Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/256

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
244
MONOMYARIA.—AVICULADÆ.

to admit a rope. Some of the divers use a stone shaped like a half-moon, which they fasten round the belly when they mean to descend, and thus keep their feet free.

"These people are accustomed to dive from their very infancy, and fearlessly descend to the bottom in from four to ten fathoms water in search of the oysters. The diver, when he is about to plunge, seizes the rope to which one of the stones we have described is attached, with the toes of his right foot, while he takes hold of a bag of network with those of his left, it being customary among all the Indians to use their toes in working or holding as well as their fingers; as, such is the power of habit, they can pick up even the smallest thing from the ground with their toes almost as nimbly as a European could with his fingers. The diver, thus prepared, seizes another rope with his right hand, and holding his nostrils shut with the left, plunges into the water, and by the assistance of the stone speedily reaches the bottom. He then hangs the net round his neck, and, with much dexterity and all possible despatch, collects as many oysters as he can while he is able to remain under water, which is usually about two minutes; he then resumes his former position, makes a signal to those above by pulling a rope in his right hand, and is immediately by this means drawn up and brought into the boat, leaving the stone to be pulled up afterwards by a rope attached to it."

The serious effects which so protracted a submersion must produce upon the human frame, are manifested by a discharge of water from their mouths, ears, and nostrils, and frequently of blood. But this does not hinder them from going down