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The Mile Deep Club: Scientists Brave Antarctic Winter to Catch Chilean Sea Bass in the Act

Source: Hakai Magazine/Eloise Gibson - August 9, 2017 in Adventure

The Mile Deep Club: Scientists Brave Antarctic Winter to Catch Chilean Sea Bass in the Act
Photo: Kathryn Hansen/NASA

In the dim light of a polar winter day, a sliding hydraulic wall opens on the fishing vessel Janas, exposing two fishermen on the lower deck to the full onslaught of winds blasting off Antarctica. While the vessel bobs on the frigid ocean, the men, clad in padded yellow coveralls, blue anoraks, and thick, protective rubber boots, peer down into the sea as a winch hauls up a thick metal fishing line. A slate-gray shape emerges from the deep and dangles below—it’s the prize they’ve come for: an Antarctic toothfish.

When it’s swimming free, the Antarctic toothfish is a nimble hunter—a lunging, gulping predator weighing up to 120 kilograms (as much as a baby elephant) with biological antifreeze, a glycoprotein, coursing through its veins. But the mottled creature on the hook is limp and docile after being dragged up from a depth of at least two kilometers. One man reaches down and swiftly stabs the fish’s head using a hooked gaff. His partner skewers it from the other side and together they haul it into the Janas’s factory room.

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