Sea History 174 - Spring 2021

Page 46

SEA HISTORY for kids Animals in Sea History


ilbert C. Klingel grew up around the Chesapeake Bay, dreaming of becoming a naturalist adventurer. His first scientific expedition took him to Haiti in 1928 to find Basilisk and study rare lizards, the results of which he shared with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The museum, along with the Natural History Society of Maryland, then funded the building of a wooden replica of the Spray, the boat in which Joshua Slocum had been the first to sail alone around the world. Klingel and a friend were to sail to the Caribbean to explore the natural world of its tropical waters and islands. The pair set off in the new boat, named Basilisk (after the lizard that can skitter over the surface of the water), but they didn’t get far. They shipwrecked in rough weather on the reef off Great Inagua at the southern end of the Bahamas. Undaunted, they set up camp and recorded all they could, both on the island and underwater Basilisk was built in Oxford, Maryaround its reefs. Klingel went back to Great Inagua several years later to further study land, by Alonzo Conley, a wellknown shipwright in the region. A the natural history of the island, and in 1940 he published his first book, Inagua. 37-foot yawl, it was a copy of Joshua Inagua, or The Ocean Island, is a treasure for its history of marine biology, espe- Slocum’s Spray. Klingel oversaw cially with the chapter titled “In Defense of the Octopuses.” Diving and underwater its construction and assisted with photography were still in their infancy at the time, yet Klingel was eager some of the work. Under his guidto explore underwater. Using a diving helmet, he was ance, the interior was expressly fitwalking one day on the seafloor just off Great ted for a scientific expedition. Inagua, and he walked up an underwater ravine. Klingel was about to put his hand on what he thought was a yellow rock, but then, by chance, he noticed eye slits in the “rock.” He watched it ooze slowly away, like hot wax. Though the octopus’s head, Klingel explained, was about as big as a football, it slithered down into a crack in the reef that was no more than four inches wide. As the octopus slithered away, it changed color from pebbly yellow to red, then to white.

klingel collection, courtesy marcy benouameur

by Richard King

Octopus briareus a.k.a. the Caribbean Reef Octopus.


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