Ichthyologist’s Delight

The Bishop Museum, a Hawaiian historical museum/planetarium/natural history museum rolled into one, is a main attraction in Honolulu.

It’s also haunted. One ghost is a woman in white who hangs out on the steps.  A little boy saw her and his mom wrote a letter of complaint, saying that the museum needed to do something about it.  What are they going to do about a ghost?  But that’s another story.

Anyway, the place has a big ichthyology collection.  That’s fish to you and me.

A fellow Scripps alumna I recently met is a curator there and invited me and the kiddos to come visit for a tour because I mentioned what a big fish fan Ethan is.  What a cool morning we had!  Albert, the ichthyologist, knows everything about fish. There are over 40,000 fish in their “lending library.”

The collection consists of fish in alcohol stuffed into jars.  If you get grossed out at such things, you should discontinue reading.  The jars are of various colors, ranging from clear liquid to near-red as the colors get leeched out of the fish and into the alcohol.

Also: no flash photography! That’s why some are a bit blurry. It’s a windowless warehouse and there’s not much light.

Sometimes, there’s not enough room for the whole specimen.  They take part of it in these cases; below is just the head and tail of a shark.  There was also a 70-lb eel in a bucket, with just the head and part of the tail.  The bucket was not clear, so no picture of that.

Specimens are arranged according to type.   There are many eels:

And a blowfish skeleton:

There’s a blowfish bladder someone found while snorkeling in Kaneohe Bay.

We also went in the back to see the crate of Big Mouth, the first Megamouth shark captured.  The crate is made of cardboard (!) and fiberglass and is very leaky; if you have an extra hundred thou or so, send it to them so they can build the shark a new crate, for goodness sake!  We were not allowed to see it.  We were told it would stink.  Yes.  Probably.  But we did see pics.  I’d never heard of a Megamouth.  Arnold said the artist didn’t get it quite right, but he did the best he could based on the pictures.

This fellow looks kind of happy, for being in a jar.  A ray.  There were other rays where just the mouth and the stinger were saved.

Arnold also told us where to go night snorkeling, night tide-pooling, and snorkeling to see eels (off Kahala Beach) AND recommended two great books for young Ethan.  Ethan is funny.  He looks like he’s not paying attention while people talk, but he actually memorizes everything.  It drives his teachers mad!

We completed the trip with a stop at the Circus Exhibit.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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