Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Voices from the Past: Ernest Elva Weir (1917)

I understand the appeal of the Atlantic Salmon--it is a beautiful fish--but I've always thought the Chinook was a more interesting fish. Here's a neat little article from a 1917 Forest & Stream that gets at the heart of what I find so fascinating about this great fish. It was written by noted naturalist and photographer Ernest Elva Weir, a regular contributor to National Geographic and other leading magazines.

A Fish Tragedy in the Pacific

by Ernest Elva Weir

WHEN the Chinook salmon of the Pacific coast leave salt water and go far inland to spawn in shallow streams, they never return. Large, fat and healthy when the run up the coast rivers begins in the Spring, the fish soon waste away from lack of food, as they never eat after leaving the salt water. During the long trip to the spawning grounds, hunger causes the fish to attack each other viciously, and it is a question of the survival of the fittest. The weaker never reach their destination, the stronger lose tails and fins in their fights for supremacy. As a result of the actual spawning following the run up the rivers without food, the fish change in color and lose all their scales and most of their skin, becoming a mass of white patches and blotches of decay. Their mission in life ended, the old fish die and the newly born find their way to salt water, only to repeat the experience of their elders four years hence. The spawning ground of the Chinook salmon is both his cradle and his grave. Here is a fish tragedy unequalled certainly by anything in human annals.

-- Dr. Todd

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