where a kind of fair is held at certain times. The Buginese, who are the most enterprising trepang fishers, have such a place in the little island of Kilwaru, between Ceramlaut and Gessir. It is really only a sand bank, fifty ells long and broad, rising three or four feet above the level of the sea, and surrounded by coral reefs. Other such places are situated on the Aru Islands and at different spots here and there in the Australasian Archipelago. Very many are taken to the chief mart at Macassar; and Java has recently begun to compete actively with this island for the trade.
The market price of this costly dainty depends not on the size of the individuals, but on other qualities which are mysteries to all but connoisseurs. The Chinese dealers and sorters understand them, but the native fishermen pay no attention to them. Crawford mentions thirty different qualities, the best of which, called takker itam, costs about eighty dollars a pikol, while the least valuable, the kuasser, or peku goreng, can be got for a little more than five dollars a pikol. A very good sort comes from the Marianne Islands, and is called guam.
About 1,510 pikols a year of trepangs are sent to China from the Aru Islands, 6,000 from Java, and 8,000 or 9,000 from Macassar. The whole quantity brought to the Celestial Empire every year amounts to 90,000 pikols, but the demand is always ahead of the supply; and yet the trepang is not a people's food in China; for, while the number of individual sea cucumbers consumed there annually rises to 99,000,000, the empire has 380,000,000 inhabitants; so that only every fourth Chinaman could possibly get a trepang a year. The market price in China ranges from about $23 to $135 a pikol. Averaging it at $54 a pikol, we find that the frugal Mongolian sons of heaven yearly spend nearly $9,000,000 for this sea worm.
Not being versed in Chinese cook-books, we can not give directions for serving up the trepang; but, according to Jamieson, the Chinese make strong and palatable soups and various fricassees from them.—Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from Daheim.