Chiara Vigo’s family has been collecting Byssus, or sea silk, one of the most coveted materials in the world for more than 1,000 years in the same matrilineal family tree. As you might expect in a fast paced world, Vigo’s ancient thread may soon unravel and be no more than a secret from the sea that dies with her.
With so much culture and history being lost in today’s society (due to an inability to stop and see its worth), fibers like sea silk are listed as near extinct like predictions for avocados, peanuts or coffee. Sometimes extinction comes from climate change, but other times, heritage and culture is also threatened, becoming no more than a story, “once upon a time.”
The food and fiber crossover has the potential to cast a new light on preservation.
BBC travel writes: “Each spring, under the cover of darkness and guarded by members of the Italian Coast Guard, 62-year-old Chiara Vigo slips on a white tunic, recites a prayer and plunges headfirst into the crystalline sea off the tiny Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco.
Using the moonlight to guide her, Vigo descends up to 15m below the surface to reach a series of secluded underwater coves and grassy lagoons that the women in her family have kept secret for the past 24 generations. She then uses a tiny scalpel to carefully trim the razor-thin fibres growing from the tips of a highly endangered Mediterranean clam known as the noble pen shell, or pinna nobilis.
It takes about 100 dives to harvest 30g of usable strands, which form when the mollusc’s secreted saliva comes in contact with salt water and solidifies into keratin. Only then is Vigo ready to begin cleaning, spinning and weaving the delicate threads. Known as byssus, or sea silk, it’s one of the rarest and most coveted materials in the world.”
This story is as precious and beautiful as they get.
Read the full story on BBC.com here.