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Title: Trepanging  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Gamat, Holothuria scabra, History of Australia before 1788, Orona, European sprat
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A Macassan wooden sailboat or prau of the type trepangers have used for centuries

Trepanging is the Anglicisation of the act of collection or harvesting of sea cucumbers, known in Indonesian, as "trepang". The collector or fisher of trepang is coined a trepanger.

Trepanging is comparable to clamming, crabbing, lobstering, musseling, shrimping and other forms of "fishing" whose goal is acquisition of edible invertebrates rather than finfish.


To supply the markets of Southern China, Muslim Makassar Indonesia trepangers traded with Indigenous Australians of Arnhem Land from at least the 18th century or likely prior. This Macassan contact with Australia is the first recorded example of interaction between the inhabitants of the Australian continent and their Asian neighbours.[1]

This contact had a major impact on the Indigenous Australians. The Makassar exchanged goods such as cloth, tobacco, knives, rice and alcohol for the right to trepang coastal waters and employ local labour. Makassar pidgin became a lingua franca along the north coast among different Indigenous Australian groups who were brought into greater contact with each other by the seafaring Macassan culture.[1]

Archeological remains of Makasar contact, including trepang processing plants from the 18th and 19th centuries, are still found at Australian locations such as Port Essington and Groote Eylandt, and the Makasar-planted tamarind trees (native to Madagascar and East Africa).[1]


Slow-moving creatures related to sea stars and sea urchins, sea cucumbers are found on the sea floor. As such, trepanging is accomplished by spearing, diving, dredging or simply picking the animals up by hand when they are exposed at low tide.

Traditionally, sea cucumbers were placed in boiling water before being dried and smoked to preserve the trepang for journey to market.


While largely unknown in the English-speaking world, trepanging is an economically important activity in some areas of the globe, particularly Southeast Asia. Sea cucumber is considered a delicacy in Far East countries such as Malaysia, China, Japan, and Indonesia.

Besides being valued for flavour-enhancing properties, sea cucumber is widely regarded as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. There is evidence that its reputed medicinal properties may be true.[2]

Based upon the belief in the healing properties of trepang, pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies have developed pills, oils, and creams based on their extracts. The effectiveness of sea cucumber extract in tissue repair has been the subject of recent scientific study.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c MacKnight, CC (1976). The Voyage to Marege: Macassan Trepangers in Northern Australia. Melbourne University Press.  
  2. ^ B. D. Fredalina, B. H. Ridzwan, A. A. Zainal Abidin, M. A. Kaswandi, H. Zaiton, I. Zali, P. Kittakoop and A. M. Mat Jais (October 1999). "Fatty acid compositions in local sea cucumber, Stichopus chloronotus, for wound healing". General Pharmacology 33 (4): 337–340.  
  3. ^ B.H. Ridzwan , T.C. Leong and S.Z. Idid (2003). "The Antinociceptive Effects of Water Extracts from Sea Cucumbers Holothuria leucospilota Brandt, Bohadschia marmorata vitiensis Jaeger and Coelomic Fluid from Stichopus hermanii". Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences 6 (24): 2068–2072.  
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