Earlier today we passed a long wooden schooner that was cruising along the edge of a weed forest. It appeared to be powered by some small sails attached to its prow because it’s central mast (which must have towered at lest a hundred feet above deck) held no sails at all. Long spars ran off on either side of the base of this mast and this frame was used to hold a triangular net. Just when I was about to ask Captain if they were fishing for fresh air, four crewmen released something into the water. It looked like some type of squid. It was hard to tell, though. It was gone by the time I trained the binoculars on it. All I saw were tentacles flapping about as it slipped beneath the waves.
It was a Cramine hunter, the Captain told us. It drove the fish from the weed forests and out of the water into the nets. We were privileged to watch this. Not many saw the Skim boats harvesting Cramine in this way any more. It was an ancient art, a skill replaced lately by the use of larger boats that snatched the entire weed forest from the water to extract the fish. Wasteful and cruel, he said. So many other creatures depended on the forests for survival and not much remained after the forest was harvested.
He hoped the Empty Sea would put a stop to that practice some day.
The hunter did its work well. Within ten or fifteen minutes the sea around the boat was boiling and the nets were alive with wriggling fish that glistened silver and gold in the sunlight. It was a beautifully tragic scene. At some primitive level I actually empathised with the fish. I’d been driven from my home, too, and out into an alien environment. The fishing continued for another half hour or so before the spars were bending under the weight. Then the nets were hauled in and the fish unloaded. I guess the fishermen had some method to lure the hunter home because it came to the surface shortly after and allowed itself to be taken aboard. I still didn’t get a better look at it then. All I saw were a mass of wriggling tentacles.
Shortly after that the sound of singing passed over the water as the fishermen sorted out their catch. Once again, I was reminded of Howth and how Maya and I often went to the harbour at dawn to watch the fishing boats return amid a cloud of screaming gulls.
There were no birds here. Captain said there was so little waste from the Cramine boats the sea birds would be feeding elsewhere.