Still Thinking About Fish

Kage Baker would so enjoy the ongoing Redondo Beach Million Sardine Party. Theories are still proliferating down here in Southern California as to what caused it, and are now ranging from bad weather to leaking natural gas to marauding right, fin , blue or humpback whales. Or maybe mackerel.

The moon is waxing – maybe the tidal pull is cracking the floor of the Catalina Channel and allowing plutonic essences to escape.

The whales could be a good guess, though: humpbacks and blues are frequently seen off the coast of California (I’ve seen them myself. Amazing.). So could the squid – not the chthonic ones, just plain old Humboldts. But they are big – 6 feet at maturity – ferocious, and hunt in packs.

It gets interesting off the Central Coast this time of year at night. Fisherman are out hunting squid; and, the last couple of years, the squid are out hunting fisherman. Several fisherman have been mauled by them in the last few years, so the average sardine probably heads for shore in a hurry when they’re on the hunt.

It could be orcas or dolphins: there are pods of both off the coast. It could be Great White sharks, which the local surfers refer to as “the landlord” (as in “Outta the water, dude, the landlord’s here.”). It could be manta rays, or whale sharks – their usual range is farther south, but in the last decade several frankly tropical species have been wandering up past the Sea of Cortez. The honest-to-goodness sensible possibilities are a treasure trove of exciting strangeness.

In the meantime, dogged teams are down at King Harbour, filling Dumpsters with fish and hauling them away. I imagine a few of them have been given new homes in someone’s frying pan; I rather hope so, as it seems a shame to render such a huge catch into chum and fertilizer. As of this morning, they are blasting the sardines off the bottom of the harbour with air lines – whoosh! – and then scooping them up on the surface. Apparently the harbour is a few feet deep in fish. It’s estimated there are 30 tons of them down there.

And it’s hot. It was nearly 90 yestreday, and right now it is almost 80. King Harbour is in danger of becoming the world’s biggest bowl of bouilabaisse.

Kage would be so amused and intrigued. I don’t think it will ever be known exactly what caused this – no one has any stories of it happening before. So Kage would have been free to speculate of all manner of outrageous or unusual-but-natural events. As am I. There’s someone’s grandson out there who is apparently rooting for a pleisiosaur. (Hi, Paul!) Sure, I know Chthulu and dimensional portals are unlikely – and I realize grazing whales are just as interesting as pirate squid. They’re just not as dramatic. Or as much fun.

And believe me, with a king tide full of sardines sloshing up against Redondo, we need all the fun we can get.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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4 Responses to Still Thinking About Fish

  1. Mary Lynn says:

    There was a pod of Sperm Whales spotted yesterday between Long Beach and Catalina. That, too, is really rare. What are these critters trying to tell us?


    • Kate says:

      Mary Lynn: the ocean is getting warmer. That’s the bad news … the good news is that before people started hunting them, sperm whales were indigenous to this area; seeing them means their population is increasing to the point where they are returning to areas where they are wiped out. Which I think is pretty fine. I have seen blue whales sporting off the coast north of Point Concepcion – you watch one of those breach, and the sheer size of it is enough to make you feel faint! And flying over the Catalina Channel, at the right time of year, you can look down and see dozens of California Grey whales in the water from above.

      Of course, they may also be hinting that the Mole Men are tunneling up from the interior – but I doubt it. I never took the Mole Men very seriously. Now, the Lizard Men under Los Angeles – that’s another thing entirely.


  2. Valerie says:

    You be safe, Kathleen! We’ve heard y’all are going to be hit with big waves and I don’t know what all.


  3. Kate says:

    Valerie: California is fine. While what is hitting us are technically tsunami waves, none has been more than three feet high. The main problem has been nasty currents that can endanger swimmers, boat collisions in harbours that get a sudden influx of water, etc. This is third time that I can remember tsunami warnings here in California, and we are not in real danger here: not from an earthquake off Japan.

    Kage and I actually went down to the beach once to watch a tsunami arrive: one unusually long wave, about a foot high, that reached all the way up the beach. California has been extremely lucky – it was just rather weird to get a tsunami warning on my local weather program …


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