National Geographic : 2010 Sep
investigate the testes of the male eel, postulated to be loops of white matter festooning the body cavity. (Freud's paper on eels was his rst pub- lished work.) is was con rmed in 1897, when a sexually mature male eel was caught in the Strait of Messina. In 1904 Johannes Schmidt, a young Danish oceanographer and biologist, got a job aboard the or, a Danish research vessel, studying the breeding habits of food shes such as cod and herring. One day that spring, a larva of the Euro- pean eel, Anguilla anguilla, showed up in one of the expedition's trawls west of the Faroe Islands. Was it possible that eels living in the creeks of Denmark spawned way out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? A year earlier Schmidt had made what would end up being an auspicious betrothal to the heiress of the Carlsberg Brewery, a Danish company that donated generously to marine research. Out tted with schooners capable of ocean crossings, he amassed data showing that the farther from the European coast, the smaller the eels. Schmidt asserted that eels must spawn in the southwestern part of the North Atlantic, in the Sargasso Sea. "No other instance is known among shes of a species requiring a quarter of the circumference of the globe to complete its life history," he wrote in 1923. "Larval migrations of such extent and duration ... are altogether unique in the animal kingdom." A er Schmidt's death in 1933, some scientists cast doubt on his Sargasso proposition. They showed that he had concealed certain data to make his case more plausible, and they ques- tioned how he could say with any certainty that this was the only eel breeding ground, since he hadn't witnessed an actual hatching and had barely looked for eels anywhere else. Yet such criticism does little to diminish the profound story of eels he conveyed, which still appears to be true. In 1991 an expedition headed by Katsumi Tsu- kamoto of the Atmosphere and Ocean Research James Prosek celebrates eels in a book for HarperCollins, out in October. David Doubilet photographed clown sh for the January issue. Yoshiaki Miyamoto hooked just one eel on his morning stint on Lake Biwa, near Kyoto. The Japanese believe eels boost energy and cool the blood in summer; local stocks are in decline.