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Carrabelle History Museum presents a Special Exhibit on Sponge Diving in Carrabelle and North Florida
October 1, 2021 - March 31, 2022
The Carrabelle History Museum is presenting a special exhibit on Sponge Diving in Carrabelle and the North Gulf Coast of Florida. This exhibit will be on display through Thursday, March 31, 2022. There is no charge for admission but donations are gladly accepted. The museum and exhibit are open Wednesdays 12-5 pm, Thursdays thru Saturdays 10 am – 5 pm and Sundays 12 – 5 pm.
After the sponge industry in Greece collapsed in the late 1800s, Greek divers brought their practices to Florida and created an extremely lucrative industry. Apalachicola, Tarpon Springs, and Key West emerged as top sponge trade ports. By 1900, Apalachicola was home to two sponge warehouses and employed around 100 men. Carrabelle developed a large sponge fleet of its own during that time.
Small sailboats embarked on month-long harvesting trips in the northern Gulf. Each vessel carried several small dinghies. A pair of men worked each dingy with one man rowing as the other looked for sponges using a glass viewing box pressed against the surface of the water.
The arrival of diving technology in the early 1900s, the diving suit, brought more efficiency to harvesting. The diving suit enabled the men to walk along the seafloor to more quickly harvest sponges. By around the 1930s, a combination of overharvesting, blight, and the invention of synthetic sponges led to the depletion of the sponge industry which virtually closed in this area at that time. In recent years sponge harvesting has made a bit of a comeback and locally-sourced sponges can once again be found in Franklin County.
A turn-of-the-century Greek sponge diving suit complete with a helmet and weight belt is the focal point of the exhibit. The Sponge Diving exhibit also includes an authentic, brass sponge diving helmet used by a former local diver as well as a diorama of the sponge docks, early images, and historical photos of Carrabelle’s sponge boats and local sponge divers plus a fascinating video of sponge diving.
Carrabelle History Museum is located, one block from Carrabelle Harbor, at 106 SE Avenue B, Carrabelle, FL. Funding in part by the Franklin County Tourist Development Council. For more information, contact 850-697-2141 or go to Carrabelle History Museum.