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Cultural ecology of the North Sea
First warning (1895)
A Frenchman's view (1912)
A scientist's view (1957)
The catcher's view
Domesday to doomsday
A scientist's view
A convenient way to study the fish of the sea
Sir Alister Hardy (1957)
There can be no better introduction to the fish and fisheries of the sea than the sight of a full-sized commercial trawl being emptied of its catch. It is convenient to consider the catch under two main headings according to their way of life: whether they are pelagic or demersal in habit. The pelagic fish are those like the herring, pilchard, mackerel or tunny, which spend much of their time in the upper layers of the water, feeding either upon the plankton or upon other smaller plankton-feeding fish; the demersal ones are those spending all or a greater part of their life close against the sea-bed, such as cod, haddock, plaice or skate, which feed mainly on the bottom-living animals.
It is best to begin a more detailed study with the pelagic species because they are associated more closely with the world of plankton which is the primary food source of all fish. This leads to a consideration of the herring and the herring fisheries followed by the rest of the pelagic forms. We next go down to the sea-bed to explore its nature and fauna in preparation a detailed investigation of the demersal fish and fisheries. This is an introduction to a brief consideration of parasites and their place in marine life. Then, after a discussion of the over-fishing problem, we can pass to the higher (zoologically speaking) vertebrates of the sea: to the turtles, to the whales and porpoises, to the walrus, and to those strange stories in history of visitations to our islands of wild fur-clad men in kayaks from the north.
Let us watch for a moment as the net is pulled up to the trawler's side after being dragged along the sea-bed for three hours or so.
The modern trawl, a gigantic netting bag with an oblong mouth some eighty feet across, is much more artful than might appear at first sight. Its upper lip, or head-rope, is raised by a row of floats, while the heavier lower lip, or foot-rope, sweeps the bottom; and its opening is spread wide by the corners being pulled sideways by wooden otterboards which sheer outwards like kites as they are towed along. Now the trailing foot-rope, being much longer than the stretched head-rope above, curves backwards well behind it and shows us just what a cunning device the trawl is; by the time the fish on the bottom are disturbed they find themselves actually covered by a roof of moving net and are, in fact, almost half-way down the bag already, for the floor of the sea in front acts like an extension of the mouth. Perhaps its unknown inventor smiled as broadly as his trawl when he thought of it; if we could ride as frogmen on top of the net as it moves forward, it might almost appear as if the fish Were carried down its throat on an endless conveyor belt. The bag tapers behind to a narrow cylinder, the codend, where its catch accumulates. This is called an otter-trawl.
As the two thick towing warps are wound in, the otter-boards come into view and are drawn up to the steel gallows, which project slightly over the side: one towards the bows and another towards the stern; being heavily bound with iron and bridled with chains, the boards rattle and clank noisily into place. All at once we see, abeam of us, a flash of silver as the cod-end breaks the surface; it floats because so many of the fish are swollen, almost to bursting, as their air-bladders (buoyancy chambers) are violently distended by being dragged up so quickly through zones of decreasing pressure. A little time before this and we would have seen but a few gulls circling the ship: now, drawn as if by magic from miles around, wheeling, excited, and screaming birds fill the air and repeatedly swoop down to peck at the fish through the meshes of the net.
The head-rope is drawn up and, after much clutching and heaving, the deck-hands pull sufficient of the trawl over the side to allow a rope to be passed around its middle; and now the 'cod-end', distended and heavy, is hoisted from the sea. It is swung in-board over a gently rolling deck which has been divided by low wooden partitions into 'pounds' to receive the fish; or, if our ship is a very modern one, they would be of gleaming aluminium. For a moment or two the huge bulging mass hangs, dripping and swaying, level with our eyes. What a sight it is! Through the netting, which is stretched to the utmost, stick out fins, spines, tails and gaping mouths, while here and there, large round eyes stare out in unexpected places to give the whole a queer and gruesome look. At the bottom of the bag is an opening tied up tightly with a special kind of knot; now an end of this is pulled, and, in a flash, an avalanche of fish cascades on to the deck. The great heap spreads sideways as its slippery components slide and slither in all directions, filling one pound and overflowing into others. Flapping, writhing and gasping, they form a stream of pitiable creatures in distress, but, before quickly through zones of decreasing pressure. A little time before this and we would have seen but a few gulls circling the ship: now, drawn as if by magic from miles around, wheeling, excited, and screaming birds fill the air and repeatedly swoop down to peck at the fish through the meshes of the net.
