• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
World's oldest eel dies in Swedish well
The eel pictured is not the eel in the story. The eel in the story is dead. Photo: AP

World's oldest eel dies in Swedish well

The Local/sr · 8 Aug 2014, 09:43

Published: 08 Aug 2014 08:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Aug 2014 09:43 GMT+02:00

Some people have ghosts in their attics.

Tomas Kjellman, resident in the little fishing town of Brantevik in Skåne, has always had an eel in his well.

"My family bought the cottage in 1962, and we always knew the housepet was included," Kjellman told The Local.

Its presence has been well-documented for more than a century.

But no more.

"Of course it's sad. I have memories of the eel from when I was a child," Kjellman said. 


The eel featured in a newspaper feature on its 100th birthday, in 1959. Photo: Private

Åle the eel, as he was called, (ål is Swedish for eel) was quite the popular family member. When guests came over for the traditional crayfish party (more about that phenomenon here), the family wanted to show off the elderly eel.

But when they removed the lid from the well, they saw that the world's oldest eel had kicked the proverbial bucket.

"It was uncanny when we took off the lid and saw it in pieces. It had apparently been there for a while and had basically boiled."

The eel received no burial, but is in a freezer awaiting expert analysis - which may solve the riddle of how the sea creature got so incredibly old.

Although the body is in pieces, the entire spine is intact and the family is hoping to send along the head as well. Rings in the otolith, or ear stone, of the eel would reveal its exact age.

"Eels normally only live to be seven years old," Kjellman told The Local. "They usually get so fat and their intestinal canals stop working. But this one just lived and lived and lived."

The eel had unusually and disproportionately large eyes - "grotesquely large", Kjellman remarked -  due to a lifetime in the dark well, and may have undergone other odd changes as well.


The eel in 1959. Photo: Private

In 1859 an 8-year-old Swede by the name of Samuel Nilsson threw the eel into the well. While the act may be reminiscent of children throwing strange objects into toilets in modern times, it was in fact common practice to throw an eel in your well.

Many towns didn't have public water systems until the 1960s, and eels ate the flies and other creepy crawlies, keeping the house's water supply clean .

Story continues below…

Since its drop into the dark in 1859, the eel has been featured in books and documentaries, and made multiple cameos on Swedish TV. 

"It's an amazing feeling," Thomas Kjellman said. "Amazing that it lived so long. It lived during two world wars." 

Åle the eel is survived by its sea-faring partner, alive and well in the well - but the junior eel is "only" believed to be 110.

"That one doesn't have a name," Kjellman laughed. "You can come up with one."


Tomas Kjellman and a friend try to pull up the dead eel. Photo: Private

Solveig Rundquist
Follow Solveig on Twitter

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local/sr (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden votes yes to controversial Nato deal
A Nato exercise in Spain 2014. Photo: AP Photo/Daniel Tejedor

A bid to stall the decision was voted down.

Swedish pensioner 'pulled fake gun' on salesman
A file photo of an airsoft gun not linked to the story. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

We know that many of you have probably had your patience tried by salespeople in the past. But don't do this at home, kids.

Swedish PM shakes up cabinet in key reshuffle
Ann Linde, Peter Eriksson, Isabella Lövin, Stefan Löfven, Karolina Skog and Ibrahim Baylan. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

UPDATED: Will this turn a page on weeks of scandals for Sweden's coalition?

Why this Swedish handyman wore high heels to work
Not the ideal footwear for manual labour. Photo: Emil Andersson

Laying a floor in a fourth floor apartment turned out to be pretty difficult in high heels.

Julian Assange
Stockholm court upholds Assange arrest warrant
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

UPDATED: A Stockholm district court has maintained a European arrest warrant against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The Local List
Ten ridiculous things Zlatan has compared himself to
Thinking about that time he compared himself to Rambo? Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Is it a Ferrari? Is it a shark? No, it's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Sweden sees dramatic rise in syphilis cases
New figures show a significant increase in Swedish syphilis cases. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Syphilis is on the increase in Sweden, with the number of new cases more than tripling in some parts of the country.

Why Sweden's teachers have no time for their students
A Swedish classroom. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Teachers in Sweden are drowning in paperwork and have insufficient time to properly plan lessons, a new report suggests.

Foreigners in Sweden still more likely to be unemployed
A grim outlook is predicted for foreigners in Sweden. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Unemployment is falling among native Swedes, but foreign-born citizens are struggling to keep pace.

'Help! My name is Jihad'
Jihad Eshmawi. Photo: Private

My name doesn’t make life easy for me, Jihad Eshmawi tells us.

Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Business & Money
Why Swedes don't want the euro
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Blog updates

20 May

Editor’s blog, May 20th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Do not mention Abba! Or cuckoo clocks! Our most read article this week was…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
National
Why a 116-year-old Swede isn't the world's oldest woman
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
National
Youth unemployment falls in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: May 11th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Gallery
People-watching: May 6th-8th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
Politics
Why Sweden's Greens are in free fall
National
Can these cartoon Swedes help foreigners blend in?
National
Why this fearless woman is the talk of Sweden
National
Sweden set for sunny weekend
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vollsjö, Sjöbo
Features
How to be a cool Swede during a hot summer
Gallery
People-watching: April 29th - May 1st
3,315
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se