they are ready for stringing.
The sponges are strung in bunches, each bunch strung on a piece of
cord four feet and eight inches in length. Sponges of the same size and
grade are strung together. They are then taken to the sponge deck on
auction days for sale.
Three varieties of sponges are sold in Key West-sheepswool,
yellow, and grass. The sheepswool is the most valuable. Price depends on
size, quality, shape, softness, and durability. The best sponges are of a
grayish-blue color throughout. Inferior sponges may be distinguished by the
red-brown color of the interior fiber. Typical prices of sheepswool sponges
have been: one lot of 200 bunches $1,427; 226 bunches, $1,587; a lot of 17
bunches, $12. At present, however, prices of the best grades bring between
$4 and $5 a bunch. Yellow and grass sponges bring much lower prices;
yellow, seldom more than $1 a bunch; grass, about $.50 a bunch.