At the Bahrein fisheries the trade is in the hands of the merchants, who bear hard on the divers, and even those who make the greatest exertions in diving can scarcely obtain a sufficiency of food.* The hardships and sufferings endured by the divers are very great. After a long dive, we are told that the natives of the Paamuto Islands may be seen squatting on the reefs with, blood gushing from the ears and nose, and become quite blind for ten or twenty minutes.
Sir William Denison tells us, that the pearl-fishery of Tuttukudi or Tutikorin, in the Gulf of Manaar, has been rather productive of late years. The leading man of the pearl-divers was presented to him, and he wore, as a sort of badge of office, a gold shell with a pearl inside.†
Mr. Edward Rae mentions having purchased some fairly good pearls at Archangel, from the pearl-fisheries on the Terski coast.‡ Pearls are occasionally found by the men employed in Birmingham in making pearl-buttons, in the mother-of-pearl shells imported for that purpose. A few years since, it is stated that a small number of shells were brought to Birmingham, which, either by mistake, or through ignorance, had not been cleared of the pearls at the fishery, and a considerable number were found, and sold by the man who had bought the shells for working into buttons. One pearl sold for £40; the purchaser is believed to have re-sold it for £160, and it was said to have been offered for sale in Paris, afterwards, for £800.§
* McCullock's 'Commercial Dictionary'.
† 'Varieties of Vice-Hegal Life,' by Sir William Denison, KC.B, p. 199.
‡ 'The White Sea Peninsula,' p. 119.
§ 'Jewellery and Gilt Toys,' by J. S. Wright, in'The Resources,.
Pearls from Meleagrina margaritifera are used in medicine by the Chinese, in the composition of pills and powders, and, naturally, they are said to have marvellous powers of cure, on account of the costliness of the ingredients. The following is a remedy called Paô-hing-ché, which is used in the treatment of smallpox.
Tché-tchong (red coral) . . .
„ (ruby) ....
Tchin-chou (fine pearls)
Téou-pau-hiang (musk) . . .
Pé-tché-tsé (bole earth) . .
Reduce all these substances to powder and mix them well, then, with gum and water, make them into a paste, then divide and roll into small pills, and gild them.*
The Pinna may be cooked in the following manner: -
Take five or six pinnce, according to their size, and after they have been well washed, put them into a saucepan on a slow fire until the shells open; then take out the fish. Chop some parsley very fine, and put it with a tablespoonful of oil or an ounce of butter, into a saucepan, and fry until it becomes brown. To this add a pint of water, and, when it boils, put in your fish, with a little salt and pepper.
Sometimes vermicelli is boiled with it, when more water must be added; or take a slice or two of bread nicely toasted, and, after cutting it up into small pieces, put it into the soup before it is served.
Products, Industrial Hist. of Birmingham,' etc, edited by Samuel Timmins.
* 'Essai sur la Pharmacie et la Matière Médicale des Chinois,' par J. O, Desbeaux,.
Take half-a-dozen of these shellfish, and, after well washing them, place them in a saucepan over a slow fire until they open of their own accord; take out the fish from their shells, and place them on a dish, covering them well with flour or breadcrumbs. Put some oil or lard into a frying-pan, and, when it begins to boil, add your fish, and fry them of a bright yellow colour. The frying-pan should be gently shaken all the time, so that the fish may not adhere together, but be quite separate. Fried parsley may be added just before serving up, and slices of lemon put round the dish.