Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/536

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518

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

these articles is therefore so brisk that the danger of a glut in the market can hardly be feared. Holothurias are even fished in the Bermudas and the West Indies, and exported, chiefly from Boston, to China. They are probably not sold there as products of the Atlantic ports of the New World, but mixed with real Indian trepangs. For about eighty years also trepangs caught near Ceylon and the Isle of France have been marketed in China, and have sold well; but are ranked—not being well enough prepared for the most delicate Chinese tastes—among the most inferior qualities of the Moluccan supply.

The principal trepang fishers are the Buginese and the inhabitants of the island of Goram. There go out together flotillas of from thirty to forty small, apparently fragile, but really quite seaworthy boats—called proas in the East Indies—with a complement of about a thousand men. The fishermen receive no wages, but are supplied with all the necessaries for the expedition—provisions, etc.—by Dutch and Chinese traders; these then have the right to the whole catch, for a previously determined price, to be paid on delivery, of which each participant in the voyage is entitled to his share. The dangers connected with such an expedition appear not to be small. But the business is a lucrative one. While we can not examine the accounts of the Malays and Chinese, we have evidence of this from another source. An American, Captain Eagleston, sent out five successive expeditions, which brought him 4,467 pikols (a pikol is 61·5 kilogrammes) of trepang, or, at 1,100 to the pikol, 4,913,700 individuals. The enterprise cost $10,337, and returned a clear profit of $67,924.

This fishing is conducted in a rather primitive manner. The most of the "fish" are caught, in shallow water, by spearing the larger ones and diving for the smaller ones; in deeper water an extremely simple drag-net is used, which is fastened to a long handle of bamboo.

A suitable number of trepang having been caught, the fishermen repair to the nearest island to put them up. The trepang are first opened and disemboweled; then the water is pressed out, and they are rubbed within and without with dry lime, which the Malays call tsilumam. They are next dried, either in the sun—which gives an inferior product—or in special crates, beneath which a smoking fire is kept burning; and, lastly, they are packed in bags. According to Mr. Wallace's description, they look like sausages that have been rolled in mud and dragged through a sooty chimney. The kind which I have occasionally tried at our delicatessen shops does not present quite so bad an appearance as that, but it is probably not one of the best qualities.

The dressed trepang are next taken to an appointed place