eels, by james prosek

What do you know about eels? Other than their skin can make great wallets that will demagnetize your credit cards...nothing really.

You all know about my interest in the stranger things of the world. Well, Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish about eels was just fascinating and filled all of the requirements I have for a great read: 1. random topic, 2. well written, and 3. easily explained to others. An excellent read, even if you don't think you care about eels.

Eels, which are fish and not to be confused with electric eels, are born in the ocean and swim up the rivers to live, the opposite of other fish. The scientists think the eels from the eastern coast of the north and south American continents spawn in the Sargasso sea...but no one has ever seen them actually spawn. And eels can live outside of water for periods of time enabling them to move between ponds.

Prosek travels all over the world to learn more about eels...he spends 10 years of his life on eels, and we are the recipients of his massive amounts of knowledge. I would be interested in what got left on the editing floor, because I bet there were lots of interesting gems lying around.

Unfortunately, eels are not faring well. According to Prosek, eels once traveled up the Mississippi as far as Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois. Dams have been their downfall.

Prosek also travels to the island of Pohnpei where the eel is worshiped by some as their ancestors, and therefore not eaten. As an aside, the island also has a set of ruins from the city of Nan Madol, "a ruined city that lies off the eastern shore of the island of Pohnpei that was the capital of the Saudeleur dynasty until about AD 1500." You have to check out the pictures of this place (click this sentence.)

Here is a video about the last guy on the east coast who still uses a weir to collect eels in the same manner as the Native Americans did:

eel•water•rock•man from Orion Magazine on Vimeo.

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