The Diving Heritage of Kalymnos Island

Kalymnos is famous as the Sponge Divers' Island.

proccessed natural sponge The main activity of Kalymnian population was diving, processing and trading sponges. Until a few years ago due to huge and repetitive crisis since World War II. To name a few:

  • The appearance of the synthetic sponge.
  • Fishery restrictions by the Mediterranean countries.
  • Almost total destroy by epidemic in 1986, 2002 and 2013.

Kalymnos is the only Greek Island with active sponge divers. And still remains a worldwide center for sponge processing and trading.

Diving for sponges

sponge divers Sponge divers travelled for sponges all over the Mediterranean Sea with 6 to 17 meters boats. Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunise, Marroco, Malta, Italy...

In Early 70ies, most Mediterranean countries nationalized their marine resources. And suspended sponge diving for Greek divers.

Since then, sponge diving with Kalymnian boats takes place only in Greek seas.

Diving methods

paint at Kalymnos Nautical Museum showing sponge diving Sponge divers use various diving methods.

From antiquity until a few yars ago, it was free diving with "Skandalopetra". The safest diving method that ever existed.

When diving equipment evolved, it was either "helmet", "fernez", "bottles" or "nargile".

In our days the diving method is "nargile". A continuous air support from a compressor on the boat.

Sponge processing

Natural sponges are black, hard and full of stones when fished. Processed sponges are yellow and soft, suitable even for children's skin.

natural sponge just picked off the sea proccessed natural sponge

It needs a lot of experience, knowledge and manual work to transform them. The know-how of the transformation is a traders family secret.

Sponge trading

Kalymnian traders controll more than 70% of sponge commerce worldwide. Back in 1900, the most important trader was Nikolas Vouvalis. He had his base on Kalymnos Island and London England. With branches in Cuba, Florida USA, Nassau Bahamas and the Greek islands Aegina, Simi and Chalki.

Kalymnian traders still process and commerce local production sponges. Along with imported sponges from other Mediterranean countries, USA and Cuba.

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