The head-rope is drawn up and, after much clutching and heaving, the deck-hands pull sufficient of the trawl over the side to allow a rope to be passed around its middle; and now the 'cod-end', distended and heavy, is hoisted from the sea. It is swung in-board over a gently rolling deck which has been divided by low wooden partitions into 'pounds' to receive the fish; or, if our ship is a very modern one, they would be of gleaming aluminium. For a moment or two the huge bulging mass hangs, dripping and swaying, level with our eyes. What a sight it is! Through the netting, which is stretched to the utmost, stick out fins, spines, tails and gaping mouths, while here and there, large round eyes stare out in unexpected places to give the whole a queer and gruesome look. At the bottom of the bag is an opening tied up tightly with a special kind of knot; now an end of this is pulled, and, in a flash, an avalanche of fish cascades on to the deck. The great heap spreads sideways as its slippery components slide and slither in all directions, filling one pound and overflowing into others. Flapping, writhing and gasping, they form a stream of pitiable creatures in distress, but, before long, they will be still, as they pass, with little bouts of quivering, into the fixity of death.
Many of the fish appear glistening white as they lie belly-upwards; but as many, top-side up, show the colours of a host of different kinds. Cod, haddock, whiting and coal-fish show green, grey, buffand black; here and there may be a striped or spotted cat-fish and, if our haul has been far enough to the north, we may get a few scarlet Norway haddocks (Sebastes), or 'soldiers' as the fishermen call them, or if further to the south perhaps a red gurnard. On the way up the trawl may have caught a herring and a mackerel or two to give a touch of blue or brighter green to the medley, or a male dragonet in courtship dress may flash with rainbow hues. Then there are the flatfish: dark brown plaice flecked with orange spots, speckled turbot and brill, smooth sand-coloured soles, or large skates and rays dappled with a bolder camouflage design; and there are some dogfish, of course. All these are in just one haul, perhaps more than two thousand fish.
In case I may be thought to exaggerate, let me give a few figures. I have recently returned (August I956) from a three weeks' cruise in the new Scottish Fishery Research Ship Explorer whilst she was conducting, along with other work, a survey of the stocks of fish in the northern North Sea; using a standard trawl she made half-hour hauls at fourteen positions spread across the area lying between the north of Scotland, Shetland and the Norway deeps; and all the fish caught were measured and recorded. The smallest catch numbered I37 and the largest I,244 while an average for the fourteen hauls was 536; this would mean an average of over 3,000 fish if the hauls had been of three hours' duration, as with a commercial trawler, instead of only half-an-hour. Now our trawl on the research ship had, for the purpose of special investigations, a small-mesh net fitted to its upper side to capture the younger fish escaping through its wider standard meshes; and this caught in addition to those just mentioned an average of 654 smaller fish, which would amount to nearly 4000 in three hours. These small fish are normally taken by a commercial trawl but, thanks to the new and wider regulation meshes, are now allowed to escape through the netting to grow up to a marketable sizel; they must, however, be included in any estimate we are making of the richness of life in the sea.
