Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sea Monsters: "It's A Fairly Big Deal"

I believe I had my earlier suspicions confirmed on Sunday, November 22nd. All the really creepy sea monsters have migrated to the coldest parts of the world. Since I live in one of those places - Alaska - I am no longer surprised to come upon articles in the Anchorage Daily News about mystery fish of one kind or another (you may remember our pal the giant wrymouth from September). But some critters are more than others in the "monster" department.

Up in Barrow, a place that's pretty darn close to the top of the world, subsistence hunting and fishing are a way of life. It should come as no surprise, then, that the man who found today's creature was out seal hunting when he stumbled upon a frozen carcass. Charles Maarsak Brower found the fish on November 14th and, according to the Associated Press article, it had "a long, thick body like an eel's but with a bulging belly... a blunt nose and pronounced lips."

Brower, who was out with his four sons, wrapped up the fishy find and brought it home to Barrow where he began polling friends and neighbors about what it might be. No one had a clue, which is rather surprising given the seafaring experience in that neck of the woods.

Local biologists from the North Slope Borough and the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. shook their heads, too. Pictures and descriptions were sent to biologists in Alaska, Canada and Washington State. Everything from a simple but unknown species of cod to some previously undocumented prehistoric fish was suggested, but in the end most of the scientists decided they knew what they had. It was a wolffish.

Even though the wolffish is a known species, that doesn't make Mr. Brower's find any less remarkable. Wolffish live in Arctic waters but have never been seen in or around Barrow. Jason Herreman, a wildlife biologist with the Borough, says in the article:

It's a fairly big deal because it's an indication that things may be changing around here and we're seeing things that haven't been seen before, or it could be that it's such a rare species that it hasn't been recorded.

Plus there's this:
That's a wolffish and that's beyond creepy. See why I didn't put the picture at the header?

And just in case you're curious, Mr. Brower still has his find, although he says at the end of the article that he doesn't know what he'll do with it. I wouldn't have the first clue, either.


Blue Flamingo said...

No disrespect intended to the recently deceased, but that is one UGLY fish! Look at those chompers - yikes. Thank you for running the image at the bottom of the post.

; )

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Blue Flamingo! I thought it would be best. Don't want to frighten the lubbers, after all.

Timmy! said...

Ahoy Pauline! GAH! It's no wonder the didn't include a picture in the ADN article. Blue Flamingo is right, that is one ugly fish. As a graduate of the University of Alaska at Anchorage, I sure hope that a wolffish is not what a Seawolf looks like...

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! Here's an interesting point I learned this afternoon. The wolffish (or wolf-fish back in the 19th century when it was discovered by a naturalist aboard a Royal Navy frigate - who else?) uses those intimidating teeth to crack open the shellfish it feeds on. Shrimp cocktail for you?