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Ama diving - past to present

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Far across the oceans, there is a group of women who take the sport of diving to heart. It is their very purpose of existence and has been a Japanese tradition for over 2,000 years. Because women's bodies are thought to be much better insulated than men's bodies and they can stay warmer in cooler waters, this is the water sport that they champion at. With no gear and no tanks, Ama diving closely resembles free-diving. Ama divers are sea goddesses of the ocean deep.

Wearing only a loin cloth in historic times, these mermaid-like women hunted for hours at a time searching for oysters and pearls, seaweed, shellfish, lobster, octopus and sea urchins as a means to make a living and bring home a good income. Today, Ama divers are suited up in wetsuits along with their masks and fins.

CBS Sunday Morning introduced us to an 80-year-old grandmother who has been making a living as an Ama diver for 60 years now and is still going strong. In the Sea of Japan off of Hegura Island, she can be seen diving hundreds of times a day over a 4 hour period diving to depths of 30 feet to haul in 50 pounds of shellfish in a day. Her stamina is extremely admirable for someone of her age, and to this grandmother, it is all work and no play. She will ultimately sell her bounty for a price and it varies each day. This certainly isn't your traditional way to make a living but what a way to stay young in spirit as well as healthy and fit. In general, older divers are better able to stay submerged than younger divers.

When asked what they love most about their sport, most Ama divers will tell you that it is for the thrill of the hunt.

See the experience of Ama diving for yourself: