Hungry Like the Wolffish

Plus, a novel that’s even more macho than “Sea-Wolf” implies

Published February 23, 2024

Eric Keihl is the editor in chief for Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. Each week, he will accept a reader challenge to write a entire, quiz-ready trivia round on some tricky or obscure subject. You can challenge Eric here.

This week’s theme is “sea wolves,” suggested by Jess Parks in Washington. Thanks, Jess!

I’d wager that Jess meant the actual wolves that live in the Pacific Northwest (and we’ll get to them!) but it turns out that “sea wolf” is a name for a wide array of fascinating stuff. For now we’ll consider the Atlantic wolffish, a five-foot bottom dweller whose doofy-looking teeth help it crack open stubborn marine snails and sea urchins. To survive the icy ocean depths, these guys supercharge their blood with antifreeze proteins, which bind to ice crystals in the body and keep them from growing.

Fascinating side note: Wolffish belong to the family Anarhichadidae, the taxonomic creation of Napoleon’s nephew Charles Bonaparte (not the one who was Teddy Roosevelt’s attorney general). Our Charles sailed to Philadelphia in 1826 and established himself as a promising ornithologist, then later went to Italy and branched out into other areas of zoology (such as fish-naming). Before long, the pull of his grandpa’s genes got him politically involved in the short-lived Roman Republic of 1849 (which fought against his cousin, Napoleon III). Eventually Charles settled in Paris, and became director of the impossibly-beautiful Jardin des Plantes.

Anyway, you can see why I couldn’t just stick to one type of sea wolf: So many are worthy of exploration. It’s a full moon tonight; Let’s go hunting!

1. Actual wolves that swim between islands, Vancouver Island sea wolves migrate upriver after what fish that makes up much of their diet? Salmon

Disturbingly, they only eat the brains, possibly to avoid the toxins that can build up in salmon muscles and kidneys. A scattering of fresh, headless salmon is usually a good sign you’re near some sea wolves… or fish zombies.

2. While training to run the nuclear reactor on the USS Seawolf, what president lost his dad and left the Navy to save the family peanut farm? Jimmy Carter

Many years later Carter, our only submariner president, would lend his name to the USS Jimmy Carter… a Seawolf-class vessel, naturally. 

3. Like their nautical names suggest, the Erie SeaWolves, Calgary Cannons, and Columbus Clippers are former minor-league affiliates of what lousy MLB team? Pittsburgh Pirates

Other former Pirate affiliates include the Fort Lauderdale Tarpons, Idaho Falls Russets, and Hickory Crawdads. Oh, minor league baseball, you lovable goofus! Don’t you ever change!

4. The immersive submarine arcade game “Sea Wolf” had you targeting enemy ships using what device that contains at least two mirrors? Periscope

Not to be confused with SSN-21 Sea Wolf (1994), a totally different submarine war sim with graphics that were somehow once considered state-of-the-art. The game is considered abandonware, so you can legally download it for free here.

5. A shortage of Seawolf anti-air missiles helped the U.K. lose six ships to Argentine planes, in the brief war for what remote specks of sheep poop? Falkland Islands

Losses aside, the Brits won the war handily, and the Argentines are still incredibly bitter about it. In 2014, they passed a law requiring all public transport to display a sign that reads “Las Malvinas son Argentinas” (“The Falkland Islands are Argentinian.”)

6. The titular super-sailor punches the hell out of a shark in The Sea-Wolf, by what butch novelist who also wrote about real wolves? Jack London

That sailor’s name is literally Wolf Larsen, an immoral psycho who describes life as a “yeasty something” and single-handedly fights off a seven-man mutiny. He’s later overcome by his equally-evil brother, who goes by–I kid you not–Death Larsen.

7. Sometimes called “lobos marinos,” South American sea lions breed amidst the storms of what randy-sounding cape at the southern tip? Cape Horn

Argentina’s Ushuaia Maritime Museum says that at least 54 ships were wrecked on Cape Horn in the 19th century alone. They further add that the Falkland Islands are Argentinian.

8. Bella nearly gets eaten by her future in-laws after cutting her finger, all to the weirdly-erotic strains of Sea Wolf’s “The Violet Hour.” That scene comes from what so-called “saga”? Twilight

Here’s the scene. Naturally, Bella proceeds to marry straight into the family that almost drained her like a living Capri Sun. Ah, to be young and in love!

Bonus: PBS called them “Wolves of the Sea,” but the ProperAnimalNames subreddit prefers “yin-yang fins,” “homicidal sea pandas,” or “murder Oreo dolphins.” Name those critters. Orcas

Orcas more than earn these nicknames: These brainy dolphins pack-hunt great white sharks and sperm whales, generate giant waves to push seals off of ice floes, and are teaching each other to sink yachts in the Strait of Gibraltar. ¡Viva la revolución, comrades!

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