Page 51. " I will have lost two hundred fathoms of good Catalan cardel "
Catalonia, Spain
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCatalonia, Spain (in red) - Credit: Mutxamel, subido por Rastrojo

Catalan is a reference to Catalonia, Spain, an autonomous community within the Kingdom of Spain.

The term cardel is rather obscure. It is likely that Hemingway meant cordel, which is "a thin rope or line used on board a ship." Thus, Catalan cardel would be fishing line made in Catalonia.

Page 51. " It could have been a marlin or a broadbill or a shark. "
Swordfish caught near Australia
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMarlin caught near Australia - Credit:
"Broadbill" is another name for a swordfish.

For more information on the marlin, see the second Bookmark for page 11.

Page 53. " so that he'll fill the sacks along his backbone with air "

Fish Swim Bladder
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeFish Swim Bladder - Credit: Algirdas
Santiago is referring to the fish's swim bladder, the lung-like structure that allows ray-finned fish to control their buoyancy:


"Blue marlin have an unusual swim bladder in the form of a thin-walled, multichambered sac extending from the level of the first pectoral fin to behind the first anal fin. Observations of marlin 'finning' near the surface with the dorsal and caudal fins high above the water show that the bladder is large enough for the fish to be positively buoyant near the surface."


Page 54. " He was a warbler and flying very low over the water. "

Black-and-white warbler
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBlack-and-white warbler - Credit: Wolfgang Wander
Warblers are small, common perching birds.

Page 61. " But now they were in hurricane months "
Hurricane Hugo just before landfall in South Carolina, USA, Sept. 21, 1989
Public DomainHurricane Hugo just before landfall in South Carolina, USA, Sept. 21, 1989

View of the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina, August 28, 2005, taken from an aircraft
Public DomainView of the eyewall of Hurricane Katrina, August 28, 2005, taken from an aircraft
According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane months are June, July, August, September, October, and November. The Old Man and the Sea takes place in September.

"A hurricane . . . is a system with sustained winds of at least 33 metres per second (64 kn) or 74 miles per hour (119 km/h)."

Page 62. " The line rose slowly and steadily and then the surface of the ocean bulged ahead of the boat and the fish came out. "

Hemingway is a master of polysyndetic writing--the intentional use of repeated conjunctions (usually "and") to achieve a certain style or feel. This paragraph, describing the crucial moment in the story when Santiago first sees the fish, is a beautiful example.

The line rose slowly and steadily and then the surface of the ocean bulged ahead of the boat and the fish came out. He came out unendingly and water poured from his sides. He was bright in the sun and his head and back were dark purple and in the sun the stripes on his sides showed wide and a light lavender. His sword was as long as a baseball bat and tapered like a rapier and he rose his full length from the water and then re-entered it, smoothly, like a diver and the old man saw the great scythe-blade of his tail go under and the line commenced to race out.

Page 64. " But I will say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys that I should catch this fish, and I promise to make a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Cobre if I catch him. "

"Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys" are traditional Roman Catholic prayers. A Hail Mary (or, in Latin, Ave Maria) forms the basis of the Rosary and is based on Luke 1:28 and 42. Santiago quotes it later on this page ("Hail Mary full of Grace the Lord is with thee. . . .")

An Our Father (Pater Noster in Latin) is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer and is based on the prayer that Christ modeled for His disciples as part of the Sermon on the Mount (see also the video below):

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our supersubstantial bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen. (Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible)

For an explanation of the Virgin of Cobre, see Bookmark for page 16.


Page 68. " he knew that the Yankees of New York were playing the Tigres of Detroit. "

See the first Bookmark for page 21. Based on the Yankees' schedule for September 1951, the date must be September 13, 14, or 15.

Page 68. " I must be worthy of the great DiMaggio who does all things perfectly even with the pain of the bone spur in his heel. "

Bone Spur
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBone Spur - Credit: James Heilman, MD
According to, "A bone spur (osteophyte) is a bony growth formed on normal bone. Most people think of something sharp when they think of a 'spur,' but a bone spur is just extra bone. It’s usually smooth, but it can cause wear and tear or pain if it presses or rubs on other bones or soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, or nerves in the body."

