January 29, 2015

The fish that really flies

ONE THING that has niggled at me for a long time is the fact that so many marine biologists say that flying fish don’t fly. These supposed experts maintain that flying fish simply extend their fins and glide. And I have always maintained that they do fly.  I have seen them from the close and low vantage point of a small yacht as they burst out of a swell, glide for a certain distance, then waggle their tails in the water as they descend, gather speed again, and then flap their “wings” strongly before starting another glide.

I am glad to say I have now found a supporting voice. And a famous one, at that. Last night I was re-reading Conor O’Brien’s book, Across Three Oceans, and he agrees with me. O’Brien was an Irish master mariner who sailed his 42-foot ketch Saoirse around the world in 1923. This is what he had to say about flying fish:

“I am prepared to swear that they can and do fly, all the statements of the anatomists notwithstanding. At least I say that by vibrating their wings they can increase their height and their speed and make abrupt turns in circumstances which preclude the hypothesis of an ascending puff of wind under them. But they cannot rise from the deck, and they are very good eating.”

Thank you, Captain O’Brien. I needed that. I’ll sleep more soundly now.

Today’s Thought

 An expert is somebody who is more than 50 miles from home, has no responsibility for implementing the advice he gives, and shows slides.

— Edwin Meese III, White House counsel


  “O’Flaherty, what are you doing here? Your brother called and said you were sick and wouldn’t be coming to work today.”

“Ah begorrah, the joke’s on him. He’s not supposed to phone until tomorrow.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Sarthurk said...

When I was 10 years old, I saw flying fish from a charter fishing boat off Palm Beach, FL. I couldn't see how they couldn't be flying. Subsequently, I've made a 30 year career of being a fish biologist and now a marine biologist. I still believe what I saw 48 years ago. Oh, and, I took a Geography of Oregon class in college (lived in Oregon all my life), and the professor was from the east coast, and had traveled around Oregon for about a year before teaching the class, and it was a series of slide shows, right after lunch. I stopped going to class, because I'd fall asleep. Aced the final.