Sea History 132 - Autumn 2010

Page 38

D

uring his voyage across the Atlantic from London to Philadelphia in 1726, Benjamin Franklin made observations about a peculiar type of fish in his journals.

"They generally fly in flocks, four or five, or perhaps a dozen together, and a dolphin[fish} is seldom caught without one or more in his belly. "He recounted finding one on board one morning: "His back and sides ofa darkish blue, his belly white, and his skin very thick. His wings are ofa finny substance, about a span long, reaching, when close to his body, from an inch below his gills to an inch above his tail. " Fish in flocks? Did Franklin really see a fish that could fly? Countless sailors in history and modern times have observed these extraordinary creatures that use their wing-like pectoral fins to escape dolphin fish (a.k.a. mahi mahi), swordfish, tuna, and other predators. In the early twentieth century, these fish were even studied as a possible model for new airplane designs. But do these fish actually have the power of flight? Only using high-tech cameras could scientists reveal the answer to this mystery. The photographic images confirmed that flying fish don't exactly fly, but instead glide on air currents like a kite.

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