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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/537

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THE ABALONES OF CALIFORNIA

THE ABALONES OF CALIFORNIA
By Professor CHARLES LINCOLN EDWARDS

MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, ASSISTANT, CALIFORNIA FISH AND GAME COMMISSION

THE abalone belongs to a family of marine snails, the Haliotidæ, which has many representatives in the waters about Africa, India, Japan and the neighboring islands. Six species and one variety have been described from the Pacific coast of North America, but none from the Atlantic coast. Under the name of ormers, sea-ears, or earshells, this gastropod occurs on the coast of France and among the Channel Islands, but the species are most abundant in tropical and semi-tropical regions.

The abalone is of importance because of its beautiful shell, polished as an ornament, or manufactured into many kinds of novelties and jewelry. Gleaming with the iridescence of the rainbow and the aurora this lovely shell is fit to be the chalice of Eos. Pearls may be secreted around foreign particles accidentally, or designedly, introduced between the mantle and the nacreous layer of the shell. The mollusk Pholadidea may bore through the shell and cause the formation of the blisterpearl, or we may bring about the same result by inserting a prepared form. Then the meat, either fresh or dried, is of much, food value.

In the commercial fishery of abalones, one or more crews are employed, generally made up of Japanese, but sometimes of Chinese or American fishermen. The boat containing a crew is either rowed, or driven by motor, from the camp to the fishing grounds. The crew consists of the diver and his six assistants. When over the right bottom the diver is clothed with his suit, the helmet screwed upon the brass collar, the heavy lead breast and back weights adjusted, and the anvpump manned. One man takes the diver's signal rope, another the hose from the air-pump, and the diver, with a net attached to a rope and his shucking-chisel in hand, is assisted over the side, climbs down the short ladder and drops through the water to the bottom. If he finds the abalones plentiful, work is continued in depths of from twenty to sixty-five feet, in four-hour shifts. The man on the boat with the signal rope in hand follows the course of the diver by the constant stream of air-bubbles rising to the surface. When the kelp is thick one man has a knife on a long pole, with which he cuts the sea-weed and keeps the air-tube clear.

The diver finds it an easy task to detach the abalone from the rock