Mariners have many strange traditions and taboos. One of these includes the taboo of mentioning rabbits and pigs whilst at sea. If a sailor wanted to mention a pig he used the word Jack. And curiously, whistling was totally banned. It appears that men were disciplined for breaking this taboo even into the 20th century. Mariners thought that whistling encouraged high winds and the only time the men were allowed to whistle was when they were becalmed or encompassed by mist.
It was the custom of sailors, around a century or so ago, to have a picture of a rooster tattooed on one foot and a pig on the other, in the belief that it would save them from drowning.
What does a sardine look like? Yes they’re the little fish you find squashed into small tin cans. But what do sardines look like in real life? How come we never see fresh sardines in a supermarket? That’s because there is no such fish as a sardine. Sardine is like a generic or common name for fish of small varieties like sprats, herring, pilchards & small brisling.
A weird fish called the Nile catfish has a light back and a dark belly that is the opposite colour scheme to which most fish have. You see, the Nile catfish actually swims upside down.
A large European fish called a plaice, can copy the same pattern of squares on a chessboard if it is laid on top. The plaice protects itself with camouflage. Please don’t try this one at home. A scientific study found that after making waves in a glass bowl, the goldfish actually became seasick. Perhaps the phrase as sick as a dog should be rephrased to as sick as a goldfish.
A deepsea fish by the name of blackswallower can consume prey that is larger than itself. This sounds almost impossible doesn’t it? How does the blackswallower do it? It has movable teeth that shift to the side to let its food in, then it moves its heart out of the way, pushes its gills aside and then stretches its stomach to fit in the large meal. Sometimes it can swallow fish that are twice its size.
When you think of fish you automatically think of water don’t you? There is a red worm-like fish, related to catfish that lives in Brazil which lives in leaf litter on river banks. If the fish is placed into the water, it will actually jump back out again. It is the only fish in the world that lives completely out of water.
The Southeast Asian archer fish has to have great aim to eat. When the fish spots an insect even up to 1m away, it shoots a jet of water from its mouth while it is still below the water’s surface and knocks the bug into the water. Then quickly swims over and gobbles it up.
Baby dolphins and whales are born tail first. Because they are born underwater and need to breathe as soon as possible, it is the only method to stop them from drowning. It takes time to give birth and if they were born head first they wouldn’t be able to breathe. As soon as the baby dolphin or whale is born, the mothers help the baby up to the surface so that it can take its first breath of air. God’s designs are incredible!
If you are ever in South America, try to avoid the electric eels. They have enough power in their tails to kill a man or to light up to a dozen household lightbulbs. They can release a shock of about 500 volts at 2 amps which is approximately the power used in a single-bar electric heater. Once they have released the power, they need almost an hour to recharge. Actually the electric eel is not really an eel at all. It is a freshwater fish that is related to carp and minnows.
A small fish known as the Moses sole lives in the waters near the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia. When the Moses sole is in danger it produces a milky substance that is quite deadly to other sea creatures. It is so lethal that one part mixed with 5,000 parts of seawater is enough to kill small fish, sea urchins and molluscs. Some researchers placed a Moses sole into a pool with two white-tip sharks. The sharks quickly swam over to what they thought was going to be a tasty meal but they could not eat it. The sharks soon swam away from the sole – with their jaws agape. They could not close their mouths because they were paralysed. The Moses sole’s poison was even able to protect itself against two hungry sharks.
In Richardson Bay near San Francisco in 1985 residents living in houseboats began to complain of weird noises that they heard during the night. Some people suffered headaches and many could not sleep from the persistent humming. The noise became so loud at times that people had to talk very loudly to be heard. The source of the noise was a mystery and there were many discussions and suggestions. No-one ever dreamed that a fish was causing the noise. The singing toadfish, which is also known as the plainfin midshipman, was causing the ruckus. The singing toadfish is an ugly looking creature with a wide, flat head and a short fat body. It produces its noise by vibrating the muscles of its air bladder. Although scientists are not quite sure why the toadfish “sings” or hums, they believe it may be some kind of mating call. But there are other sea creatures which also make noises including the horse mackeral which grunts like a pig, trunkfishes and puffers that growl like dogs, the electric catfish that hisses and drum fish that can creak, hum purr or whistle.
Sailors on board a fishing vessel from the USSR in 1978 heard a sea lion calling while they were sailing. They noticed that the sea lion was surrounded by several killer whales and almost seemed to be calling for help. Within a few minutes a number of dolphins appeared and the whales moved away. And a little later when the dolphins left, the whales returned and made a rush towards the sea lion. The dolphins quickly returned, leaped over the top of the whales’ heads and then formed a protective circle around the sea lion. The sea lion was spared.
In Whangarei Harbour in New Zealand in 1978, fifty pilot whales attempted to beach themselves. Government officials tried to encourage the whales back into the sea but unfortunately failed. The officials went out on speedboats and guided a passing group of dolphins back into the harbour. When they arrived, the dolphins seemed to see the plight the whales were in and guided the whales toward open water.
The Russian newsagency TASS told a reporter in 1979 about a dolphin that attempted to jump into a Russian fishing boat, but was not able to make it. The sailors were quite puzzled by the dolphins behaviour and assisted the animal aboard. When they got the dolphin on board, they noticed that it had a large, bleeding cut on its side. The ship’s doctor sewed up the wound and while this was being done, the dolphin lay perfectly still. Once the surgery was completed, the sailors released the dolphin back into the sea.
In 1977 the Soviet newsagency TASS reported that a Russian fishing boat in the Black Sea was approached by a small group of dolphins. The dolphins circled the boat until the sailors raised their anchor and followed the animals. The dolphins led the fisherman to a buoy near which a small dolphin was trapped in a fishing net. The men released the young dolphin from the net and then the dolphins guided the fishermen back to the exact spot where they had originally been anchored.
You may have heard of flying fish, but what most people don’t realise is that they do not have wings nor do they flap their fins like wings. In fact the flying fish does not really fly at all. They build up speed in the water, leap out and just glide along.
When you think of dolphins you usually imagine finding them living in the ocean, but did you know that there are at least 5 species which don’t? In Pakistan, South America, South East Asia, India and China there are species of dolphins that live in the rivers. There is also an incredible looking dolphin in the Amazon River which has pink skin.
Sailers at one time thought that smelling whales breath could cause problems with the brain. This belief came about because whales have really stinky breaths. It has been suggested that whale’s breath smell something like a mixture of old oils and rotten fish.