Nobody knows exactly why the switch happened, but around the 17th century, a term for female divers who harvested mollusks, seaweed, and other food from the ocean, “jamnyeo”, began to be used by the people of Jeju, a small island off of South Korea.
Traditionally the work of men, some researchers believe that the switch occurred due to a lack of bodies—men were dying at war and harvesting food as it was dangerous work. Other’s believe the switch occurred naturally due to physiological differences—women have more subcutaneous fat and a higher shivering threshold than men, making them more equipped to withstand cold waters.
Whatever the reason, by the 18th century the task was dominated by women, and their expertise diving for food has become the backbone of a semi-matriarchal culture, with women bringing in the bulk of the income in many households, which was not typical for the time around most of the world. To learn about balancing motherhood and a deep connection with the ocean, professional freediver and spearfisher heads to the small island in this awesome short from Patagonia. —ML