As soon as we heard the south beach road was open on Pawleys Island, we were on our way.
I was hoping for some pounding surf and big shells.
What is that? Nothing we've ever seen on the beach before.
It's an eel! A freshwater eel!
What was it doing in the ocean?
I came home and learned a lot about eels.
Yes, they do live in fresh water streams and estuaries most of their lives. But after growing for five to ten years they are mature and stop feeding. Their guts begin to degenerate, their eyes double in size to see in deep water, and their swim bladders increase in number to help them swim a very long way. In the autumn some begin making an epic journey from the rivers to the Atlantic Ocean, far out into the deep to an area of warm water called the Sargasso Sea.
American eels come from all along the Atlantic, as far as Greenland to the north and South and Central America to the south, many from considerable distances inland. After the long swim to their destination, females release 20-30 million eggs each, the males fertilize them, and then the adults die (it is assumed -- no one has ever witnessed the actual spawning).
Sadly, the journey of the eel we found on Pawleys beach was interrupted by a hurricane called Florence.