FREE-DIVING IN SUMBA
The island of Kalymnos in Greece was mentioned in the writings of both Homer and Plato as the center of spongeas diving two thousand years ago. By holding weight as much as fifteen kilos, divers would decent to over thirty meters for over five minutes to collect sponges for the ancient baths of Greece. There is archeological evidence that the Haenyeo people of Korea and Ama Divers from Japan collected shells, sponges and pearls in the fourth century.
Some skills like kicking a football are learned early on. Some skills require a special gift, like holding your breathe for five minutes at the bottom of a barrier reef. One can train, but inspiration is required in large measure.
It can be said without fear of contradiction that most sportsmen are dedicated passionate folks. Surfers, skiers, tennis players, mountain climbers and every other sport enthusiasts must possess the ‘eye of the tiger’ to excel.
Some say free-divers are a breed apart. However, not unlike the rest of us, they seek untouched virgin reefs; where they can calmly dive to depths beyond thirty, forty, fifty meters to observe sea fauna undisturbed in their natural habitat. They cavort with whales; they feed sharks and sometimes they spear the tastiest specimen for their table.
The human body makes several physiology adaptations under free-diving conditions to endure the pressure of depth and the lack of oxygen, which derive from a phenomenon known as mammalian diving reflex.
Reflex Bradycardia: Drop in heart rate.
Vasoconstriction: Blood vessels shrink, blood stream directed away from limbs for the benefit of heart, lungs and brain.
Splenic contraction: Release of red blood cells carrying oxygen.
Blood Shift: Blood plasma fills vessels in the lungs and reduces residual volume.
Without these adaptations, the lungs would shrink and wrap into their walls causing permanent damage.
Alexey & Natilia Molchanov hold world records for men and women of well over one hundred meters. Not for the faint of heart; plenty of mammalian reflex!
Spear fishing is an ancient fishing method. In the 1920’s free-diving using only swimming goggles became popular along the Mediterranean coast of France and Italy. Soon diving masks, swim-fins and snorkels developed.
Modern self contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) had it genesis in the systematic use of re-breathers in the 1930’s. Jacques Cousteau is credited as the inventor of the compressed air regulator. In his book “The Silent Sea” Captain Jacques notes that his dive crew soon came the conclusion that one burns more calories diving than one can expect to gain by spearing fish. An interesting loosing equation!
Regulations in different jurisdictions control spear fishing in an attempt to maintain eco-sustainability. And some divers, me included, retired our guns and slings long ago in favor of the waterproof camera.
According to Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor – free-diving ‘hot-spots’ include: New Zealand, Gulf of Mexico, Cape Town and the Great Barrier Reef. Sumba Island is now on the ‘Map’ of great diving locations.
The virgin world class surf waves and barrier reefs of Sumba Island have recently exploded on the surf blogs. Now free-divers are becoming aware; where there are ancient barrier reefs and no people, there is teaming sea life!
To learn more about the untouched reefs and pristine beach of Sumba Island:
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