As to variety, the different kinds of fish caught on our voyage in the Explorer numbered from eleven to nineteen species per haul. Here too, will be a profusion of other animals dragged up with the fish from the sea floor: perhaps rose-coloured anemones, crimson starfish, variegated brittlestars, sea-urchins, hermit crabs in whelk shells, and buff and orange rock-lobsters, to mention only the more striking forms. If we could have sewn a small gauze net, like a butterfly-net, on the top of the trawl, as we did with Dr. Stanley Kemp on the old Discovery, we should have caught hosts of small shrimp-like crustaceans (amphipods, crustaceans, copepods, etc.). These swarm over the sea-bed like insects in a hayfield, swimming up in clouds as they are disturbed by the foot-rope of the trawl; they, too, must be added to our rough assessment of the sea's productivity, together with all the animals which, as we know from using a special kind of dredge, may be found burrowing below the surface of the bottom and so escaping the trawl.
To be strictly accurate and fair to the industry, I must qualify this statement slightly. Some of the fish caught in our small-mesh net would actually have been able to escape through the meshes of a trawl of the old type, for the meshes of our net were even finer than those normally used by a trawler of former days. Nevertheless the stock saved by the new regulations has been considerable. In this, Kemp told me, he followed a practice initiated by E. W. L. Holt.
The sea-bed varies widely in character and we find correspondingly different faunas as we pass from rock to gravel, or from sand to mud; but everywhere it is the wealth and variety of life that surprise us when first we see a dredge or trawl come up.
Is there anywhere on land, in our wild countryside, where life is so prolific?—where a net of similar span to our trawl could pick up so much animal life in a three-hours' sweep at walking pace? No, not even supposing that all the animals encountered were actually caught, unless perhaps in a very large sea-bird rookery—and we come back again to the unrivalled richness of the sea. For any naturalist who is a good sailor, a good mixer, and one who does not mind roughing it a bit, there can be no more rewarding experience than that of taking a trip on a trawler which is going to fish on one of the rougher trawling grounds where there will be a rich and varied fauna. For those who have not the opportunity or inclination for such a voyage, something of the same pleasure,'only on a smaller scale, may be obtained in an hour or two with a simple naturalist's dredge used from a rowing or motor boat in the shallow waters off the coast; it is indeed surprising how many different kinds of animal may come up in a dredge of only two foot span, which has been on the bottom for but five minutes.
If we did not already know the answer, we might well ask why there was not a trace of plant-life, not a frond of seaweed, in the trawl. What at first sight appear to be feathery weeds, prove on closer examination to be animals having an extraordinarily plant-like forml. In the sea, light is so quickly absorbed by the water that, at the depth of some twenty fathoms, from which our trawl came, it is too dim to allow plants to grow. The sea-floor, at this and greater depths, is an entirely animal world, yet all its wealth of life must primarily depend for its support upon an even greater bulk of plants; in our first volume we saw how they form invisible pastures near the surface and, in addition, provide a supply of food which is always sinking to nourish the animals below.
The Microscopic Plants
The plants of the open sea are exceedingly small, so small that they can only be seen with a microscope. They are suspended in untold billions through the top ten fathoms or so where there is sufficient light for them to thrive and multiply. They are microscopic because their very smallness gives them a great advantage in the struggle for life. The smaller an object is, the larger is its surface area in relation to its volume. Relative to their body-mass these little plants have more surface, than have larger forms, for absorbing the rarer but essential mineral salts which may be in short supply. This higher proportion of surface to volume also means a greater frictional resistance to sinking and so helps them to keep up longer in the upper sunlit zone. Each is made up of but a single living unit or cell, and they are mainly either diatoms or flagellates. Many of the former are provided with fine spines like thistle-down to give them parachute support; the flagellates, on the other hand, are provided with little whip-like processes (flagella) which, when set in motion, act like helicopter rotors to keep them up.
