Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World’s Most Mysterious Fish by James Prosek Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish

Tour through the life history and cultural associations of the freshwater eel, exploring its biology in streams and epic migrations in the ocean, its myth and lore, its mystery and beauty. Prosek travels the globe to tell the story of the eel–from New York to New Zealand; from Europe to Japan and the small island of Pohnpei in Micronesia, where freshwater eels are worship

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    Will Byrnes

    Yeah I know, there are two reactions to the notion of eels. First there is fear when one thinks of large, oceanic moray eels popping up out of some hidden coral niche to snatch a chunk out of your leg as you swim by. Second is “eeewww.” This is for the slippery guys who inhabit rivers, streams and extreme restaurants. Get over it.

    description
    James Prosek – from NPR

    James Prosek’s Eels is a fascinating look at an unappreciated creature. Did you know that scads of eels migrate from freshwater streams and riv

    description
    James Prosek – from NPR

    James Prosek’s Eels is a fascinating look at an unappreciated creature. Did you know that scads of eels migrate from freshwater streams and rivers to mid-ocean to spawn? The location of the Pacific spawning ground is still unknown, (or at least unrevealed) but they head for the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic. The author attempted to keep eels once, but their wanderlust resulted in them damaging themselves trying to escape. The urge to get back to the sea can also result in the major YouTube wet dream of giant eel balls (no, Beavis, not oversized fish nads, but masses of intertwined critters, cavorting in a movable orgy) rolling their way over dry land to get to the ocean. It is probably a good idea to step aside.

    description
    from fishermensvoice.com

    Prosek offers wonderful profiles of people for whom the eel is a major part of their lives, scientists, eelers, eco-warriers, South Sea Islanders. Ray Turner is a back-woods sort in Pennsylvania who makes a living as an eeler from a year’s worth of work and a few nights of harvest. A large part of the book looks at the significance of the eel in Maori culture. This is quite eye-opening. Think buffalo and Plains Indians. He writes also of how the Japanese regard the eel and manages to find a flight to the very remote Micronesian island of Pohnpei, mentioned to him by a few of the people he interviewed for the book. It is a place of great significance in eel legend. Eels are reputed to be able to make sounds like barking dogs and crying babies, and are ascribed magical powers beyond that. Way cool. He also looks at the activities of conservationists who are trying to spare these remarkable creatures from extinction.

    description
    a Moray eel from howstuffworks.com – not just another pretty face

    Catches of eels are plummeting worldwide, the result of dams, overfishing, and the usual human fouling of natural waterways, increasing the need for information about the eel life-cycle so that this important fish (yes, eels are fish) can be preserved.

    Prosek’s book is, in short, great fun. By the time I finished I could honestly say, “I’ve been slimed,” but in a good way. This book was released in 2009. It is definitely worth your while trying to locate a copy and when you do, don’t let your chance to learn about these fascinating creatures slip away.

    Review posted in June 2010 – updated December 2013

    Cross-posted at Coot’s Reviews

    =============================EXTRA STUFF

    Prosek’s web site

    There is a video on PBS featuring Prosek, The Mystery of Eels that is definitely worth a look, although it is refreshing to see that there is something that this renaissance man, (yeah, he plays music too, in addition to being an accomplished artist and scientist) is not great at, voice-overs. The content and visuals more than make up for Prosek’s stolid delivery.

    12/3/13 – Gillian Anderson, in full eel attire, promoting conservation – must see

    6/19/14 – Definitely check out the link posted by Jaye in comment #33 – a fabulous, and amusing, science article on eels, and the wonderful, cinematic, LOL link posted by Richard in comment #35

    12/5/14 – an interesting NY Times report on new science regarding our highly charged slippery pals – The Surprising Power of an Electric Eel’s Shock – by Carl Zimmer

    10/5/16 – European researchers have been looking into when European eels arrive at their once-in-a-lifetime mating extravaganza in the Sargasso Sea On Epic Spawning Migration, Eels May Travel at Their Own Pace – by Stephen Yin – The Science section of the NY Times

    7/14/2017 – Oregon gets slimed – must-see report from NatGeo – ‘Slime Eels’ Explode on Highway After Bizarre Traffic Accident – By Jason Bittel
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    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    Dec 07, 2013

    rated it
    really liked it

    Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by:
    Will Byrnes

    Raised in Ontario, Canada as a kid I hated swimming. Mom never learned, she preferred to stay safely on shore and shout out dire warnings about snapping turtles & eels. At least the snappers swam on the surface, I’d see them coming but the eels? Horrible, slimy creatures of the night that slithered unseen in the dark murky water. I still shudder! It opens with “The eel is not an easy fish to like”
    No kidding… Read it hoping I’d get over my fear, finished it creeped out as ever – and utter

    Monstrous: The Europeon conger up to 10 ft long weighing in at 240 lb.
    Ancient: Some have a lifespan of over a hundred years and don’t produce offspring till they’re over 60.
    Deadly: A tiny amount of eel blood is enough to kill you, pass on the eel sushi…
    Mysterious: They migrate en masse, in the Catskills “The run corresponds with the new moon and floods brought on by the hurricane season, when the sky is at its darkest and the river at its highest” Yearly millions of eels around the world migrate from rivers to oceans, among the “greatest unseen migrations of any creature on the planet”
    Just picture this! “On wet nights, eels are known to cross over land from a pond to a river by the thousands, using each other’s moist bodies as a bridge, to climb moss-covered vertical walls forming a braid with their bodies.”
    Illusive: We’ve yet to find a spawning adult or witnessed a freshwater eel spawning in the wild. For eel scientists, solving the mystery of eel reproduction remains a kind of holy grail. All they know is they spawn somewhere in the Sargasso Sea in the heart of the Bermuda Triangle – yeh, the infamous Bermuda Triangle, how spooky is that?
    Mystical: Why this book sang for me – his passionate quest to understand the mystical role, the spiritual importance that Eels play in so many native cultures.
    Most Frightening: That they’re gone and I had no idea “The St. Lawrence River feeding into Lake Ontario once comprised the single largest nursery in North America. Now almost no eels are returning at all.” Damn those dams. My poor planet – death by a thousand paper cuts.

