A92_980_b.jpg Eye, Swordfish. Collection of Puke Ariki (A92.980).

A grisly fragment of a big game prize is part of the Puke Ariki Heritage Collection. In its wizened and clouded state, there is no doubt this billfish eye has lost its natural beauty but it still serves to stir curiosity about these migratory predators.

While most people would think of swordfish and marlin for their impressive pointed bills their eyes are just as fascinating. The fish have specialised cells that generate extra heat around the eyes and the brain, allowing them to react faster and see better, which helps them hunt better in deep cold water.

There are no detailed accounts about where this eye came from but an ageing paper label stuck to the back reads “Eye of swordfish caught at Russell, N.Z 1936.” By this time the Bay of Islands was well known internationally for its big game fishing, largely thanks to extensive coverage given by the brash American writer Zane Grey, who published colourful accounts of his exploits in Tales of the Angler’s Eldorado, New Zealand, that was published in 1926.

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