Just One of Life’s Mysteries

Life is full of mystery.  Or is it?  It occurs to me that maybe there really is no mystery at all.  It just seems mysterious because we don’t understand parts of it.  But that is the fun part really.  If everything made perfect sense to us all the time I think life would be a little boring.  I like to wonder about things.  Roll a conundrum around in my mind and see if I can make sense of it.

Take the salmon run for example.  Last week I was invited to join friends on a canoe trip down the Shuswap River.  It was a glorious sunny fall day with temperatures reaching 27 degrees.  The river was gentle, although I was still nervous in the canoe and nagged my dear friend Barry to “keep us from tipping!” …constantly, which he did.    🙂

The river was full, and I mean full, of salmon that were making their way upstream to their spawning grounds; to the exact spot that they were born four long years ago.  How do they know how to get there and how do they know “yep, this is the spot”?  These fish are on a serious mission, I mean, they are not fooling around.  Many even die trying. They travel 480 km from the Pacific Ocean on their 17-day journey to the spawning grounds. Travelling at an average speed of 30 kilometres a day, the salmon do not slow to feed. Instead, they live off the fat stored during their time in the salt waters of the Pacific. As their upstream battle consumes their body fat and tissue, they undergo a remarkable transformation. Their deep-sea blue-gray bodies gradually change to a brilliant crimson in their battle against such well-known obstacles as Hell’s Gate Rapids on the Fraser and the many whitewater rapids on the Thompson.

By the time the Adams River sockeye reach the mouth of the stream in mid-October, the transformation from blue-gray to crimson is virtually complete. In addition, the male of the species now has become grotesquely distorted with a humped back and a sharply hooked nose on his gray-green head.

Wow! What inspires them to make the trip and how do they know how to get to that exact spot?  And why do they need to change colour and…?  It’s a mystery.  Well it is to us anyway; perhaps it’s obvious to the salmon.

Scientific research indicates that salmon may use currents as well as an orientation to the earth’s magnetic field and celestial (sun) navigation. However, once they enter the rivers, it’s thought that the sense of smell is their guide home. Each stream has its own characteristic scent developed from the vegetation along the stream, the rocks that the stream covers, and the water entering the stream from small streams and springs.

But you know what? Nobody really knows for sure.  It’s one of life’s really cool mysteries.

This is why I was inspired to create this months Tara header with the word “mystery” in it…and because it looks kind of spooky for Halloween too.

Here is a video that my friend Lorellei took at the spot we stopped for lunch.  Very cool.  I was on the opposite side of the stream while she shot it.

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