Lightoller and the walking fish

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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
I've been away for a couple of weeks, spending time in Taos. (Lovely (small) city in New Mexico, many art galleries, and a Navajo region if you like Native American artifacts. I have quite a good collection!)

My question: I'm just wondering if Lightoller may have caught an infant ceolocanth? A five-gallon kerosene tin might have held such a creature. Or - an overgrown salamander.

Thoughts?
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Thanks, Pat! The sea-robin (third picture) definitely has that hand-like structure, but the Sargassum seems much more realistic. I had just been doing some Sargasso Sea web searching, and I thank you (once again) for saving me hours of time! You can guess which chapter I have completed, and the book becomes more and more fascinating. Many thanks for all of your help, Pat.
 
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Pat Winship

Member
A website describes the behavior of the Sargassum Fish:

"While most Bahamian frogfish are bottom-dwellers, the Sargassum Fish (Histrio histrio) inhabits floating rafts of Sargassum weed. Growing to a length of around six inches, it stalks its prey in the weed rather than waiting for its prey to come to it, relying on its superb cryptic colouration, and its ability to propel itself by forcing water through the reduced gill openings. The pectoral fins of the Sargassum fish are actually prehensile, and can grasp strands of Sargassum weed like tiny hands as it slowly makes its way through the Sargassum raft"

Lights describes his fish:

"Actually, the fish was slightly flat, and swam on its edge. The arms out of each side consisted of a transparent fin-like substance. This formed the lower part of an arm and ended in a perfect little hand with five fingers. Little flat legs of a similar nature, but just from the knees down–folded up underneath the body, when it went to the bottom of the tin the legs came down and it stood on its feet, or it would rise alongside a branch of weed, and deliberately grip hold of it with its hands and hang on."

I think they match, don't you?

Pat W.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
"It dawned on me that this must be a very rare specimen, and I set out to find some methylated spirit or anything else in which to pickle it".

Whiskey? The Captain would rather pickle Lightoller than give up a spat of God-bless-us, Irish-produced whiskey to anaesthetize and then preserve a... fish!, which became a moot point after the crabs finished with it! I wonder what similar hand-and-legged gill-breather found its ultimate home in the New York Aquarium? Most likely another Sargassum, and I agree with you, Pat. You are right on! Prehensile is a key point.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
I wonder if the NY Aquarium keeps records of acquisitions? I've seen quite a few benthics that exhibit these sort of characteristics, so the NY aquarium's fish might not have been another Sargassum, but it would be interesting to see if they could identify the new discovery Lights reckoned they were touting.

Interesting to see how very into fish these blokes were (anything to pass the monotony at sea). I was recently introduced to a harpoon - an extraordinarily impressive bit of metal, and I wouldn't want to be on the business end of it. It belonged to Harold Lowe, that keenest of fishermen. There are quite a few photos of him with fish he caught extant and, in one photograph in one of his albums, a shot of him with a decent young tiger shark (no indication if he caught it or was just photographing it).
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
I leave it to Inger to research the New York Aquarium historical records, as her skills and contacts are far better than anything I could ever accomplish! Benthics - aren't they tiny crustaceans, and not fish? (I was forced to do some primitive research, "benthics" not being in my current vocabulary). The Sargassum seems more likely, as it lies in wait in seaweed/grass for prey. Lightoller refers to "Gulf Weed". He also mentions "Tiger Jim". (Third cousin by marriage twice-removed from Jaws). I used to visit the Monterrey Aquarium (after a hefty meal at Bubba Gump's) and the San Fransisco Museum of Natural History, but was usually sidetracked by sea otter feedings, tide pool hands-on, and jellyfish exhibits. I did, however, visit the Pacific Whaling Museum in Lahaina, but was more concerned about my upcoming PADI expiration, and left after an hour. I'm sure my anti-whaling sentiments played a part in that.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
I wish I had contacts at the NY Aquarium, Mary! Will drop them a line, though.

Here's a breakdown on terms for marine organisms:

Pelagic: Living in the water column rather than on the sea floor

Planktonic Pelagic: organisms that float in the surface waters (not free-swimming)

Nektonic Pelagic: organisms that are free-swimming in the water column (any depth)

Benthic: On the sea-floor

Sessile Benthic: organisms that do not move around (unlike mobile benthos)

Infaunal: Live in sediment (i.e. under the water/sea-floor interface)

Epifaunal: Live on top of sediments of the sea-floor.

So benthic fishes is fine. Just means mobile bottom dwelling.

Tiger sharks seem to have had a rather special place in the sailors' demonology of sharks - not surprising, I guess, given that they are a potentially threatening species that they were likely to encounter in tropical waters. I'm fond of tigers - so attractive when young and their their stripes are distinct, then fading as they grow older and develop something akin to a pot belly. Have never been in the water with one (that I know of), but they're seen around some of the Coral Sea dive sites I'm hoping to get back to soon, so cross fingers. Don't know what on earth Lowe used the harpoon for - he never went whaling, and this is a seriously impressive bit of iron. Despatching sharks might be one use for it, or some seriously big pelagic fish.

He did skindive and spearfish, but I can't imagine lugging this thing with him. there's a good photo of him with large kingfish he caught that has been reproduced, but these were on a line (part of the line he used is still preserved). He did a lot of fishing, from handreels to seine netting. One amusing photo has him sitting out on the front lawn of his house with the day's lobster catch and a set of scales in front of him, with his curious pet dog and cat sitting fascinated on either side.

Fell in love with Monteray Bay Aquarium when we visited last year on our way down the coast from San Francisco to LA. They finally had to peel me away from where I was glued to the Outer Bay tank, mesmerised by an oceanic whitetip. Family and friends escorted me off, someone grasping an arm on either side. Just had word that my NASDS Advanced certification has been converted to PADI Advanced, so it looks like I'll be doing my 'Rescue Diver' certification with PADI.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Hi, Ing! I'm glad you're getting your Rescue Diver certification, because mine is your basic Open Water, so I will expect your expertise if we should meet in South Pacific waters!

Thanks for the organism breakdown! I can't decide if they sound more like the kingdon/phylum/class/order/family/genus/species things I had to memorize for my initial (but later abandoned) degree in Biology, or the pain medications I was given during labor and childbirth.

Tigers are particularly notorious - and dangerous - in the South Pacific...we saw a couple in a marine charter off of Maui. They looked much bigger than I had supposed...just caught a glimpse from the chumming endeavors. I'm sure the Indianapolis survivors weren't too fond of them, though. There are great original whaling harpoons in a number of New England whaling museums. Years and years ago, we drove from Joisey up to Maine along the coast, and visited several of them. That was during my Melville period, when I was more interested in the probability of albinism in whales and looking for a good price on a sail boat, than in whaling itself. The Pacific Whaling Museum has/had a Russian harpoon that could have found a home in a Chamber of Horrors exhibit. Nasty huge thing. Also a couple of Portuguese ones.

Isn't that a great drive from S.F. to Monterrey? Eucalyptus and millionaires' homes along 17-mile drive. The Lone Tree cyprus and Pebble Beach and Spanish Bay(my worst and most embarassing golf game). Did you get to Carmel? I had lunch next to Clint's mom at the Hogsbreath Inn...one of my few claims to fame.

Sailors must certainly have been fascinated by marine life, as they lived side-by-side. Didn't most ships have drag lines for fresh food? Every sailing vessel I've been on has had them. When they were hauled up, I always wanted to inspect them from a biological viewpoint before the crew filleted them.
 
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