National Geographic : 1962 Apr
their lumber, nails, and corrugated iron, the Takumeans had put up 20 huts; three large Chinese stores appeared as well. I visited my old Takaroan friend Hitii in his fine home of pure island style - corrugat ed-iron roof, palm-frond sides, immaculately swept sand floor. As we sat in the living room with its three couches, two tables, and a sew ing machine, a pig trotted past us toward the kitchen. Hitii urged it gently on with his foot. "Hitii," I asked, "why don't you play your guitar anymore?" Since my return I had missed the nightly music session on the stone wall. There was still music at night, the favor ite being a furiously fast version of "You Are 522 Skillful shucker severs the muscle of a pearl oyster, flips out the flesh, and tosses the split shell into the canoe. Islanders eat the oysters but do not regard them as deli cacies. Only rarely do the mollusks yield a gem pearl. Head above water, a diver repeatedly in hales and exhales to store as much oxygen as possible in his lungs. His weighted line drops him to the bottom like a fast eleva tor on its steel cable. Cleaned and Polished, Pearl Shell Gleams With Lustrous Beauty Iridescent oyster shells from the lagoons of French Polynesia show black lips. Those of the Indian Ocean are yellow-edged; Australia's are pure white. Stripped of its horny lip, the Polynesian shell still shows traces of black on the face. Demand for pearl shell fluctuates with fashion. The 1920's proved bonanza years, but the industry dwindled a decade later for lack of customers. Souvenir-conscious combat troops sparked a new market dur ing World War II. Although synthetics have hurt their business, divers still find buyers for all they can collect.