Before I begin this tale of our discovery of Skandalopetra and our understanding of the techniques required, just a brief word about our mentor Nikolas Trikilis, the Guru of Skandanopetra. Nikolas is one of those people who with great ease gets on with everybody, a person of considerable charm. If he was a politician it would stop there, but in his case it is far from stopping there, he is a person of enormous patience, an ability to emphatise that goes far beyond the definition of a great comunicator. He helped us before our arrival and had the patience to listen to and answer all my questions at even inappropriate times.
We learned exactly how hard a life this was for the original sponge fishermen with the Skandalopetra. As the divers had to venture further and further afield to find sponges they travelled in bigger boats in larger numbers and were away for months. 70 divers might set out and only 7 return. Many of the songs and dances of Kalymnos tell of the hardship and heartbreak of this life. A young boy replacing a father lost in a dive on returning to the surface bleeding from his nose and ears was told to deal with it, that is what it was.
Sponge diving was exclusively a male occupation, by necessity otherwise there would have been no future generations on either Simi or Kalymnos. Some one had to raise the young!
In the long voyages the boys provided sexual services for the adult divers, until they in turn replaced divers lost at sea, and became men.
We wondered how the old divers equalised, both hands were needed to manipulate the stone and there is no evidence in their having nose clips. Maybe the answer was to be found in the story of Haggi Stattis, when he was was examined by the doctors of the Italian Navy after his dive to recover the anchor of the Regina Margrita. He had a torn ear drum in the right ear and a completely missing one in the left. Maybe it was a question of suffer this injury and all its consequences or starve.
Was there another way to equalise that they developed, this was a tantalising question! One that fascinated me.
Another question was what happened when Haggi got to the bottom, did he leave the line and Skandalopetra and swim around, in which case how did he find the again in low light conditions.
Nikolas solved this one for me. The diver tucked the skandalopetra under one arm and walk with it, and pulled on the line when he wished to surface.