Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 74: Mar-Apr 1991

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Eel Oddities

Garter snakes are reknowned for their habit of congregating in large, writhing masses, but we never heard of "eel balls" until A. Gardiner mentioned them in a recent issue of the Fortean Times.

"These [eel balls] are recorded in Christopher Moriarty's excellent Eels: a Natural and Unnatural History (David and Charles, 1978). Moriarity cites Pliny as the earliest historical reference. According to him, Eel Balls occur in Lake Garda, Italy, when it has been storm-tossed by the effects of the October 'Autumn star'. Smitt in his Scandanavian Fishes (1895) says that eels knot themselves together in bunches 'up to a fathom in circumference' and are seen rolling along the stream beds, or, strangely, resting in this position. On 17 August 1935, fishery scientist J.C. Medcof observed, in the outflow of Lake Ainslie in Nova Scotia, 'three splendid clumps of Eels, half a metre in diameter, 30 to a clump, knotted tightly and remaining motionless in the rushes.' Medcof mentions that Eel Balls are sometimes free floating on the surface, which suggests formation with an air pocket or some communal control of air bladders. He says that this behavior occurs before eels 'silver' prior to the spawning migration. The record of Eel Balls in Nova Scotia proves that this behaviour is not confined to the European Eel."

(Gardiner, Alan; "Eel Oddities," Fortean Times, no. 56, p. 53, Winter 1990.)

From Science Frontiers #74, MAR-APR 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987