The Gospel of the Eels, by Patrik Svensson

28 March 2022

 The Gospel of the Eels, by Patrik Svensson, book cover

Eels are fascinating creatures, and after centuries — make that millennia — of study, they continue to puzzle scientists. In the past, they’ve piqued the curiosity of Greek philosopher Aristotle, over two thousand years ago, and more recently, Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

Visitors to Sydney’s Centennial Park, may have spotted the long-finned eels who reside in some of the park’s ponds. But they are not Sydneysiders by birth, they were spawned in waters some two-thousand kilometres away, near New Caledonia. Seeking out fresh water, they make the perilous journey to the park, by way of canals, stormwater systems, and even briefly slithering over land from one waterway to another. Once in the park’s ponds, they remain there for decades before returning to the ocean waters they were born in.

The European eel is the subject of Swedish arts and culture journalist Patrik Svensson’s book, The Gospel of the Eels (published by Pan Macmillan, May 2020). These eels are born in the Sargasso Sea, a sprawling area of ocean within the Atlantic Ocean, approximately off the east coast of Central America. They then gradually migrate towards Europe, a journey of over six thousand kilometres, taking about two years. Like the long-finned eels of Centennial Park, the European eels also eventually return to the waters of their birth to reproduce.

Svensson recently spoke to Sarah Kanowski, host of ABC podcast series Conversations, about his book and lifelong fascination with the European eels.