An Eel Was Placed In A Swedish Well To Keep The Water Supply Clean. It Lived For 155 Years

September 19, 2014

A Swedish well-eel that lived to be at least 155 years old died this past August. In the days before running water, towns used to place an eel or two in the well to keep the water supply free of bugs, algae, and other critters.

Via The History Blog

In August, Sweden mourned the death of the world's oldest eel. Åle the eel was around 155 years old when he left a country bereft, a prodigious age for the European eel Anguilla anguilla which in the wild typically lives around seven years in fresh water before returning to the ocean to spawn and die. They can be very long-lived, though. The oldest recorded wild eel was 85 years old.

well-eel
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Åle was put in the well in the fishing village of Brantevik on the southeastern tip of Sweden by eight-year-old Samuel Nilsson in 1859. This was a common practice in a time when running water was rare (Stockholm only got public water mains in the 1850s; it took more than a century after that for waterworks to be installed in smaller towns) and a good eel could keep the home's water supply free of bugs, worms, eggs, algae and any other number of critters. European eels will even eat carrion, so they're extremely helpful additions to a well.

This particular eel has been a star for close to a hundred years, garnering articles in the paper, TV news stories and documentaries, even making an appearance in the Swedish Tom Sawyer, Bombi Bitt and I written by Fritiof Nilsson Piraten in 1932. Thomas Kjellman, current owner of the cottage, remembers Åle from when he was a boy. His family bought the house in 1962 with the understanding that the eel came with the property.


YouTube

Kjellman made the unfortunate discovery that Åle was no more. He had fallen apart, so they had to drain the well in order to recover the delicate remains.

The Kjellman family will have to take solace in the fact that they have a backup superannuated eel. Their other well eel, currently unnamed, is only about 110 years old.

Via The History Blog

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