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'File 10/6 Pearl diving and pearl trade: Correspondence re:' [‎17r] (33/44)

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The record is made up of 1 file (22 folios). It was created in 5 Jun 1929-18 Apr 1935. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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the fleet
Although the richest pearl banks are around
Bahrein, the Sheikh receives no direct income
from pearls. The revenue of his State is mainly
derived from Customs duties upon imports. The
value of the imports varies according to the
success of the diving season, which lasts from
the middle of May till the end of September,
while the water is warm. On a day appointed
by the Sheikh, which is announced by public
proclamation, the pearling fleet, consisting of
about 500 great sailing dhows, very like Roman
galleys, sets out from Bahrein to the pearl banks,
where they are joined by the fleets from the
lesser Gulf ports. Until they clear the har
bour the boats are propelled by heavy oars,
each pulled by two men, who sing the song
of the pearlers as they row. Often the fleet
returns at night when the moon and the tide
are full. The sound of the sailors chanting and
the splash of the oars is carried across the still
water to the town. The sight of hundreds of
white sails, some of them coloured orange by
the light of the fires burning on the decks, is
one of the most picturesque in the world.
Mechanical apparatus of any kind is for
bidden, and the methods of diving have not
changed since they were described by fourteenth-
century travellers. Each diver wears a clip like
a clothes-peg to close his nostrils, leather
sheaths protect his fingers and enable him to
— u from the rocks ""^ftrneath
the sea, and each of his big toes is guarded
by a similar sheath. He descends on a rope
which has a stone weight attached to it. This
is hauled up when he readies the bottom.
Round his neck is slung a string bag, which he
fills with shells, attached to a rope with which
his comrade, the puller, draws him up again
when he gives the signal. Divers remain below
the surface for nearly a minute and a half,
and they descend about 30 times in one day,
often to a depth of 14 fathoms. The shells
are heaped on deck during the day and opened
in the evening under the vigilant eye of the
captain, who puts away the pearls in his sea chest.
No diver knows whether it is his shell that
contained a pearl. While the men are working
they take neither food nor drink, but they eat
in the early morning and after sunset they have
a meal of rice and dates and fish. The shells
are thrown back into the sea, the divers believing
that oysters feed upon the empty shells. They
believe, too, that pearls are formed by drops
of rain which are caught by the oysters at night.
The work is very strenuous and conditions
are hard, but the divers on the whole are
healthy and many of them show unusually fine
muscular development. The Arab, by nature
improvident and thinking nothing of the future,
has an ingrained instinct for gambling, and there
is always the chance of belonging to a boat
which finds a really big pearl. These charac
teristics and the lack of other occupation have
always been sufficient inducement to make
Arabs become divers in spite of the hardships
of the work.
The men are paid no wages, but they receive
a share in the profits of the season. Divers are
entitled to twice the amount which is paid to a
puller, as their work is more arduous. There
are several different diving systems, and all of
them are very ancient. Usually the captain of
the boat borrows money from a merchant on
shore to equip and provision his boat and to
pay the two annual advances made to the divers
at the beginning of -the season and halfway
through the off season. At the end of the season
the pearls are sold, the expenses of the expedi
tion are deducted, the captain takes one-fifth of
the profit, and the remainder is divided among
the divers and the pullers. But the shore
merchant charges interest on the money which
he lent to the captain, and the divers pay
interest on the money advanced to thcrn

About this item


The file contains a paper entitled 'Vocabulary of diving terms', giving a list of terms for types of divers and persons related to diving, and descriptions of four diving systems; notes on advances and payments; notes on accounts; list of general terms relating to diving; miscellaneous notes on diving; correspondence between the Political Resident A senior ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul General) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Residency. in the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. , Bushire (Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Charles Johnson Barrett), and the American Consul in Baghdad, dated 1929, in which the Resident strongly advises the Consul against an American firm sending a pearl fishing ship to the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. , stating that the pearl fisheries had been conducted from time immemorial by the inhabitants of the Gulf coasts, and any interference by outsiders would be strenuously resisted and attended with considerable risk; press cuttings, 1934-1935; and note on levy recruits' diving debts.

Extent and format
1 file (22 folios)

The papers are arranged chronologically from the front to the rear of the file.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: The foliation system in use appears in a circle in the top right-hand corner of each folio. There is a second, uncircled, foliation sequence by which some of the folios are numbered (with gaps) 1-8, 18-19, 35-37, and 78-79 (folios 2-21).

Condition: Folio 21 is torn at one corner and some text is missing.

Written in
English in Latin script
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'File 10/6 Pearl diving and pearl trade: Correspondence re:' [‎17r] (33/44), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/1349, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 20 February 2020]

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