Sitting at the helm (steering wheel) of this boat, sailing resolutely through and over the indian ocean, you get mesmerized by these flying fish hoisting emselves out of the water.
Usually they jump if they are being chased by a tuna, but also our boat flying off the crest of a wave, and then slamming itself into the water, seems to scare the bejayzus out of these things.
They take to the sky in great herds. Its fascinating to watch them employ this form of locomotion, which, contrary to what the name suggests, is not actually true flying.
They employ a technique called wing in ground efffect, or ground effect for short. Once they have exited the water, which they do at great speed, their short stubby wings are either used to glide, or they beat them very rapidly.. like a bumble bee does. But the lift from this is not significant enough to launch them into the realm of the bird.
They have to remain close to the waters surface as the high pressure pocket of air created under their wings, presses also on the surface of the sea, and keeps them aloft.
A lot of people dont realise it, but air has a lot of the same properties as water, only its much less dense.
When a space shuttle re enters the earths atmospbere, if it does it at too great an angle, it will skip off the layer of air and shoot back off into space, much the same way as a stone will skip off the surface of a pond when youre chucking em in cause youre bored outta yer tits.
Air will also work on exactly the same principles as a hydraulic system, only its pneumatic, and because the molecules in air are further apart, it is more compressible than liquids.
But for this fish, which has evolved greatly enhanced pectoral fins, its not that great a leap from ‘flying’ in the water, to flying in the air.
Because the air is less dense they need to flap extremely fast, but they also use the wind to great effect.
By turning themselves in the direction of the wind they are able to increase lift as more air is passing over their wing surfaces.
Kind of like an airplane taking advantage of the increased lift by taking off and landing into the wind.
But how does such a smelly, primitive creature know of the Bernoulli effect, or ground effect, or even to turn into the wind.
And can you imagine the first flying fish to ever take to the sky.
He must have been a real pioneering type. Like the first duck and sheep to ever go in a Montgolfier brothers hot air balloon. Those were the real aeronautical pioneers.
Granted the concept was probably a lot easier for the duck to grasp than the sheep. He was probably thinking.. what in the world.??? Why dont these humans just friggin eat me already!
For that first flying fish, it must have been akin to us going into space for the first time. Or like going into a parallel dimension.
Think about it.. you are being chased by a great fat tuna.. your heart is racing.. youve tried zigging this way, and zagging that, but this flipping tuna is right on your tail….literally.
Any moment now he will lunge and bite the damn thing off.. and then your swimming career is over.. its special olympics for you sonny.
So you do the only other thing possible. You head directly for the edge of the world. The edge of the universe as you know it. You know you will probably die. You have heard all the theories from the learned fish about what exists beyond the border of this dimension.
But you are the master of your destiny…captain of your soul. Youre gonna have a stab.
You grit your lil fish teeth together in readiness for the final surge of power from your writhing tail, you know its gonna be sore tomorrow from the lactic acid buildup, but you suck it up princess.. no pain no gain.
You ooze out a lil more stinky slime to make yourself more hydrodynamically slick and reduce your drag coefficient… somehow you just know about these principles, all fish do… its only humans that will take millions of years to figure em out.. dumbasses!
And then you just do it… the first fish in history… you smash through the surface tension of the water, you know about these things too, and your momentum takes your entire body clear out of the water.
You stretch your fins as far as they will go as you feel the vortices forming under you.
You feel a strange sensation on your scales. Its a weird pressure differential on one side of your body from the flow of the ‘thin water’ from one region to another, and you instinctively drop one wing and alter course, heading directly into the ‘wind’ to increase efficiency and prolong this inaugural flight.
Almost instantly you get a whiff of something ghastly and your eyes start watering. You are saddened when you realize the stench is from your own BO. It smells a lot different underwater.. and you know its gone way too far when you can actually smell yourself.
Also.. you realize that it must be a really terrible stench if you can smell it even though you dont have an actual nose.. just 2 nostrils hovering on a face.
You realize you are losing lift as your speed decreases, so you dip your tail back into the water and give it a quick flick, and this propels your forward and higher into the air.
You realize now that you cant breathe anymore and you start to panic a lil. Suddenly being eaten by a fellow fish doesnt sound as bad as drowning in air..
As you plunge into the ocean again you see the gobsmacked tuna that was chasing you.. now rooted to the spot.. his eyes and mouth agape.
He will never be the same again. He will go around muttering to himself about the time he saw a fish disappear from the universe, and then, as if by magic, reappear in another spot.
You will go on to make more flights, be invited to make speeches, write a book on the experience and open an academy for other wanna be pilots.
Down at the pub, your legend grows steadily and other sealife start to call you the ‘flying fish’… and of course you dont correct them, cause the ‘ground effect fish’ doesnt roll off the tongue quite as nicely.