Feeding upon these little plants and, like them, scattered through the water, are vast numbers of tiny animals of many different kinds. There are hosts of shrimp-like crustaceans no bigger than the smallest insects, little snails which support themselves by flapping wing-like fins, swimming worms and many other even more unusual creatures. They are often so numerous that thousands may be collected by pulling a small tow-net—a conical net of fine silk gauze—through the water for only some five or ten minutes. All these little specks of life, plants and animals together, are known collectively as the plankton. This term, taken directly from the Greek word meaning 'that which is made to wander'l is used to denote this category of life which is passively carried along by the flow of ocean currents and tidal streams. It is convenient to have such a general term to distinguish all this drifting life on the one hand from the more active swimming creatures of the sea, the fish and whales, which can migrate at will against the currents, and, on the other, from the more sedentary animals living on the sea-bed. These two other categories, the swimmers and bottom dwellers, are sometimes given the collective terms of nekton and benthos respectively, to match the term plankton.
The Microscopic Animals
The animals of the plankton are not, like the plants, limited to the upper layers of the water. In addition to those which feed upon the plants are many others which prey upon these vegetarians, and yet others still more voracious which in turn devour these. Little medusae (miniature jelly-fish), combjellies, arrow-worms and many kinds of crustacea are the principal predators of the plankton; in this connection, we must also not forget the growing and hungry young fish which, before they are large and strong enough to swim against the currents, are carried along as part of this drifting community. The animal-life extends downwards, and there is, as we have seen, a continuous rain of the dead and dying, from the world of little plants above, to nourish the creatures of the depths. Many plankton animals, both plant-eaters and predators, make extensive vertical migrations up from the lower to the surface layers at night and down again at dawn. There is great diversity of animal plankton.
Many years ago I used the following illustration in a broadcast talk.l "If we look out of the window," I said, "at snowflakes falling through a fog we might imagine we were looking at the plankton through the porthole of a submarine coming up through the water. The snowflakes would represent the plankton animals and the fog would be the tiny plants, invisible as individuals but in their multitudes obscuring the clarity of the water. For the simile to be complete, I have suggested that the submarine must be rising—this because we must not suppose that all the plankton animals are falling like the snowflakes: some are moving hither and thither, but each—until it dies—has some means of preventing itself from sinking." Since then, I have sometimes wondered if, in using this illustration, I exaggerated the density of the plankton, for in truth I have never looked through the porthole of a submarine; indeed a typical submarine, I believe, has no such window. Now, however, I do know that the plankton can indeed look just like a snowstorm, for I have recently seen it on a viewing screen in the cabin of the Calanus, the research vessel of the Millport Marine Station, as Dr. Barnes's remarkable underwater television camera was suspended on a cable some two hundred feet below the ship. The 'snowflakes' went whirling across the screen and, every moment or so, one or two would come for a fraction of a second into focus and be recognised as members of one or another group of plankton animals. This wonderful invention now enables us not only to see the plankton in deep water but to watch the bottom-dwellers crawling over the sea-floor; more will be said later about underwater exploration with both television and photographic cameras.
Nature's Marine Economy
To summarise the natural economy of the sea in its simplest terms in the water near the surface we have all the conditions suitable for plant growth: sunlight, the gases oxygen and carbon dioxide dissolved into it from the atmosphere, and the necessary mineral salts, phosphates, nitrates etc., brought in from the land. The sea is indeed like a great culture medium, and the little plants of the plankton—called collectively the phytoplankton (Greek phuton, a plant)—are spread through its upper layers; upon these, as we have just seen, graze the members of the animal plankton or zooplankton (Gk. zoon, an animal). Some fish, such as herring, sprat and mackerel, feed directly on the zooplankton, so arso do the basking sharks and the still larger whalebone whales; the largest of these whales, the rorquals, such as the huge blue and fin whales, specialise in feeding upon the krill (euphausiacean shrimps) which, though large for plankton animals, are but an inch or so in length.
From this teeming world of planktonic life there sinks the rich supply of nourishment to the animals on the sea-bed which are equipped with all manner of devices for collecting it; and these in turn not only support a host of worms, crustaceans, starfish and many less familiar creatures, but also form the food of the bottom-living fish that we have just seen brought up in such great variety. The entire wealth that man takes from the sea by
trawling, or by letting out miles of drift nets for herring, or by harpooning the great whales for oil, is ultimately dependent upon the plankton for its production. We see how important is a study of this small drifting life for an understanding of the natural history of our fish and consequently in showing us some of the factors governing the success or failure of the fisheries.
