Welcome to the first discussion of the Atlas Obscura Book Club Volume 2!
Today’s thread will be our first time talking about The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. We’ll be looking at roughly the first third of the book (to page 100, or up to the chapter “When Thoughts Turn to Weddings”), and sharing our final thoughts and feelings.Earth Observatory/Public Domain)
If you’re new to the book club threads, here’s how the discussion works: We’ll post some discussion topics in a short series of comments below. If you’d like to comment on a specific discussion topic, click the greyed-out “replies” button near the bottom of the discussion post. You can then comment on that discussion post specifically. There will likely be a number of people commenting on multiple discussions, so any time you feel like you may have lost the thread, you can copy and paste the questions into your new comment, or you can always check the replies from the original discussion topic. We’re still working out the kinks on these kinds of discussions, so if you have any thoughts or suggestions on how to improve our group discussions, please let us know here.
And with that, let’s talk about the terrific and tragic The Island of Sea Women. For this first discussion, we’ll be focusing on the events of the first hundred pages or so, so if you’ve finished the book, lite spoilers only, please.
The culture of the Jeju Haenyeo is a UNESCO-recognized world heritage treasure, and they have a terrific video about the women. It illustrates many of the locations and items discussed in the book including bulteoks. You can also hear the sounds of actual sumbi-sori!
Tourism on Jeju, the “Hawaii of South Korea” is, as is often the case, a fraught situation. But the BBC reported in 2018, that one of the odder aspects of the industry is that many people visit the island to get easier driver’s licenses.
Before digging into the book, I was unaware of how deadly abalone harvesting could be. Apparently, at least in California, divers often perish trying to collect their catch. Although not usually by being trapped by the abalone themselves. However this video of someone prying an abalone off of a rock illustrates their strength pretty well.