Old Kuwaiti sailors sought livelihood in winter in Sri Lanka Sea

By Sheikha Al-Loughani KUWAIT, May 5 (KUNA) — Kuwaitis in the old times faced many harsh circumstances as they traveled far destinations, and dived in the depths of the roughest of seas and oceans seeking livelihood, including Sri Lanka Sea in search for pearls.
Sri Lanka was known for its clear and quite shores and warm waters during the winter season, and thus Kuwaitis launched their naval ships from Bahrain towards the ports of Sri Lanka in a two-week journey.
Sri Lanka was a British Colony from 1815 till 1948, as the British were in charge of supervising the pearl-diving process and set rules to regulate it.
The most important diving regulation was hiring a boat to dive, accompanied by an Indian soldier who should supervise and observe the divers, where the ships should head to pearls’ banks in the early morning, while a flag was raised on board of the boat to announce the ending of the allowed diving period.
The soldiers were also in charge of prohibiting the divers not to crack open the oysters, as the British administration punished all divers who violate this regulation, while taking the revenue of selling two-thirds of the closed oysters, and the remaining third is given to the divers.
Kuwaiti historian Saif Marzouq Al-Shamlan said in his book “The History of Pearl Diving in Kuwait and the Arabian Gulf”, that the famous Kuwaiti diver Othman Al-Kharraz went to diving in Sri Lanka for three times, as the first time was in 1904.
The British colonists in Sri Lanka located the spots of pearl diving on a daily basis, at the depth of 16-22 meters approximately.
The divers stayed there for a period of no more than two months, to avoid sea disorders, as they gain fair amounts of profits of 1,500 to 2,000 Indian Rubees per sailor.
During the reign of Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah, diving in Sri Lanka was prohibited upon his instructions, as the divers lost their strength and activeness if they dive during the winter season, which would physically drain them and; subsequently, negatively affect their productivity throughout the normal diving season. (end) sal.lb

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