    10 years in the writing Prosek outgrows some of his arrogance. Liked that this Yale grad formed a lasting and respectful friendship with “old river rat” Ray who works an eel weir in the Catskill Mountains. Ray chose a life most would write off as too hard, too lonely. “I told Ray I admired the way he lived. “Don’t look up to me, kid,” he said “look with me.” and Prosek did.
    4 ½ slimy stars and a big thanks to Will for the review that led me to it.

    CONS: Think Carlos Castaneda obsessed with fish. His writing is kinda all over the place, shifts without warning between fact and folklore. Fine, I enjoyed it – just wish he’d been a little clearer. FYI: Eels don’t bark like dogs, nor do they cry like babies…trust me, I googled it:)
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    Eric_W

    Jan 04, 2013

    rated it
    it was amazing

    I love books like this. Take some obscure or mundane topic or subject and dissect it to the nth degree. I doubt if anyone reading this really has a fondness for those slippery, slimy creatures, and yet it turns out they are singularly fascinating. “The freshwater eel, of the genus Anguilla, evolved more than fifty million years ago, giving rise to fifteen separate species. Most migratory fish, such as salmon and shad, are anadromous, spawning in freshwater and living their adult lives in salt wa

    Interesting people abound. Ray, for example, a hermit (or recluse, if you prefer) who lives in a shack off the Delaware river and has a permit, which he inherited from his father, to operate an eel weir. Every year (he has a degree in engineering) he carefully rebuilds the stone weir, repositioning the stones into walls (every year they are destroyed by ice and flooding.) All in preparation for the September run. A good year will yield 2,500 eels weighing on average .85 pounds each. He puts them in salt to kill them then turns them in a cement mixer filled with gravel to get the slime off, guts them with a knife and hot-smokes them to restaurants and passersby saving a few for personal eating. Fascinating.

    Eels are relentless in their efforts to return to their “ocean womb.” Just try keeping some in an aquarium sometime. They’ll be all over your floor. In New Zealand, where the Maori have a long symbiotic relationship with eels, they have been known to roll up in balls to get across land masses and try to get through hydraulic dam generators. Tradition has it they will live for centuries waiting for some typhoon to wash them out to sea from some land-locked pond or lake. For the Maori, it’s one of the highest sources of protein for them so when the British, in the guise of the Acclimatization Society stocked everything with trout only to discover eels love trout, they embarked on a vast “kill the eels” program, with detailed instructions on how best to do it on every fishing license. The result was much the same as the campaign that killed off most of the buffalo.

    Of course there were unintended consequences. Turns out killing the eels meant the trout, having no natural predatory exploded in population. “The trout in eel-free rivers had become more numerous, yes, but the average size was much smaller. In the 1950s, a biologist named Max Burnett studying the interaction of trout and eels in the streams of Canterbury discovered that the eel, maligned and needlessly slaughtered, was actually in part responsible for the now world-famous trout fishing in New Zealand. By preying on the trout, the eel was culling a population that soon became overpopulated and stunted without them. With the eels in the rivers, the trout were fewer but much larger. Burnett’s work showed that the presence of eels was beneficial and single-handedly turned around public opinion of them. The killing stopped. ” And now New Zealand is again celebrated for its trout fishing.

    That doesn’t mean the Maori can’t be cruel to the eels: ” People who smoke eel usually leave the skin on the fish but remove the unappetizing slime with salt, ash, or detergent. Even Ray, who had worked in slaughterhouses his whole life, admitted their method was cruel—removing their protective slime while suffocating them.* The eels reacted by writhing and rolling in the dry detergent, trying to use their tails to get it off their bodies, but it only spread the caustic powder. When the eels were dead Ray rubbed them down with a sugar sack to remove any leftover slime, snipped their tails to bleed them, and hung them by their heads. “

    Let’s be clear; I wouldn’t be caught dead preparing or eating eel (more on death from preparing eel in a bit.) But it does have healthful benefits: “Eel meat has well-known health-giving properties.* It is high in vitamins A and E, containing four times more vitamin A than cheese and eight times more than egg, six times more vitamin E than cheese and three times more than egg. Vitamin A is good for human skin. Vitamin E helps prevent aging. Eel is also rich in fish oils that contain antioxidants to aid the immune system and fight sickness. Because of its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, eel has been found to help prevent type 2 diabetes. A native of Kyoto told me, “They have a saying in Kyoto—that the girls have beautiful skin because they eat eel.”

    Well, maybe. As note above, preparing eel comes with several risks. The blood contains a strong neurotoxin so getting it into one’s blood stream through a cut or opening in the skin can cause death. One cubic centimeter of eel blood injected into a rabbit, “causes instant convulsions and death.” That’s one reason why it’s always served smoked or cooked and never raw. Whoopi-do.

    Shades of John McPhee (high praise, indeed)
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