Doumentary Film and Book Projects  


Title: Swords of Thetis

Type. Three part documentary film for general broadcast

Writer and Researcher: Kevin J. McCann

Film Treatment: 10 Page

Status: Primary research activity involves identifying presence of swordfish with indegenous cultures worldwide focusing on the Clovis Movement.  Harpooning swordfish off Southern California are scheduled for late summer or fall. Contacts are stablished with fishery management.

Registration: Kevin J. McCann, Writers Guild of America, June 2010, #1438758 as The Perils and Romance of the Ocean Galdiator(Revised from 1978)


Please read Abbreviated Treatement below. For full 10 page treatment see info and link below.


Book Project Two

The Swords of Thetis

The Perils and Romance of the Ocean Gladiator

There is an ancient myth.

"It is said that when Achilles voyaged to Troy to aid Menelaus in avenging the abduction of his wife Helen, he went as leader of the Myrmidons. When Achilles was treacherously slain by Paris, the Myrmidons rushed against the Trojans to avenge him. But the Trojans chose to remain within the walls of their city. They refused to join battle. The Myrmidons, in bitter grief and fury, hurled themselves into the sea. Thetis, the mother of Achilles, took pity on them and changed them into fish and she allowed them to retain their swords. "

The Swords of Thetis is a story that tells of the centuries old relationship between man and Xiphas Gladius, the Broadbill Swordfish. These two predators have lived in balance sharing the vast and delicate World Ocean for thousands of years. Evolution has committed Xiphas to its behavior while man's behavior is changing rapidly causing an unfair imbalance in the world ocean environment.  This book explores the globe examining the relationship from antiquity to the present of a vanishing heritage and how in the name of progress, man may be threatening the survival of this remarkable species.

This project started as book/documentary film project in 1975 with photographing two seasons on the Georges Bank in the North Atlantic with a legendary father and son harpooning team. I wanted to tell the art of harpooning swordfish by the New England fishermen and how the harpooning technique was inherited from mediterrean Europe. The research of the incredible species and its relationship with man quickly expanded to stories of ancient Greece, Italy and other coastal world countries. Today the research continues to include the “Swordfish Dance” of Chumash Indians of the central California coast and the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Maine. Research continues looking for evidence of this relationship with the coastal Clovis people around the globe.

About Xiphas

The Broadbill Swordfish, Xiphas Gladius Linnaeus, is a highly specialized member of the Mackerel Family. It can grow up to 16 feet and weigh in excess of a 1000 pounds. It is an ex­tremely powerful and swift predator found in the tropical and temperate waters in the world's oceans. This species traces its evolution directly to the Cretaceous Epoch, the Age of Dinosaurs. Its saucer shaped eyes are the largest in the ocean kingdom; sensitive to the minutest presence of phosphorus in the smaller fish it preys on at night. The rostrum, or sword, can often make up as much as one third of the animal’s total length, and has several different functions. It improves the hydrodynamic shape of the creature, making it one of the fastest swimmers in the ocean and aids in normal respiration. The sword is a vital component in hunting for food and is a formidable weapon and on many occasions in our unique relation­ ship with Xiphas, it has rightly so turned on man. Xiphas is the ultimate prize trophy for sports fishermen throughout the world ocean. It is the fiercest challenger for the harpooner and it remains the big money catch for the long liners. It is the culinary delight throughout the world. The French call the swordfish Espadon, the Italians Pesce Espada, the Chinese Chien-chi-yu.

Celebrated in legend as the notorious ocean gladiator, the swordfish has a well-documented history of pugnacity. “ What Fury, say artificial of ill, Arm’d thee, O Xiphas, with thy pointed bill?” penned Sophicles, the Greek tragedian (496-406B.C.)    As   if in defiance  of the  one   creature which could  challenge  its   role  as  the foremost predator  in the   sea,  there  have  been many incidents  of unprovoked attacks   on vessels.   Xiphas's   compact  skeletal arrangement performs  as a natural  shock absorber and in  1815  the  whaler Fortune  discovered  a  sword had penetrated 18 1/2 inches  of solid wood. The British Museum houses one notable example of this behavior; planking from a vessel pierced by swords left by three powerful fish. Explanations of this pugnacity will be presented from a behavioral perspective with stories about King Ferdinand in the 15th century and sporting exploits of Ernest Hemingway, Zane Grey and others.

The prominent behavioral characteristic of Xiphas is surfacing.  Surfacing, when lingering at or near the   surface, is a distinctive behavioral pattern of the swordfish.  Xiphas has specialized "brain heaters" that allows it to dive into freezing waters very quickly. After feeding in deeper and colder water it rises to the warmer surface waters to aid in digestion serving as a resting place. It has been here, at the warm sunny surface, where since ancient times they have been vulnerable to harpooners. The swordfish’s optic lobes, the rostrum, the large gills, large eyes, nervous system, propulsion system and the intriguing behavior of the separation among the   sexes in certain areas of the world ocean with the females dominating the surface waters will be revealed. Recent studies on life-cycle, size, migration, spawning times and areas and, other aspects of the species will be presented. The French call the swordfish Espadon.

About Man

Man, the primitive hunter, using a spear was keenly interested in Xiphas as a food source. Modern, sophisticated and technical man views Xiphas as a rewardingly economic and sports entertainment source. He does not need swordfish to survive yet has the capability to negatively impact the survival of the species. Xiphas is not interested in man at any level as it hunts for other fish out of behavioral instinct to survive.

The Book

Xiphas has survived over 2000 years of being hunted  by  man and over the past 50 years has survived   over fishing, barely in some areas, mostly by the foreign fleets. Under recent fisheries management the North Atlantic and Pacific stocks are at reportedly sustainable levels. Others areas like Chile where the stocks were depleted are making efforts through fisheries management to rebuild the swordfish stocks. But like everything else which lives in the sea, life is becoming increasingly difficult for Xiphas. The constant  demand for  global food,  advanced  fishing  techniques such as the driftnet  “walls of death” with more  and  larger vessels, pirate fishing, oil exploration, and transportation of toxic materials over ocean waters are contributing factors to Xiphas's dilemma. Pollution no longer hovers near the shore as it can move   unrestricted at the center of the ocean. Clear, uncontaminated water is all but gone and Xiphas, who depends on acute vision to hunt its prey in the comfort of darkness, finds it has to hunt with a new handicap. Today Xiphas's existence as a species depends solely on man.

The book and film challenge is not to  arrest progress  while  main­taining  those  aspects  of the   past which  enhance  life  with  their purity  and  dignity. The big question strives to answer "Is the relationship between man and Xiphas sustainable for the future?"

The 9x12 book will be a compilation of photographs, illustrations, paintings, etchings, documents interwoven with scientific, historic, mythical text to the current day observation by the author where the relationship stands today. The project is about 50% complete to include a registered documentary film treatment with professional and scientific contacts established to complete research and photographic imagery.

Contact: Kevin J. McCann


             E-mail: kjmccann@snatchingphantoms.com