The Unique Sponge

Sponges all different shapes and sizes

All of our Creator’s creations have a purpose. He created everything with tender loving care and with a purpose to fit in His perfect world. One of His most important creations are sponges. They are very unique but simple creatures. They have many useful purposes in our daily life.

When I heard about the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida, I thought that would be a wonderful place to take photographs. Tarpon Springs is located along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico just north of St. Petersburg and is known as the sponge capital of the world.

Tarpon Springs, Florida

In the 1880s, John K. Cheyney founded the first local sponge business. The industry continued to grow in the 1890s. Many people from Key West and the Bahamas settled in Tarpon Springs to hook sponges and then process them. A few Greek immigrants also arrived in this city during the 1890s to work in the sponge industry.

In 1905, John Cocoris introduced the technique of sponge diving to Tarpon Springs by recruiting divers and crew members from Greece. For a time sponges were retrieved from the Gulf of Mexico depths by divers in full suits, outstripped citrus products as Florida’s main export. ( The sponge industry soon became one of the leading maritime industries in Florida and the most important business in Tarpon Springs, generating millions of dollars a year. The 1953 film Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, depicting the sponge industry, takes place and was filmed in Tarpon Springs. (Wikipedia)

Sponge boat with harvested sponges

As I walked along the docks, I saw nets full of sponges drying on the various sponge boats. Boy did they stink! That terrible smell came from the sponges as they are allowed to die and rot in the air. They are then thoroughly washed until nothing but the skeleton remains. (Alfred Ely Day Bibliography Information, Orr, James, M.A.,D.D. General Editor.”Definition for sponge”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia“).

This is so sad to me. Is it a lingering death or does death come quickly?

Sponge boat with harvested sponges drying

Sponges were once thought to be plants but they are animals and are classified in the animal kingdom.

Harvested sponges

Sponges attach themselves to rocks. They can live in fresh or salt water. The sponges are cut away from the surface they are attached to during harvesting. A small amount of sponge is left so that it will regrow.

Sponges drying

Did you know that they are composed of only four different types of cells that allow them to survive and multiply?

Sponges don’t have mouths, brains, muscles or hearts. The basic body plan is a jelly-like layer sandwiched between two thin layers of cells. Their bodies are full of pores and channels which allows water to circulate through them. Most of them feed on bacteria and microorganisms. A few of them eat tiny crustaceans. Sponges consists of a mass of soft interlacing fibers which constitutes the skeleton. (Wikipedia) Inside the sponge, tiny hairlike structures called flagella create currents to filter bacteria out of the sponge’s cells and trap food within them.

Sponges for sale

Sponges are not mentioned in the Old Testament and only once in the New Testament. The sponge played an important part in the crucifixion of Jesus:

John 19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Read also Matthew 27:48 and Mark 15:36

Buckets of sponges

Wow! One of the most simplest creatures played a part in the death of our Savior! Our Creator used the sponge in one of the greatest stories ever told! And our Creator knew that the sponge would be utilized in such a manner.

Tarpon Springs, Florida

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