Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Slurp Gun

Back when I was learning how to scuba dive, and before I blew out an eardrum and had to quit, I used to read cover-to-cover Skin Diver Magazine. This was in the very early 1960's. The 'zine went -- sorry, got to use this metaphor here -- belly up in 2002, after fifty-one years.

There's an online version, but I don't think it has any connection to the old paper 'zine.

I was always fond of the cartoons drawn by Carl Kohler, "The Fishes." Kohler also did work for some of the car magazines, including being a co-founder of CARtoons. He wrote a column to go along with the toons in SD, and was ever politically-incorrect. I loved his work.

For those of you who don't know, "skin diving" (also called "free diving,") is the general term for using masks and fins and all, but without any breathing gear. You are limited to what you can inhale on the surface. Scuba -- an acronym for self-contained-underwater-breathing-apparatus -- was used to differentiate the two forms of underwater activity. Jacques Cousteau is credited with major improvements in scuba gear, and generally seen as the father of the aqua-lung and modern diving.

Um. Early on, I read an article on how to make your own slurp gun. Which, if you wanted one, you had to do, because there weren't any such things commercially available. Essentially, the device, used for capturing small, and mostly tropical fish, was a large hypodermic syringe.
You got close to an unsuspecting specimen, for which salt water aquarium types might pay a nice piece of change, and you pulled it into the tube, then squirted it into a holding jar.

Back in those days, serious tropical fish collectors had more trouble finding what they wanted, and often, would buy fish by mail and have them shipped from halfway around the world. A diver in Hawaii could snorkel around and collect enough spendy little critters to make a fair living at it. Maintaining a salt water aquarium was expensive, and the fish were only part of the high cost.

I never made the device myself, since in Louisiana, every body of water I ever did any diving in, outside of a swimming pool, was as murky as India ink and full of critters that could maybe eat you -- alligators, gar, and in the Gulf, sharks and barracuda. I felt that a Hawaiian Sling -- a rubber-band powered spear, was more useful in such conditions. A spear gun was better yet.

If you could see your hand at arm's length, that was considered pretty good visibility in some place like False River. I once grabbed a crab-like creature on the bottom in about twenty feet of water -- alas, it got away -- that to this day I am convinced was a trilobite. That would have been a trick, since they've been extinct for two hundred and fifty million years. I'd never heard of such things, but when I described it to somebody, he showed me a picture that looked just like it.

Anyway, you can now buy slurp guns online and at dive shops, so if you are into collecting tropical fish, this post was for you ...

1 comment:

James said...

Probably grabbed a horseshoe crab...which are living fossils. I used a homemade Hawaiian sling to spear what we euphemisticaly referred to as "Striped Mullet" known by others, including Fish and Game Cops as "Snook". Never got caught but had to dump some stringers which, in a tribute to my own juvenile idiocy, I kept tied to my waist. Nothing like flopping, bleeding, dying fish to keep sharks away.