Wildlife

"I wish I could feed the fish, he thought. He is my brother. But I must kill him and keep strong to do it."
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UT student Nina Darcy poses with a "dolphin" as they are referred to in The Old Man and the Sea, otherwise known as mahi-mahi. On this page, we highlight some of the many types of wildlife that are featured in Hemingway's celebrated novel, so that readers can picture the various types of wildlife as they read. (Key West, 2021). 

Photo by Liz Yongue, Monroe County Extension Coordinator. 2018. 

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Image Source: The Associated Press. June 22, 2010. 

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Seaweed: 

To the untrained eye, all kinds of seaweed might look the same. But as an experienced fisherman, Santiago can recognize the difference types of plant life in the ocean. He knows what their presence indicates about the tides and the likelihood of a catch when he sees them nearby. For example, young sea turtles will use some kinds of seaweed as shelter and seaweed plays a role in the migration of eels as well. (See Sargassum on wikipedia.com)

Gulf weed (pages 67 and 195) : a coarse, olive-brown, branching seaweed, Sargassum bacciferum, common in the Gulf Stream and tropical American seas, characterized by numerous berrylike air vessels. (Dictionary.com)

 

Sargasso weed (pages 57, 81 and 137) : "Sargassum is a genus of brown macroalgae in the order Fucales. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs, and the genus is widely known for its planktonic species." (wikipedia) 

 

Yellow weed (page 79) is of the same Sargassum family. In this picture (right above) you can see the bladders, tiny air pockets that help the plant stay afloat.   

Alamy Stock Photo, 2014. 

Bonito (top left). A smaller sporting and commercial fish reaching lengths of 30 inches and averaging 13lbs. Schooling fish of the tuna and mackerel family.

Albacore (top right): Also known as longfin tuna.Reaches lengths of 4 feet and 80lbs. Important as a commercial fish.

Man-of-war Bird: More commonly known as a frigatebird, in this case most likely the magnificent frigatebird as its range is primarily the Gulf, Carribean, and southern coast of US. Feeding habits involve swooping low to the surface of water and scooping up prey found at surface. It is known as the “man-of-war bird” because of its habit to harass other birds for their prey, considered piracy, and forcing the bird to regurgitate its recently caught food. The frigatebirds will then catch the stolen food out of the air. Males have a bright red pouch that they inflate during breeding season and drum on with their beaks. The louder and deeper the note, the higher chance a male has of courting a female. Wingspan is massive, reaching between 85 and 88 inches (7 - 8 feet). They spend most of their life flying above the sea, rarely landing except for breeding. Can travel far distances into open water. 

Portuguese man o’ war: A marine hydrozoan found floating at the surface of the ocean, mostly in tropical and subtropical regions.Tentacles can reach lengths between 30 feet and 100 feet, occasionally extending even further. They travel along the surface using an inflated sail-like sac that uses the wind to push them along. Can sometimes be found in legions of 1,000 or more. Named so due to their resemblance of the 18th century Portuguese warship under full sail. Stings can be highly dangerous, causing severe amounts of pain and occasionally death. 

 

Mako Sharks: The fastest sharks in the world, known to reach speeds of 60 mph. Reach lengths of 14 feet and weighing over 150lbs. Sometimes sought after as gamefish for their great speed, strength, and abilities to jump high into the air, but less so due to endangered conservation status.In the book, the mako sharks symbolize destructive forces in life. The sharks are also said to symbolize literary critics, as Hemingway always found them irritating, as like the sharks, they would “scavenge” or bash writers without being able to create anything themselves.

 

Shovelnose Sharks: Also known as guitarfish, but not actually sharks. They are a type of ray. Mostly scavengers found at the bottom of the sea floor. They get their names from their flat noses, resembling that of stingrays.Can reach lengths of 120+ cm. Hold same symbolism as Mako Sharks.

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Photo by Chandler Culotta, jellyfish at the Key West aquarium.

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Sea-turtles often make appearances in The Old Man and the Sea. Santiago especially loves the way that they close their eyes as they swallow the jellyfish. Photo by Chandler Culotta from the Key West Aquarium, 2021.  

Another type of scavenger shark that would have been attracted to Santiago's kill as he pilots what is left of his catch into the harbor is the nurse shark. Photo, Chandler Culotta, Key West Aquarium, 2021.

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Marlin: A type of large saltwater fish found in open water that is a very popular and highly sought after sport fish due to its immense size; It can reach lengths over 17 feet and weigh over 1500lbs. It receives its name due to its bill resembling a sailor’s marlinspike, a ropework tool used for untying knots, unlaying rope for splicing, and many more. In the book, The marlin has a few symbolisms: In many ways the marlin symbolizes Santiago, as he begins to see himself in the fish and respects it as his equal. It is seen as his last act of greatness. It also represents devotion, as well as a dream to come true and a hurdle to overcome.

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Top: fiberglass marlin display on Key West dock (photo Chandler Culotta, 2021); historical photo of Hemingway with a marlin catch and stock photo of Marlin in the wild. 

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