Page 78. " He put one of his feet on the fish and slit him quickly from the vent up to the tip of his lower jaw. "

"The vent" is a reference to the genital slit on a male dolphin's underside.

Page 79. " He slid the carcass overboard and looked to see if there was any swirl in the water. But there was only the light of its slow descent. He turned then and placed the two flying fish inside the two fillets of fish "

The old man is looking to see whether there are sharks nearby that attack the carcass, which would cause a "swirl."

To fillet (or filet) a fish is to bone it and cut it into a long slice:


Page 89. " and now the trade wind is rising. "


Satellite image of Cuba
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumSatellite image of Cuba - Credit:


A trade wind is "any of a consistent system of prevailing winds occupying most of the tropics, constituting the major component of the general circulation of the atmosphere, and blowing northeasterly in the Northern Hemisphere and southeasterly in the Southern Hemisphere" (

Page 90. " His dorsal fin was down and his huge pectorals were spread wide. "

The dorsal fin is the fin on a fish's back; pectoral fins are fins on the side of his body.

See here for the external anatomy of a blue marlin.

Page 90. " On this circle the old man could see the fish's eye and the two gray sucking fish that swam around him. "
Remora in the Belize Reef. Note specialized organ (closeup)
Public DomainRemora in the Belize Reef. Note specialized organ (closeup)

These "sucking fish" are small remoras, fish that attach themselves to other fish for purposes of transport and nutrition. Remoras do not eat or harm the host fish; they eat material dropped by the host, the host's feces, and/or bacteria and parasites found on the host. A remora attaches himself to the host not by means of his mouth but by a specially adapted dorsal fin on the top of his head.

Page 92. " Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who. "
Anthony Burgess, 1986
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAnthony Burgess, 1986 - Credit: Zazie44

Anthony Burgess notes the "almost religious humility" evidenced by Santiago in the passage  quoted above: "It is easy to understand why the novella was, and continues to be, so universally popular. It is about courage maintained in the face of failure. . . . Like the matador with the bull, [Santiago] feels drawn to the magnificent creature, so that, though one has to kill the other, he does not mind who kills whom" (Ernest Hemingway and His World).

Page 94. " Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water "

In Hemingway in Cuba, Hilary Hemingway and Carlene Brennen claim that this scene was inspired by an actual event from Hemingway's life in the 1930s when he hooked a huge marlin while on board his boat, the Pilar.

Ernest kept on pumping and reeling hard and fast. . . . He pulled back to pump the rod again and the marlin jumped three more times. Everyone on board was in awe at the way this giant rose up and hung in the air, its long, wet body blurring in great twists and bends, then crashing into a wave of white spray. The line sprang back like a banjo string and the beads of water fell from the line. The fish jumped again, this time hanging stiff and high in the air before falling.

Then the marlin tried to sound three times, and each time Papa* held him and brought him back to the surface. By now both man and fish were tired, but the fish had it worse by far. It seemed confused, and made several tight circles while Ernest took in line quickly. . . .

Just then, the great marlin came back to life with a burst of energy. Line screamed off the reel, and the fish came up closer to the port side and flung himself in a somersault of splashing spray. . . . Then straight back from the Pilar the big fish surfaced again, floating higher and resting, flipping its fins slowly above with the waves. The marlin was only a dozen yards away--it was the moment of surrender. . . .

*Hemingway's nickname.

Page 97. " and with his boom rigged, the patched sail drew "

Mast (vertical) and boom (horizontal)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMast (vertical) and boom (horizontal) - Credit: Unknown
A boom is "a long spar extending from a mast to hold or extend the foot of a sail." To rig a boom is to attach a sail to it.

Page 98. " with a spoon on it "

spoon is "a shiny, curved, metallic fishing lure."

Page 99. " The dark water of the true gulf is the greatest healer that there is. "

"The true gulf" is the Gulf of Mexico. For more information on it, see Setting


Google Map
Page 100. " He was a very big Mako shark "
The mako shark "has a remarkable swim speed reaching sustained speeds of 35 kph (with bursts over 80 kph) and has been known to travel over 2,092 km in little over a month."

This video includes some great closeups of the mako's teeth, which Hemingway describes in the novella.


Mako Teeth
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumMako Teeth - Credit: Joxerra Aihartza