The plankton is not always uniform in composition over long distances on end; it is often patchy in its distribution, continually varying both in quantity and kind. Here may be a dense production of the little plants and relatively few animals, while some five or ten miles away may be a great concentration of small crustacea which have grazed down the plants to relative paucity. As the ocean currents flow, the patterns of distribution change; areas of rich production and of scarcity are continually on the move. At one time the herring food may be concentrated in a belt against the coast, while next year.at the same season it may be fifty or more miles to seaward; there may now be plenty of food suitable for the newly-hatched baby fish, but on the next such critical occasion there may be a shortage.
The world of plankton, quite apart from its economic interest, presents a fascinating field of study. In addition to those animals which spend all their days in this drifting community, there are many of the young stages of bottom-living animals (or larvae as they are called) which spend only a part of their life in the upper layers; this they do so as to spread the species far and wide by riding in the moving waters for a time. Many members of the plankton provide the phosphorescence of the sea whose biological meaning is still so much a mystery. Our former volume dealt with all this planktonic life in its many different aspects: its variety, patchiness, seasonal changes, vertical migrations, phosphorescence, and extension into the great depths; and it also dealt with the movement of the waters.
A knowledge of the ocean currents is, of course, very important in helping us to understand not only the distribution of the fishes' planktonic food, but also the drift of their floating eggs and newly-hatched fry. Here we will just remind ourselves of the great influence, upon our coastal waters, of the warm Gulf Stream—or the North Atlantic Current as it is more correctly called on this side of the Atlantic. A stream of Atlantic water flows into the North Sea from the north and a lesser one enters via the Channel from the south; the relative strength of the two may vary from year to year and this may alter the To return to the present volume, we see that it deals with all the other life of the open sea which is dependent upon the plankton: the nekton and benthos—or, in other words, the swimming fish and whales and the crawling or sedentary animals of the sea-bed. The squids and cuttlefish might indeed more logically be treated here, but they were in fact included in Part I with the deep-water fish because they were linked with the plankton in a general account of life in the ocean depths. Here, as our title shows, we shall deal also with the fisheries. Our fishermen now catch over a million tons of fish every year; man becomes a major predator and his activities, whether we regard him as part of wild nature or not, must certainly form a part of our natural history of the sea.
The Science of Oceanography
The recent expansion of the fisheries has indeed had a most profound influence upon the development of our young science of oceanography. It is well at the beginning of this second volume to glance back again for a moment to see some of the circumstances which have given us such a notable increase in our knowledge of fish biology during the present century. The coming of steam-power and the larger and more efficient trawls led to some well-merited concern over the possible depletion of the stocks. The historic meeting of delegates from the European nations interested in fishing, called together in Stockholm by King Oscar II in I899 led to the foundation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, which came into being in 190I. The governments of all the countries represented agreed to appoint scientists and to equip research ships and laboratories to study the habits of the more important food-fish; they undertook to investigate between them the various areas into which they had divided the European Seas for purposes of research. The different nations work towards a unified plan of campaign and their naturalists meet every year to compare progress and plan for the future. Except for a temporary suspension of activities during the two World Wars, they have continued to the present day to show a remarkable example of what international co-operation can achieve when its aims are scientific rather than political.
In Great Britian there are two principal centres: the Fishery Laboratory of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at Lowestoft, and the Marine Laboratory of the Scottish Home Department, Fisheries Division (formerly the Fishery Board for Scotland) at Aberdeen. They have both made many and splendid additions to the natural history of the open sea; rightly they have taken fishery investigations to include not only a study of the actual fish, but also of their environment, their planktonic and benthic food, and all the physical and chemical factors which may affect them.
