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The Natural Sponges of Kalymnos
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Myrties Boutique Apartments
Myrties, Kalymnos 85 200 Greece
Tel. : +30.6986285888
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The Natural Sponges of Kalymnos

The source of supply worldwide of natural sponges,
is the island of Kalymnos. 
The sponge
is not an industrial product, it is a living organism. The natural sponges of the sea are aquatic animals, evolving, depending and surviving within the environment they live in. The diversity of their forms is an interrelation of many parameters, such as the temperature of the water, the light, the existing current, the undulation, the depth, even the age of the animal. It exists in various colors, forms, sizes and constitutions. The sea sponges have been used for years and are part of our everyday hygiene and cosmetic treatment. As early as the day we are born our mothers use the natural sponges to keep us clean.

Natural sponges have a lot of advantages in comparison to the synthetic ones. They have a longer duration of life, they do nοt smudge, they do nοt maintain smells and their soft constitution provides a deeper and without irritations skin cleaning. They are not only used for personal hygiene but also in bioengineering and the pharmaceutical industry.
The Mediterranean Sea is considered to be the most important source of natural sponges because the density of the salt in the sea-water, is higher and makes the sponges stronger. Do nοt leave Kalymnos without visiting one of the portοt Sponge Factories not only to buy your very own beauty kit but also to learn the history behind this very special product !  








History & Tradition of Sponge Diving

Sponge diving has a long standing tradition in Kalymnos. The first divers of Kalimnos gathered their sponges from the bottom of the sea using the skin diving technique. In other words, they dived into the sea naked, carrying a











(flat stone weighing about 15 kilograms) in order to sink to the sea floor quickly. The mates of the divers in the boat above would already have ensured the presence of sponges on the sea floor with the help of a glass-bottomed cylindrical tool. Skilled divers would dive up to 30 meters down and remain underwater three to five minutes gathering the sponges with a special net.

Although it was a hard, dangerous and manual technique, the skin diving method produced an abundance of sponges and brought enormous wealth to the island of Kalymnos.  During the middle of the 19th century, the merchants of the island made immense profits from the trade and export of sponges and became highly influential members of society in Kalimnos.

The already booming business in sponges got a further boost after 1865 with the introduction of the standard diving suit, the











, as the Greeks called it. The skafandro enabled the previously naked divers to gather larger quantities of sponges at greater depths (up to 70 meters), staying down for longer periods than was previously possible.




The introduction of the skafandro brought profound changes to the sponge diving industry in Greece generally and more specifically on Kalymnos. Gone were the days of the small boats in which the naked divers of Kalymnos ventured out to the sea. Now it was the turn of large fleets consisting of numerous ships to mine for sponges on a larger scale.




According to Faith Warn, a British journalist and former resident of Kalymnos, the vast sponge diving fleet included 300 ships with 6 to 15 divers for each ship, another 70 ships that used harpoons to harvest sponges and 70 trawlers. The ships were launched from the island of Kalymnos to scour the Aegean and the Mediterranean, often staying at sea for as long as 6 months and visiting places as far away as Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and Tunis.




However, the use of the standard diving suit brought in its wake serious risk and danger to the divers who had to make several dives a day at greater depths without any decompression pauses. Such grueling conditions caused great damage to the health of the divers, many of them getting paralyzed and some of them even dying of decompression sickness. According to Warn, the new diving method caused the death of around 10,000 divers between 1886 and 1910; another 20,000 divers were permanently disabled that same period.




The dangers of the new sponge diving method had a deep impact upon the families and society of Kalymnos. Every household on the island could count at least one family member who had either died or been paralyzed during the sponge diving season. The situation became so dire at the end of the 19th century that the Turkish sultan, who then ruled all Dodecanese islands, banned the use of the Skafandro at the request of the suffering women of Kalymnos.  However, the ban was short-lived as the profits of the sponge diving industry plunged causing serious economic concern.  The Skafandro returned after a few years, bringing in further deaths and disabilities due to decompression-related accidents. The benefits though also grew up. Commerce flourished and merchants made immense fortunes. The common people also benefited as free healthcare and education was made available to everyone.