Accomplished Norwegian historian, journalist, and photographer Strøksnes invites readers into the fantastical ocean environment of his quest to capture a Greenland shark.
More than just a chronicle of two men (the author and his artist friend, Hugo Aasjord) discussing their surroundings as they drift along off the coast of Norway, the narrative follows the pair’s lofty goal of snaring one of the world’s largest beasts from their small rubber boat. A few of the strange qualities of their prey include its ability to dive to more than 4,000 feet, “sawblade teeth” and “suctioning lips that ‘glue’ larger prey to its mouth while chewing,” and poisonous flesh that smells like urine. They can also live to be 400 years old and weigh more than a ton. During their endeavor, whether on the ocean or sidelined on the rugged land due to inhospitable weather, Strøksnes and Aasjord tackled a variety of existential questions while contemplating the magnificent, complex mysteries of the ocean. Their conversations range over subjects as diverse as mythology, poetry, history, literature, and science, all interspersed with their observations. In the hands of a less skilled storyteller, readers may have felt burdened by the amount of information, but Strøksnes handles it well. Following the philosophical proclamation that “life cannot exist without death, and the cycle of life is what keeps the planet in harmony,” the author explains how the men planned to use the decomposed carcass of a Scottish bull as bait, after which he provides an enlightening vignette on the history of that hardy breed. While tracking down the rotting carcass, the author also describes the surrounding countryside, including the ancient sacrificial altars he encountered.
Whether the author is opining on mass extinctions, the importance of plankton, the history of lighthouses, or the epicurean treat of boiled cod tongues, readers will happily devour this smorgasbord of delights.