Poem: Haenyeo of Jeju Island

Korean diver, photographer Eric Hevesy

Haenyeo mermaids

korean female divers

sun kissed bronze

with eyes so black they’re ancient blue

with iridescent hair flowing,

shimmering like seaweed fins

ebony ink underwater.

Sea merchant women,

treasure chest hunters

saving their families from poverty,

female boss providers of seaside villages,

expert excavators navigating

dangerous currents

without breathing apparatus*

water nymph goddesses,

Polynesian cousins

they ripple through liquid tunnels

and mysterious sea caves

surfacing like diamond dolphins.

They outshined their men,

mirroring pregnancy,

capable of more than them,

defying patriarchy

each plunge is a treasure chest birth

of glorious abalone

sunken jeweled shells open

glistening like music

spelling abstracts under bells

of sonic whales humming stories of the world.

Drifting living islands singing

octave lures of oceanic serenades

that return to rebirth.

Meet the Korean women keeping an ancient seafood tradition alive.
— Read on roadsandkingdoms.com/2017/the-female-free-divers-of-jeju/

*The original Haenyeo divers didn’t have wet suits or breathing apparatus, which is pretty amazing; but modern divers now use them.


    1. I agree, commercial fishing industry is very destructive, those huge nets capture everything, so wasteful and no skill is involved. The old fishing method took skill and patience. Thanks for your comment.

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