Within the last few decades the sponge industry of the Bahama Islands has increased at such a rate that to-day it is the second in importance on the island. Although the product is not of such excellent quality as that from the Mediterranean, it sells well and is in demand both in England and in America.
For sponge fishing little boats of ten tons burden are employed and manned by from six to twelve men. The sponges that are washed upon the rocks and reefs are taken with iron rakes fastened to long poles, or are brought to the surface by divers and spread out on the deck of the vessel. This kills their soft, slimy organisms, which are black as tar. The sponges are then repeatedly beaten with sticks to remove this black slime, and afterward well washed.
The sponges are then sorted and softened for several hours in lime water, dried in the sun, and bleached. They are finally pressed by machinery into 100 lb. balls and then packed for shipping.
A rich and very extensive "sponge field" was recently discovered near Eleuthera, but as the water there has a considerable depth, five or six fathoms, fishing is attended with difficulty. In fact, it is rendered impossible wherever the "segler" or sailor fish are found, for the mud which these tiny creatures stir up completely veils the sponges from the eye of the fisherman.
In 1881 the export amounted to $150,000, of which three-fourths came to America.--Chem. Zeit.