Santiago was not alone in thinking DiMaggio "does all things perfectly." Watch this tribute to DiMaggio, which includes a portion of the hit song "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio," sung by Betty Bonney with Les Brown and His Orchestra.

Page 68. " Can it be as painful as the spur of a fighting cock in one's heel? "
The beginning of the cock fight. When the man in the center raises the cloth, the birds will see each other and begin to fight. Puerto Rico, 1937.
Public DomainThe beginning of the cock fight. When the man in the center raises the cloth, the birds will see each other and begin to fight. Puerto Rico, 1937.

From Wikipedia: "A cockfight is a blood sport between two roosters (cocks), held in a ring called a cockpit. Cockfighting is now illegal throughout all of the United States, Brazil and in most of Europe."

Ernest Hemingway and His World, a biography by Anthony Burgess, includes a photo of Hemingway and his gardener watching a cockfight. The caption quotes Hemingway: "Where else [other than Cuba] can you train cocks and fight them and bet those you believe in and be legal? Some people put the arm on fighting cocks as cruel. But what . . . else does a fighting cock like to do?" (page 94).

Spurs attached to the legs of a fighting cock
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSpurs attached to the legs of a fighting cock - Credit: Superbass
Page 69. " the time in the tavern at Casablanca when he had played the hand game with the great negro from Cienfuegos "
Casablanca, Havana
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCasablanca, Havana - Credit: L'Écolier

Casablanca in this case is not the famous Moroccan city but an area of Havana, close to Cojimar. The name "Casablanca" means "white house" in English.


Google Map



Cienfuegos is the name of both a province and a city near the southern coast of Cuba.

An arm wrestling match
Creative Commons AttributionAn arm wrestling match - Credit: Above99

"The hand game" is a reference to arm wrestling.


Google Map


Page 70. " Santiago El Campeón "

El Campeón is Spanish for "The Champion."

Page 71. " An airplane passed overhead on its course to Miami "

Miami is a city on the eastern coast of southern Florida, a little more than 200 miles northeast of Havana. Founded in 1896, it was a relatively young city when The Old Man and the Sea was published in 1952.


Google Map


Page 71. " I would like to fly very slowly at two hundred fathoms high "

This is a nice Hemingway touch. Used to measuring depth in fathoms, the old man assumes height would be measured the same way. Height is, in aviation, actually measured in feet; two hundred fathoms high would be an altitude of 1200 feet.

Page 71. " In the turtle boats I was in the cross-trees of the mast-head "

Public DomainCross-trees
Santiago is referring to his time on boats that hunted turtles.

The mast-head is simply the top of a mast on a sailing ship. Cross-trees, according to, are "pieces of timber at a masthead, to which are attached the upper shrouds. At the head of lower masts in large vessels, they support a semicircular platform called the 'top.'"

Page 72. " his small line was taken by a dolphin "
by cm

This is not a mammalian dolphin but a dolphinfish.

Later, Santiago calls it dorado, meaning "golden."

Page 75. " He did not know the name of Rigel but he saw it "

Orion constellation map
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeOrion constellation map - Credit: Torsten Bronger
Rigel is the name of one of the two brightest stars in the constellation Orion. It's the sixth brightest star in the sky.

Page 75. " The fish is my friend too,' he said aloud. 'I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him.' "
Teddy Roosevelt on safari, 1909 or 1919
Public DomainTeddy Roosevelt on safari, early 1900s

Hilary Hemingway (Ernest Hemingway's niece) and Carlene Brennen discuss this passage in Hemingway in Cuba:

In 1934, Hemingway wrote his friend John Dos Passos, "I am in training to be a naturalist." Now it may be difficult for many to think of Ernest Hemingway as a naturalist or conservationist, since it seemed he never met an animal he didn't want to kill. But back then, being a conservationist--in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt--meant conserving animals today to have animals to hunt tomorrow. It meant understanding these animals, studying them in their natural habitat, analyzing their migration, feeding habits and physical changes over their life span. Further, it meant sharing that mystical bond between the hunter and the prey, the bond that Ernest wrote of so memorably in The Old Man and the Sea. The character Santiago speaks of his love and admiration for the great fish even as he is determined to kill it.