At the back of all this work, and often forgotten by the general public, are the painstaking studies in what is technically known as taxonomy carried out in the great museums of the world; they are the essential researches into the true identity, classification and relationships of the myriads of species of fish and other animals dealt with by the naturalists. At South Kensington, behind the display galleries of the British Museum (Natural History) are labyrinths of laboratories: a hive of taxonomic scholarship.
Before the International Council was formed, interest in fishery research had already been developing in several countries. The outstanding pioneers abroad were C. G. J. Petersen, of Denmark, and Johan Hjort, of Norway; in this country they were T. W. Fulton in Scotland, and Ernest W. L. Holt and Walter Garstang in England. Scotland was far ahead of England, for The Fishery Board for Scotland began its scientific investigations under Fultonl in I882. The Government in England had no such scientific staff of its very own until I908 a quarter of a century later; when the International Council began in I902 the English Department commissioned the Marine Biological Association to carry out its share of the work. Actually the Association, which has always had its headquarters at its own famous Plymouth Laboratory, had already begun fishery investigations in the North Sea in I892 when it appointed Ernest Holt to work on the fish landed at the Grimsby market; he made a brilliant start, initiating many new lines of enquiry, but, after only two years, the funds gave out and he went to Ireland to be Chief Inspector of Fisheries. However, with the Government support prompted by the birth of the International Council, the Association in I 902 established a new laboratory at Lowestoft under Walter Garstang and equipped it with a trawler which was rechristened the Huxley. Fishery research in England had at last come into its own and, six years later, the investigations were officially taken over by the Government—by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries as it was then called.
The expression "won from the sea" is no exaggeration. The whole of the story I shall tell has been picked up fragment by fragment from an entirely hidden world and then put together like the pieces of a puzzle; and the picking up of the pieces has been by no means easy. Photographic and television cameras may help by giving us views of parts of the underwater world, and in the shallow water near the coast frogman equipment will enable us to see something of it for ourselves; but the greater part of the wide stretches of the sea which we must examine for our story can only be sampled by more indirect means. All the observations of the sea's temperature or saltness, at different depths as well as at different places, or of the composition of the plankton, or of the kind of animals on the sea-bed, have each to be sought for by sending down various pieces of equipment—thermometers, sampling bottles, nets or dredges—on wires or ropes dangling out of sight. Fulton's pioneer investigation of the current system of the North Sea involved the use of drift bottles (1891, 1893).
The fishery naturalists are somewhat like marionette artists working blindfold; instead, however, of trying with puppets to play a story which they know, they are trying with gadgets to find out what kind of drama is being enacted on a stage they cannot see. The whole story I have to tell has gradually been unravelled by these very precarious means. Do we yet know which are its more important characters? The trouble is that it is really a complex of so many different plots linked together; the villain of one may be the hero of another. It is the working out of these hidden relationships that gives fishery research its peculiar fascination; but it is full of frustrations and disappointments.
The parts of the story we have secured have indeed often been gained against considerable odds. So often, when the naturalist has nearly succeeded in getting what he has been waiting for, the sea becomes lashed to fury as the gale rises. Can he use the nets just once more? Dare he risk the costly water-sampling bottles at one more position? No, the Captain knows better and has the final say; the ship must heave to or run for shelter. Two or three days of storm may pass before he can try again and then it may be too late; what he was looking for and had begun to find has gone—and it may now be a year or two before he can find it again. When it has all been told, we will return in the final chapter to say a little more about how the scientists and sailors have worked to give us our story.
