September 16, 2014

a visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium

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photo by Donald Kinney

Big-fin reef squid; sometimes called oval squid. Characterized by a large oval fin that extends throughout the margins of its mantle, giving them a superficial similarity to cuttlefish. It is difficult to see in this photo, but what looks like their snouts can open and are actually tentacles lined with rows of suction cups used to capture their prey.

Basically they are hollow, yet very muscular tubes. For propulsion they take water in one end and simply squeeze it out the other [insert giggle here].

Small to medium-sized squids average 1-1/2" to 13" in length. They exhibit elaborate mating displays and usually spawn in May. They have the capability to change body coloration in order to blend in with their surroundings. Big-fin reef squids have the fastest recorded growth rates of any marine invertebrate, reaching 1.3 lbs in only four months. They are a short-lived species, with a maximum recorded lifespan of only 315 days.

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photo by Donald Kinney

Young "jellies" knows as black sea nettles. Graceful but dangerous. They can grow to 3 feet wide, with stinging tentacles that can extend 25 feet.

The bell color is a distinctive opaque dark purple to nearly black as they mature. The margin of their bells have a lighter brown reticulated pattern. Four gonads are attached to finger-like projections that extend through subumbrellar openings. Marginal sense organs are spaced around the bell margin after every set of 3 tentacles, for a total of 8. Normally elusive, but large swarms are occasionally seen in surface waters off the coast of Baja California and southern California. [source: Wikipedia]

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photo by Donald Kinney

Moon jellies. Aurelia aurita. Sometimes called common jellies or saucer jellyfish. When mature they can have a diameter of 10 to 16 inches. Translucent, and can be recognized by its four horseshoe-shaped gonads, easily seen through the top of the bell. It feeds by collecting medusae, plankton, and mollusks with its tentacles, and bringing them into its body for digestion. It is capable of only limited motion, mostly drifting with the current. Technically, jellies are not fish--they are invertebrates.

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photo by Donald Kinney

Sardines. This small fish, sometimes called pilchards is what Cannery Row is famous for, but during the mid-1950's the fishing industry in Monterey Bay collapsed. The reason is still debated, but it is generally thought the collapse resulted from a combination of factors, including unfavorable oceanic conditions, over-fishing, and competition from other species. I have my own theory--after WW2 the U.S. Army dumped vast quantities of ammunition and unused explosives into Monterey Bay.

My father came to the Monterey Peninsula in 1946, a year before my birth, and worked as a bookkeeper for a succession of canneries as they all folded, one by one. Many defunct canneries burned to the ground over the years.

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photo courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium

Cannery Row packing house workers. Notice that the ladies aren't smiling in this old photo. I've heard ladies who worked there tell their stories. It was a grim place to work. Salty men managed the machinery and can cookers.

I can still vividly remember my dad taking me into one of the huge canneries. He did his accounting work (lots of red ink) in a tiny office that overlooked the entire packing house. Occasionally we would lower a round crab net on a rope from the back of one of the canneries and return home with dinner.

Most canneries packed sardines but others packed mackerel or anchovies. When the sardines "vanished" the final cannery where the Monterey Bay Aquarium is now located processed and canned squid--mostly for export to Japan. Other plants rendered the waste from the cannery operations, turning it into fish oil and a stinky powdery fertilizer. Yes, I can still remember the smell--I thought it smelled wonderful, but then I was sort of a weird kid.

Very little is left of the old Cannery Row as I remember it. Aside from the fabulous Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row is now a major tourist trap although it does boast some nice hotels and restaurants. This is "Stienbeck Country", and I'll tell and show you more about that famous writer and his colorful cohort Edward F. "Doc" Ricketts tomorrow.

Donald Kinney Quarterly - volume 2014 issue 3 will be available October 1
Donald Kinney Quarterly - volume 2014 issue 2
Donald Kinney Quarterly - volume 2014 issue 1


John @ Beans and I on the Loose said...

I liked reading of your memories of your father and his working at the cannery. Funny how smells from so long ago can remain wit you forever.

AphotoAday said...

Yeah, JOHN, SINBAD'S DAD -- those canneries is the reason why I was born on the Monterey Peninsula. And if the wind was blowing the right direction, they sure did have a fishy odor. And yes, it is hard to forget certain odors… My mother commonly referred to me as her little "stinker", and I probably did.

Nancy Ewart said...

What a wonderfully written, evocative memory of both the Cannery as it used to be and your childhood. it's interesting how certain smells linger in the memory.

AphotoAday said...

Thank you, NANCY! What a nice compliment, and coming from YOU makes it extra special. Sometimes I miss Monterey and sometimes I don't. Even into my teenage years there were storage yards filled with surplus equipment emptied out of the defunct canneries--most of it rusting away, but all sizes and shapes of most everything mechanical. Cooking pots, piping, conveyors, pumps, winches--all sorts of junk that I enjoyed exploring and framing up for photos. I think my fondest memory of living nearby was that at night, when the wind was blowing towards Pacific Grove; was the sound of barking sea lions on the breakwater in Monterey. When the wind blowed in the other direction from the west I could hear waves crashing along the coastline. Sounds and smells--evocative and powerful; yes.

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