Glass Eels, Shattered Sea
BACKGROUND INFORMATION & QUESTIONS
If you would like to learn more about key aspects of this book the information below may be helpful. The questions are designed for book groups or high school and college students.
• The Sargasso Sea by John and Mildred Teal, 1975. A classic, highly readable book full of fascinating information about this “sea within a sea”. John Teal was a research scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the book includes his experiences aboard two research ships, the RV Atlantic II and the RV Knorr. In the submarine Alvin Teal traveled 1740 meters (5709 feet) to the bottom of the Sargasso Sea. His description of squid, an octopus, brittle stars and other bottom-dwelling animals is captivating as is his account of the dive through the ink black on the way down and back up.
• The Book of Eels by Tom Fort, 2002. The author shares his passion for his subject as he tells a story about European and American eels One reviewer said: It is more than a scientific story, a rich concoction of different genres, part social history and part autobiography with culinary tips.
• Consider the Eel by Richard Schweld, 2002. The author learned from fishermen, cooks, and scientists so that he could explain how people around the world cook, harm, protect, and study eels.
• How Glass Eels Became America’s Hottest Black-Market Item (video) www.theatlantic.com/video/index/604204/elvers/
• Let’s Not Shatter The Glass Eel blog.nationalgeographic.org/2013/08/06/lets-not-shatter-the-glass-eel/
• Europe’s Eels Face Oblivion As Smugglers Feed Chinese Demand https://tinyurl.com/y7mozbnz
• In the story Mara Tusconi and her colleagues at the “Maine Oceanographic Institute” travel to the Sargasso Sea on a research ship. The Sargasso Sea is an enormous body of water in the Atlantic Ocean bounded only by currents. Home to large floating mats of Sargassum seaweed, it is a remarkably clear deep blue with underwater visibility of 200 feet. Eels from both the U.S. east coast and from Europe spawn there although nobody has actually witnessed this.
— Mara and Ted, MOI scientist and Mara’s lover, snorkel and scuba dive to collect samples of Sargassum to study animals living in and on the seaweed. During their collecting trips could you picture what they were seeing through their facemasks? What do you recall?
— Did anything in particular about the Sargasso Sea surprise or intrigue you?
— Because the story includes several days on Research Vessel Intrepid, readers glimpse life for scientists and crew aboard a scientific cruise. What aspects of this trip especially engaged or surprised you? Why?
• After they spawn in the Sargasso Sea, glass eels swim up rivers along the east coast of the U.S., but Maine is one of the very few states where fishermen can legally net glass eels during this spring migration. There is a strict quota on how many eels can be caught, but prices upwards of $2000 a pound has lead to trafficking.
—In chapter one Mara and her lobsterman cousin Gordy meet Gordy’s old friend Nelson on a rushing river at night. Nelson, who is netting eels, tells Mara all about glass eels. What aspects of this scene caught your attention in particular and why?
—Operation Broken Glass may sound like fiction, but it is not. Did any aspect of this investigation surprise you? Read more about it here: www.fws.gov/le/pdf/Operation-Broken-Glass.pdf
• Learn more about glass eels, including trafficking
EELS IN LITERATURE & ART
Eels are surprisingly common in both literature and art because eels and eeling were everyday occurrences in the past. Here is an example:
Alice in Wonderland
You are old’, said the youth, ‘one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on your nose –
What made you so awfully clever?