This piece is one in every of 10 winners of our 2022 Profile Contest. You’ll find extra here. Haedam Lee, 14, and Yeonji Joo, 13, the authors, go to Branksome Hall 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 huge Jeju ocean, dancing with the waves. All of the sudden, “Hwui! Pah …” and a haenyeo comes out onto the floor of the chilly winter sea. She stuffs a small abalone into the web 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 strategy 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 discipline of plastic,” stated Ms. Lee.
At first, she was fascinated by the character of Jeju, because the island was recognized for its pristine ecosystem. Based on 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 stated.
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 risk, 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 gear. Then, we examine the climate to verify it’s protected for us to dive. As soon as confirmed, we trip 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 will not be lengthy, it’s positively tiring.
What was your most troublesome and pleasant second whereas being a haenyeo?
A lot of the actions we do as haenyeos are dangerous; nonetheless, the arduous bodily labor is essentially the most demanding. We dive greater than 200 instances a day, which suggests a excessive degree of stamina and respiration methods are crucial. As most haenyeos are previous, it will get more durable to maintain up with what’s required for work. However, essentially the most pleasant a part of being a haenyeo is the satisfying feeling when diving into the water with out eager about something. Though being a haenyeo is difficult, I like my job as a result of it’s actually what I need to do.
Have been there any accidents that you simply skilled whereas working?
The chance of being captured in ocean trash like previous nets is an enormous downside. Huge nets are nearly invisible after we get within the water. As we solely rely on our breath when diving, it’s exhausting to suppose logically if we all of the sudden get caught and panic. Not solely the nets, however plastic air pollution can be a difficulty. Many instances we might discover plastic hanging on urchins. To unravel this subject, generally we dive simply to gather plastic from the ocean. Though this won’t eradicate the issue, we try to alleviate ocean waste as our work is straight linked to the sustainability of nature. If nature can’t be protected, now we have no work to do.
Have you ever seen or felt the results of local weather change or rising temperatures whereas working?
We usually 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 risk whereas we work in shallow waters. Additionally, throughout the summer season, I’ve witnessed underwater crops like algae melting attributable to excessive warmth. Algae will not be solely our supply of earnings but additionally meals for different marine life. To cease the cycle of nature and our livelihood being destroyed, we want the temperature to drop once more.