This work refers to the movement of Elounda residents in the modern era, namely from the middle of the 19th century up to the fourth decade of the 20th century. These were peaceful, individual relocations by boat from Elounda, mostly to Kalymnos and Symi, the islands that flourished through sponge fishing. The inhabitants who emigrated were young, aged 15-20, with little or no real estate property, mainly from large families. Even 10-year-old children, usually orphans, would migrate, as related by their offspring.
The harsh life in a place that could not feed its inhabitants forced many residents of Elounda to board sponge-fishing vessels anchored off Elounda and sail for Kalymnos, Symi, Karpathos and Kasos, to take up fishing and sponge fishing, or to enroll on merchant ships that moored at Spinalonga to load whetstones, carobs or almond kernels for Constantinople. In the early 20th century many also migrated to the USA.
The scarcity of land due to natural constraints (minimal and rocky arable land), population growth, as well as the generation-by-generation segmentation of the already small and minimal claims, created a group of «superfluous» children who had few opportunities of escape from this situation. Nothing was available except in finite and limited quantities, with no potential for increase. People turned to non-farming activities. Initially, they turned as workers to nearby solutions, fishing, employment in salt pans and whetstone mining. It seems, however, that the income from these activities was insufficient, since the pay was meager.
This perception of property as being limited gave rise to the belief that if all goods were indeed limited and could not be increased by human efforts, then an individual or a family could only improve their status outside the territorial framework of this society by means of flight: emigration.
They were therefore driven to leave, initially to survive and later to realize their dreams, with the example of successful merchants or sponge divers before them. Some submitted to their destiny while others dared.
We have divided these 41 economic migrants into two categories: 24 who fled to the islands of Kalymnos, Symi and Kasos, as well as to Constantinople and Alexandria, between 1850 and 1900. The second category consists of 16 emigrants to the US during the first two decades of the 20th century, who, in the hope of living the American dream, laboured endless hours a day under difficult conditions in factories, on railroad construction and in restaurant businesses.
This paper monitors the path the lives of those emigrants in the foreign land, their occupations, whether they put down roots there, and whether and how many returned to their homeland.