Tarpon Springs Sponge Operations

Tarpon Springs, Florida was once called the "Sponge capital of the World" for good reason. Natural sponge harvesting and processing was a major operation along the waterfront of the Anclote river. Today, you can still walk along the river bank and watch fishing and sponge boats come and go, but in the 1980's the sponge operation practically disappeared.

As a child in the early 1970's, I recall walking by the spongedocks watching sponge divers preparing for a dive. They would wear large diving suits with lead shoes to keep the divers from floating to the surface. Here's an old diver from the early 1970's taking a rest.

After the sponges were gathered and brought back to shore, the crew of each boat had to trim and clean the sponges. This was done either on the boat while it was moored, or on the dock itself.

After cleaning, the sponges were taken to the Sponge Exchange where they were sold or auctioned. I can remember the pungent odor of the drying sponges that were stored in the cells of the sponge exchange.


In the 1980's The Sponge Exchange was converted into a small, outdoor mall with only one or two of the original "cells" still in existence.

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