Give Twitter a fish, and you feed it for a day. But teach Twitter about a cannon that shoots salmon through a tube, and you feed enough memes to make people forget about 30 to 50 feral hogs.
The internet is losing its collective mind over a video of Whooshh Innovations’ salmon cannon – yep, that’s it’s real name – built to zip fish over hydroelectric dams that block their migration paths.
The video shows a man chucking a salmon into a tube. The translucent channel is suspended mid-air, and the fish’s speeding shadow tells a harrowing story of a life in upheaval. On it goes, for what probably feels like years in fish time but is in reality only a few seconds, until the fish is spat out on the other side of a dam.
People were immediately fascinated by the fish contraption, and they’ve quickly capitalized on the bizarre flying-fish machine.
“pack my body in the salmon cannon and shoot me into the sun. i want to be among the stars,” someone said, realizing the fish cannon’s ultimate potential.
Comedian John Oliver reminded everyone that he made his own version of the cannon on an episode of “Last Week Tonight” in 2014, when he “wooshhed” salmon onto Jon Stewart’s desk at “The Daily Show.”
It doesn’t hurt the fish, the CEO says
What does the man behind the fish-flinger have to think about his contraption’s viral fame? “It’s sort of been outrageous how long this has taken to catch on.”
Whooshh Innovations CEO Vince Bryant said the video, created by streaming news network Cheddar, was stitched together with footage dating to 2014, when its first cannon was sold.
The first system required workers to hand-feed fish into the tube to bypass the dam, but today’s version lets fish swim into it themselves, he said.
Not to be lost among all of the fish jokes is that fact that torpedoing a salmon several hundred feet in the air is a significant feat of engineering.
The salmon are propelled by the differential pressure between the front and the back of the fish and sent into the flexible tube that expands to their size. Once inside, the fish are misted with water to keep them breathing. And within a few seconds, they’ve splash-landed on the other side of a dam, he said, where they can safely reach their spawning grounds.
What bugs Bryant the most is the claim that the fish are in pain, he said. He cited an April study from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that found salmon slung through the cannon sustained fewer injuries than traditional systems like fish ladders, which force salmon to jump up “rungs” upstream.
“There’s no stress for the fish,” he said. “It should be a comfortable ride for them.”
The salmon are zipping at an average of 22 miles per hour, so at least the trip’s a quick one. The contraption moves about 50,000 fish every 24 hours, and it’s an efficient way to help shift salmon to the upper reaches of rivers where they lay their eggs, Bryant said.
The company’s sold 20 of its salmon cannon systems – which are much cheaper than traditional fish ladders, Bryant says – to government agencies across the United States and Europe. The longest one it has built was more than 1,700 feet, more than a quarter of a mile, he said.
“People think it’s crazy,” he said. “This is the real deal, guys. This is not some internet video thing.”