"Parası pul. Karısı dul" The poignant truth about sponge divers . "Lots of money but their wives end up widows". Luckily for Bodrum, this diver is still in strapping health and last week we went along to watch the premiere of "The Last Sponge Diver" a documentary by Savaş Karakaş about the life of Mehmet Baş. When Bodrum was just a small fishing village, the sponge boat captains would go into the surrounding villages to recruit young men to be "Mancorna", deep sea divers. Compared to a poor life working the land this was a chance to share in the lucrative sponge trade but they would be away from home for months and some would not come back. Mehmet is the last of this bunch. He is also the epitome of fitness, not succumbing to the bends like the ex-divers I used to see around the village harbours in the 1980s and 90s, hobbling on crutches or in wheelchairs because they had come to the surface too quickly without decompressing. Mehmet's nick-name is "Aksona", which is the stop divers make on the way up to the surface to avoid decompression sickness.
These photos were taken in 1992 on a day out on Mehmet's 12 meter dive boat. He is also a poet and as a tribute to a fellow Bodrum writer, Donald Carroll, Mehmet had commissioned a marble plaque (white, not blue) engraved with Donald's name which, after christening with champagne, he took down to the seabed as a permanent memorial. I have to point out that Donald, at this time, was in fine fettle and apart from the champagne, Mehmet treated us to sea urchins with just a dash of lemon juice and barbequed sea bass. This was an unusual excuse for a party but typical of Aksona Mehmet's great enthusiasm for all things literary and marine.
Have a look at Mehmet's website.
He now has an 18m yacht available for charter.
R.I.P Donald Carroll