Albatrosses live up to 60 years, but reproduce so slowly that in the next century they are threatened with complete extinction. The main threat is longline fishing. More than 100 thousand albatrosses perish each year, hitting millions of hooks with baits that they use to catch tuna. Even today, many believe that causing damage to the albatross can bring misfortune.
In fact, the belief has gone from the “The Poem about the Old Sailor” (1798) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In this poem, fate punishes the sailor for killing an albatross whose meeting is considered a good sign. In fact, British sailors have long been killing and eating these mighty birds, making smoking pipes from their bones and wallets from their paws.
Even more widespread is the myth that albatrosses are the souls of dead seamen. Scottish fishermen still avoid using “Swan Vesta” matches, as the bird pictured on the box is really similar to the albatross.
When the Portuguese navigators first saw the albatross, they were called alcatraz – they called all the big seabirds. The very word “albatross” comes from the Arabic al-gaflas – a leather bucket on a water wheel, reminiscent of a beak of a pelican. Therefore, in Portuguese “Birdman of Alcatraz” (literally “Birdman of Alcatraz”) literally means “Man-bird from the Big Sea Bird”.