This piece is one among 10 winners of our 2022 Profile Contest. Yow will discover extra right here. Haedam Lee, 14, and Yeonji Joo, 13, the authors, go to Branksome Corridor Asia in Seogwipo Metropolis, South Korea.
Actual-Life Aquawomen: The Haenyeo
by Haedam Lee and Yeonji Joo
A cluster of “orange flowers” floats alongside the broad Jeju ocean, dancing with the waves. All of a sudden, “Hwui! Pah …” and a haenyeo comes out onto the floor of the chilly winter sea. She stuffs a small abalone into the online hooked up to the floating orange buoy and prepares to dive once more. Within the midst of a puff from the haenyeo, a whalelike whistle is audible once more. That is sumbisori: a sound made within the technique of inhaling with out the assistance of any expertise by feminine divers in Jeju, a Korean province.
“Hwui! Hah …” one other catches her breath after a deep dive because the 55-year-old Haenyeo, Lee Ji-hye, takes her flip.
A beginner within the haenyeo society, Ms. Lee moved to Jeju from Seoul six years in the past. Whereas working as a diver and harvesting sea creatures for numerous hours, Lee discovered herself uncovered to the severity of air pollution.
“What was the cleanest sea I’ve ever been to is now a area of plastic,” mentioned Ms. Lee.
At first, she was fascinated by the character of Jeju, because the island was recognized for its pristine ecosystem. In line with Ms. Lee, nonetheless, that is not the case. In her month-to-month dives, she encounters waste floating across the ocean.
“We generally dive within the ocean simply to gather trash,” she mentioned.
As a result of haenyeos depend on nature and dive with out the help of expertise, local weather change and air pollution pose an imminent menace, as their lives and livelihoods are in danger.
The next are excerpts from conversations with Ms. Lee, translated from Korean and edited for readability.
What occurs in a day within the lifetime of a haenyeo?
First, we meet on the shore and put together our fits, taewaks [the orange floats that hold the catch] and different tools. Then, we verify the climate to verify it’s protected for us to dive. As soon as confirmed, we experience a small boat onto the ocean and dive in! We work for 5 hours or extra, diving out and in of the water to scavenge for sea creatures. Then, we come out, hop on the boat again to the island and clear our harvests in addition to ourselves. Though our work is just not lengthy, it’s positively tiring.
What was your most troublesome and gratifying second whereas being a haenyeo?
A lot of the actions we do as haenyeos are dangerous; nonetheless, the arduous bodily labor is probably the most demanding. We dive greater than 200 instances a day, which implies a excessive degree of stamina and respiration methods are crucial. As most haenyeos are previous, it will get tougher to maintain up with what’s required for work. Then again, probably the most gratifying a part of being a haenyeo is the satisfying feeling when diving into the water with out fascinated about something. Though being a haenyeo is difficult, I really like my job as a result of it’s really what I need to do.
Had been there any accidents that you just skilled whereas working?
The danger of being captured in ocean trash like previous nets is a giant downside. Massive nets are nearly invisible after we get within the water. As we solely depend upon our breath when diving, it’s arduous to assume logically if we out of the blue get caught and panic. Not solely the nets, however plastic air pollution can also be a problem. Many instances we might discover plastic hanging on urchins. To resolve this difficulty, generally we dive simply to gather plastic from the ocean. Though this won’t eradicate the issue, we try and alleviate ocean waste as our work is immediately linked to the sustainability of nature. If nature can’t be protected, we have now no work to do.
Have you ever seen or felt the results of local weather change or rising temperatures whereas working?
We typically work early mornings when the ocean is colder, about 15 levels Celsius (59 levels Fahrenheit). Nevertheless, temperatures just lately stay at 17 levels Celsius which permits sharks to inhabit the hotter waters. This poses a menace whereas we work in shallow waters. Additionally, throughout the summer season, I’ve witnessed underwater crops like algae melting resulting from excessive warmth. Algae is just not solely our supply of earnings but in addition meals for different marine life. To cease the cycle of nature and our livelihood being destroyed, we’d like the temperature to drop once more.