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Eels

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dr.bob
316348.  Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:18 am Reply with quote

Depends if the horse is yours, or if you're driving a pack of wild horses into the water. Even if the horse is yours, it may be at the end of its useful life and destined for the glue factory.

Or perhaps the financial viability of the tactic rather depends on how many horses actually died in this endeavour. "Some" is a rather vague number.

 
Flash
316379.  Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:34 am Reply with quote

It's true enough, slade (and we'll try to hide the hurt we're feeling that you doubted it); this is an account given by the Prussian explorer Humboldt.
Quote:
To catch the gymnoti with nets is very difficult, on account of the extreme agility of the fish, which bury themselves in the mud. We would not employ the barbasco, that is to say, the roots of the Piscidea erithyrna, the Jacquinia armillaris, and some species of phyllanthus, which thrown into the pool, intoxicate or benumb the eels. These methods have the effect of enfeebling the gymnoti. The Indians therefore told us that they would "fish with horses," (embarbascar con caballos.* (* Meaning to excite the fish by horses.)) We found it difficult to form an idea of this extraordinary manner of fishing; but we soon saw our guides return from the savannah, which they had been scouring for wild horses and mules. They brought about thirty with them, which they forced to enter the pool.

The extraordinary noise caused by the horses' hoofs, makes the fish issue from the mud, and excites them to the attack. These yellowish and livid eels, resembling large aquatic serpents, swim on the surface of the water, and crowd under the bellies of the horses and mules. A contest between animals of so different an organization presents a very striking spectacle. The Indians, provided with harpoons and long slender reeds, surround the pool closely; and some climb up the trees, the branches of which extend horizontally over the surface of the water. By their wild cries, and the length of their reeds, they prevent the horses from running away and reaching the bank of the pool. The eels, stunned by the noise, defend themselves by the repeated discharge of their electric batteries. For a long interval they seem likely to prove victorious. Several horses sink beneath the violence of the invisible strokes which they receive from all sides, in organs the most essential to life; and stunned by the force and frequency of the shocks, they disappear under the water. Others, panting, with mane erect, and haggard eyes expressing anguish and dismay, raise themselves, and endeavour to flee from the storm by which they are overtaken. They are driven back by the Indians into the middle of the water; but a small number succeed in eluding the active vigilance of the fishermen. These regain the shore, stumbling at every step, and stretch themselves on the sand, exhausted with fatigue, and with limbs benumbed by the electric shocks of the gymnoti.

In less than five minutes two of our horses were drowned. The eel being five feet long, and pressing itself against the belly of the horses, makes a discharge along the whole extent of its electric organ. It attacks at once the heart, the intestines, and the caeliac fold of the abdominal nerves. It is natural that the effect felt by the horses should be more powerful than that produced upon man by the touch of the same fish at only one of his extremities. The horses are probably not killed, but only stunned. They are drowned from the impossibility of rising amid the prolonged struggle between the other horses and the eels.

We had little doubt that the fishing would terminate by killing successively all the animals engaged; but by degrees the impetuosity of this unequal combat diminished, and the wearied gymnoti dispersed. They require a long rest, and abundant nourishment, to repair the galvanic force which they have lost.* (* The Indians assured us that when the horses are made to run two days successively into the same pool, none are killed the second day. See, on the fishing for gymnoti Views of Nature Bohn's edition page 18.) The mules and horses appear less frightened; their manes are no longer bristled, and their eyes express less dread. The gymnoti approach timidly the edge of the marsh, where they are taken by means of small harpoons fastened to long cords. When the cords are very dry the Indians feel no shock in raising the fish into the air. In a few minutes we had five large eels, most of which were but slightly wounded. Some others were taken, by the same means, towards evening.


A. von Humboldt, A. Bonpland - Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America, 2
http://explorion.net/a.von-humboldt-equinoctial-regions-america-2/page-62.html

 
Sadurian Mike
317229.  Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:44 pm Reply with quote

[Boney M]"Ooooh, those Prussians..."[/Boney M]

 
ticklishtrout
397841.  Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:27 am Reply with quote

Just reading your post on eels and migration across land.
I was actually searching this fact to see if I could find any locations in NZ where I might be able to observe and possibly film the event. As yet, I still some more searching to do. From what I have read here and also been lead to believe, I would agree that it is probably the behaviour of landlocked eels, though I have been told by old timers of this event, and in one particular location, there is no landlocked water to mention. The creek was a small tributary (big enough for 4-5 pound trout to spawn in), which flowed into a slightly bigger stream (too small to canoe down), which then fed into a very large lake of several kilometres. I wonder if during the migration the small stream was running very low and that on a dewey night, shear numbers forced some out onto the banks and then across the grass into the stream (His house was maybe 20m from both streams and he had seen them in large numbers across his front lawn).

In other areas, I could imagine a small pond on a farm which has over time become isolated through land modification (ie excavation activities), though with eels left living in the ponds coming to maturity several years later and having no option.

One thing I have observed with eels during night fishing on the mouth of the Buller River in NZ during December, is eels coming out of the lake and up the pebbled foreshore (at least a couple of meters) to steal freshly killed brown trout. This is a very common occurrence and I now hang the trout, once gutted, up in the manuka trees to prevent this happening.

And now onto cats. Several years ago (2004), I was trout fishing near Mt Cook on the Tasman River (or part thereof) above where it flows into lake Pukaki. Approximately 150-200metres off upstream we watched a wild cat (apparently oblivious of us....and well out of danger from us), run across the braided river gravels and then straight into the river and across on what was a very swift and turbulent head of the run/corner of the river (we are talking to swift and deep for your average person to contemplate crossing at this point and a width of approximately 8-10m). The water at this point would have been in excess of 1.2- 1.5m deep. On reaching the other side, it went straight up the bank and carried onward on its very direct route. Wild introduced cats are a real problem in the McKenzie basin and other parts of NZ. This was the first time I had seen what appeared to be a completely normal and every day river crossing for a cat (tabby).

Lastly, a mate and I set off fishing one day from his house and wandered down the drive way to the 6mile creek. One of his pet cats Ruby followed us. We got to the creek and continued across the very bony run, yet deep enough to wet our shoes in up to shin deep water. The width of the stream was approximately 6-8m wide We were both astounded when we looked back to see the pet cat meowing and coming forth across the stream with us. At a pinch the cat could probably have touched the bottom most of the way, but it was intent on coming with us and it was a fun sight to see. On reaching the bank it was completely wet, yet unphased. This particular cat was a large tortoise shell.

Just to stimulate some debate, my grandfather once told me he watched a rabbit swim across a pond (in the UK)??

 

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