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The History Of Spearfishing

The History of Spearfishing

Spearfishing as we know it is the product of thousands of years of trial, error and scientific advances. The evolution of this sport required an alliance of seemingly unrelated disciplines and technologies from around the world. Based on its enduring popularity and the art and artifacts that have been discovered, this blend of hunting and fishing is an important part of world culture. Spearfishing has been documented in French cave paintings, at archeological sites and in historic Egyptian texts. To study the origin of this popular hunting sport, we must examine more than 20,000 years of world history.

The art of spearfishing began in the Paleolithic era with the first prehistoric stone tools. Stone tools increased the success rate and widened the variety of quarry that was available to the original survivalists who lived off the land and found their sustenance in the sea. Using a primitive barbed harpoon that required no bait was the best way for early man to harvest the protein-packed prey.

The Egyptians, the Inuits, the ancient Hawaiians and the people of the Mediterranean used primitive harpoons. Many historians believe that the iconic trident carried by Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, is actually a fishing harpoon. These implements were used by our ancestors for hunting seals, fish, whales and many other marine animals. Early fishermen hunted from the surface using wooden spears that were between six and seven feet long. Native people in Hawaii built fish ponds and used spearfishing techniques to collect rock fish by day and at night.

The art of spearfishing improved and thrived over the centuries. In 1870, a Norwegian inventor developed the first pressurized harpoon gun, which inspired today's technology. Despite a shift away from subsistence hunting, spearfishing remained a popular hobby in the early 20th century. By the 1920s, the invention of the goggles that let Jacques Cousteau see the bottom of the ocean also enabled swimmers to hunt while underwater. Fishermen in Italy experimented with primitive re-breathing devices. That need to remain underwater merged with the related sport of free-diving, which was used in the 19th century by female pearl divers in Japan and Greek swimmers who harvested precious sea sponges.

By the 1950s, spearfishing was reaching a new height of popularity. A few years later, the International Underwater Spearfishing Association was established, and the official rules for spearfishing underwater were distributed worldwide. Technological advances improved the success rate of spearfishers (also known as Spearos). Goggles, snorkels, fins and advanced free-diving techniques transformed primitive spearfishing into the high-tech sport we know today.

Nowadays, spearfishing has both high-tech hunters and throwback purists. Freedivers stalk the depths of lakes and oceans while some purists in Australia and the Amazon still hunt their bounty while wading through waist-deep water. Although spearfishing will keep evolving, many believe that it is fishing in its purest form.  Spearfishing is the ultimate hunt!  The classic picture of one hunter, one spear and one fish is still the most romantic image of this sport.  All this on just one breath...



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