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Everyday, the crew encounter flying fish (like the one in the photograph), scattering in a frenzy in front of the bow, flying into the pilot house in the middle of the night or caught in the scuppers. Today we encountered a rarely seen specimen, a flying fish with purple spots on its delicate pectoral fins.
Photo: Genevieve Johnson

October 20, 2000
The Not So Elusive Flying Fish
Real Audio


Log Transcript

Hi this is Genevieve Johnson talking to you from the Odyssey. Last night a familiar sound emerged from the ocean. Delivered to the pilothouse via the acoustic array, were the clicks of a distant sperm whale. A welcome sound that caused a knowing smile to creep across the faces of the crew, our first sperm whale detection in kiribati. Although this whale managed to evade us during the night, there was another creature that did not.

As the Odyssey has been exploring the oceans over the past year, there has been an elusive animal that our scientific team has been most enthusiastic to find, a rarely seen flying fish with purple spots on its pectoral fins. While on passage, the crew encounter flying fish every day, scattering in a frenzy in front of the bow, flying inside the pilot house in the middle of the night, or we wake to find them trapped in the scuppers, victims of their own ingenious survival adaptations. But for all of our encounters with, and observations of various species of flying fish, we had yet to encounter this rarely seen species with the purple spots. Until now that is!

Its method of delivery was quite unexpected and rather amusing, although not so for the unfortunate fish. Late yesterday, Bob, the Odyssey Captain was driving the dinghy when he found himself in the center of the fish equivalent of an artillery barrage. Perhaps disturbed by the dingy, or attracted by its navigation lights, a densely packed school of flying fish launched themselves in his direction. As they glided overhead, Bob leaned back and was narrowly missed by one, only to be hit in the side of the head by another. The fish dropped conveniently to the floor of the boat stunned and disoriented, revealing itself to be the unusual species we had been hoping to find. The fish will be frozen and sent to Bob Pitman at the South West Fisheries Service Center in San Diego for further study. He has been collecting flying fish from all over the world and has been searching for this rare specimen for many years to add to his collection. This was not the way we had envisioned obtaining a specimen of this elusive fish, but we will take it!

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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