Before I close this brief introduction I must mention one more outstanding event in the history of fishery research in our own islands: the setting up of the Development Commission by a special Act of Parliament in I909. It was established to provide a body of Commissioners to recommend to the Treasury advances from a new Government Fund for the development of agriculture, rural industries and fisheries in Great Britain. At the end of the First World War the Commission appointed a committee of leading scientists interested in marine biology under the Chairmanship of the late Sir William Hardyl to advise on a comprehensive scheme of fisheries work; after a searching enquiry involving the examination of witnesses from all sides of the fishing industry, it recommended a considerable expansion of Government research and more support to the independent marine laboratories. It also recommended that a Scientific Advisory Committee on Fishery Research should be kept in being to meet from time to time to advise the Commission on the support to be given to different lines of enquiry. The vigorous growth of marine biology in Great Britain at both Government and independent laboratories is in large measure due to the splendid financial stimulus given by this Commission and their wisdom in basing the fishery investigations upon a broad foundation of fundamental research
As I write this (in I956) Mr. E. H. E. Havelock, C.B., C.B.E., has just retired from the office of Secretary to the Development Commission; a special tribute should be paid to him in any history of our subject. He was Secretary of the famous 19I9 Committee and ever since has served this great undertaking—but he has been far more than Secretary. With an amazing grasp of all that is going on in the different centres and with a sympathetic insight into the ways and feelings of scientists, he has helped forward research in his own special way. In the expenditure of public funds there must inevitably be all manner of regulations to safeguard against extravagance and waste. Those who have the drive and enthusiasm to do worthwhile research are just the men who are going to feel frustrated and discouraged if confined too closely within red-tape entanglements; the original creative scientist has much of the temperament of the artist. Havelock has been so outstanding because of his ability to combine his duties as a careful custodian with a real understanding of the researcher; he has devoted his life to helping scientists to give of their best by showing them how much they can do—with care and thought—within the official regulations and the resources available from time to time.
Sir Alister Clavering Hardy (1896-1985)
Sir Alister Hardy
Born in Nottingham, Sir Alister Hardy reached the top of his scientific profession, had a passionate interest in human spirituality and was also a painter of outstanding ability.
Hardy was a naturalist from an early age and went to Exeter College, Oxford after Oundle, to study forestry. War began and after only one term he left to join the army.
His time in the war was spent initially with the Northern Cyclist battalion on coastal defence duties and later as a camouflage officer. During this period he had experiences which convinced him that there was such a thing as telepathy.
The war over, he returned to Oxford in 1919 and opted to change degrees to study zoology. He graduated in 1921 with distinction and was appointed Assistant Naturalist at the Fisheries Laboratory in Lowestoft, he started work on the life stages of herring and their dependence on zooplankton. His award of the Naples Scholarship secured his fascination with marine plankton which became the basis of his scientific career.
The next four years were spent studying the food of the herring, before being appointed Chief Zoologist on The Discovery expedition of 1925-7 to the Antartic. During the expedition, as well as studying zooplankton and their relationship with whales, he also became very familiar with the anatomy of marine mammals. It was this background and after reading Wood Jones' "Man's Place amongst the Mammals". which led him in 1930 to wonder if man had had more aquatic past. However the notion that man might have evolved from a more aquatic mammal was not popular and being a marine biologist with little grounding in human evolution he decided to keep the theory quiet.
Upon his return from the expedition he was appointed professor of Zoology and Oceanography at the University of Hull and he became Regius Professor of Natural History at the University of Aberdeen. In 1946 he was appointed to the Linacre Chair of Zoology at Oxford which he occupied until 1961, extending his time at Oxford for a further two years as Professor of Zoological Field Studies.
When he was approaching retirement, Hardy decided to go public on his "marine" theory of man's evolution. There was such an outcry in the press and apart from a few positive responses the official response was to ignore it. By the time he died in 1985 he had still not received any recognition for his theory.
Hardy's other interest was in the area of religious and telepathic experiences. His approach was scientific. He wanted to compile a database of people's religious experiences so that he might try to determine if there were correlations between them. His work led to the founding of the Alister Hardy Trust which continues to investigate this area today.
Sir Alister was known to generations of scientists as one of the world's foremost marine biologists and a great teacher and advocate of Darwinism.
The academic awards he received for his work in Zoology included an Oxford D.Sc, Fellowship of the Royal Society and the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society for his work on marine and aerial plankton. In 1957 he was knighted for his work in marine biology and in 1968 he received the Phi Beta Kappa award in Washington for outstanding contributions to scientific literature for his book "Great Waters".
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