National Geographic : 1974 Mar
Spinach of the sea burdens a Japanese kelp farmer (below), hauling a load of Laminaria ashore for drying on the island of Hokkaido. Undaria, another seaweed favored by the Japanese, is harvested with the aid of an elongated face mask that provides an under water window (right). Except for the use of outboard motors, neither the equipment nor techniques of harvest have changed much since 19th-century artist Heizan Hirasawa depicted the Ainu, bearded aborigines of Japan, collecting seaweed off Hokkaido (facing page, lower). Many peoples around the world use sea weed as organic fertilizer and food. The Japanese cultivate it-on submarine rope arbors-and process it on a large scale. Algal extracts have wide use, chiefly as emulsifiers, in the commercial preparation of ice cream, chocolate milk, salad dressings, and puddings. Another use: as a base for cultures in research on micro-organisms.