Monday, October 30, 2006


Spent two days with my youngest son in Paulsbo. We drove down to Portland to watch an improv group that Patrick likes. At Halloween, they do a comedy horror and science fiction show. I took some pictures on my trip. They’ll also find their way onto this blog. Here’s a picture of my son now where we ate dinner in Portland.


To select and scan into my blog passages like these, and the ones from science, literature and philosophy too, is one of the great pleasures of blogging.

In the following passages from The Farfarers by Farley Mowat, one gets a real sense of the changes which fish stocks have undergone from a thousand years back to current times. In this book, Mowat's main purpose is to argue that people he calls Albans preceded the Norsemen in finding North America. The whole adventure, like so many of his books, takes us right into the lives of the people he imagines so well and clearly and allows us to share in their lives of danger as they go about their days and years as crofters (home steaders) and valuta (tusk ivory) seekers. Mowat argues that these valuta seekers were constantly forced out from their places, beginning in England, forced constantly westward, by Norse invaders until they found North America. It's an interesting and exciting tale just as so many of Farley Mowat's naturalist tales are.

[OPEN QUOTE] [In Newfoundland] seal products, whether fresh meat, rendered oil, or sun- or fire dried flesh, provided the Tunits' staple food. They also caught salmon and other fishes; took seabirds and their eggs (more than two hundred great auk mandibles were found in one Port au Choix grave); and lobsters that, as late as 1906, were still so abundant in St. John Bay they kept ten canning factories busy. Shellfish and berries were collected in quantity, and Tunit hunted caribou, which formerly came down in great numbers from the Long Range Mountains to winter along the coastal plains. . . .

On a September day in 1996, Claire and I stopped at the eerily silent fishing village of Boswarlos on the south shore of Tusker Bay to chat with the only person we could find—an elderly fisherman brooding over his gear. He told us the bay was now virtually abandoned.

"Not enough fish left out there to keep the gulls from starvin' I hauled seven nets this mornin' and got four little mackerel, no more'n would feed me cat! 'Tis all fished out! Hard to believe, maybe, but they was even walrus here once—found their teeth and bones meself out on Shoal Point. And whales a-plenty. Even in my time porpoises was still thick as berries. And fish. . . cod used to drive in here chasin' the capelin and herring like a spring tide! Fill your nets so full they'd sink to the bottom! And lobsters! When I were a lad they was two, three hundred lobster men in the bay, all makin'a livin'. Nowadays they's no more'n a dozen, and every one of them hard put to land the price of a case of beer!"

Port au Port Bay, St. George's Bay, and adjacent waters were once alive with fish—and with fishermen. Fifteenth-century Basque and Portuguese barks and whalers were followed here by fleets of French then English smacks and then by flocks of white-winged American, Canadian, and Newfoundland schooners. These were succeeded in their turn by motor seiners, long liners, trawlers, and, finally, by the ultimate fish killer of all—the stern dragger.

They are all gone now. During our visit Claire and I saw not one fishing vessel at work on all the vast sweep of salt water bordering southwestern Newfoundland. Those once astoundingly fecund waters have been so drained of life that there is no longer any profit to be made from them.

Which is not the way it was a thousand years ago. [CLOSE QUOTE]

"Curiosity killed the cat, but for awhile I was a suspect." —Steven Wright [If you know Wright and his delivery style, you get the humor of this more clearly.]

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, and from one red-state Atheist to another, I want to say, good for you. We're not just in New York and California...we're in Idaho and Oklahoma, and everywhere, dammit!

Oh...and I'm totally breaking out the WWJD game at my next party. Good one, man.