The characters in The Secret Life of Lobsters are all real people who are depicted in the book using their real names. As the story unfolds, the lives of these various characters become intertwined through their shared quest to understand the mysteries of the lobster. As the tale shifts from lobster boats to undersea dives to laboratory tanks to the homes of the fishermen and their families, these are some of the most important people the reader encounters along the way.  —Trevor

Bruce & Barb Fernald

Perhaps it was inevitable that after Bruce Fernald served his time in the Navy, he would become a lobsterman—just like his father, grandfather, and two of his brothers. To experience the lobster industry firsthand, I worked as Bruce’s sternman full-time for two years aboard his boat, named after his twin sons—Double Trouble. In The Secret Life of Lobsters, I tell Bruce’s story, and the story of the small community of fishermen on the island where he lives off the coast of Maine, Little Cranberry Island. I also tell the story of Bruce’s charming courtship of the best crewman
he’d ever hired, Barb, now his wife of three decades.
 

Warren Fernald

Courtesy of Sarah Corson

Courtesy of Barb Fernald

Courtesy of Merry White

Courtesy of Sarah Corson

Bruce’s father Warren Fernald helped teach an entire generation of fishermen on Little Cranberry Island how to catch lobsters. His story is partly the story of the island community and history of the Maine lobster fishery. A curmudgeonly old-timer, he’s a colorful presence throughout the book. I have Warren to thank for my own early interest in lobstering as a young boy; when I was six years old, he took me out on his boat and showed me how to haul up a lobster trap and pull out the feisty crustacean inside—a glistening, wet
treasure from the deep. Warren died the year after The Secret Life of Lobsters was published, in 2005.
 

Jack Merrill

Jack Merrill first came to Little Cranberry Island as a youngster on family vacations, but at the age of 21 began working as a crewman on Warren Fernald’s lobster boat. It wasn’t long before Jack had a boat of his own and decided to settle on the island as a lobsterman, along with Bruce Fernald and his brothers. The Secret Life of Lobsters tells the surprising story of how Jack began to cooperate with biologists on lobster research to untangle the secrets of the lobster’s life cycle, using his
fishing boat the Bottom Dollar to collect data for research.
 

Courtesy of Robert Steneck

Bob Steneck

A brilliant and obsessively driven marine biologist at the University of Maine, Robert Steneck almost killed himself as a boy trying to stay underwater long enough to study crayfish in a lake. During scuba dives off the Maine coast he became entranced by lobsters. He also became fascinated by lobstermen, including Bruce Fernald and Jack Merrill, and the knowledge they possessed. The Secret Life of Lobsters tells the story of how Bob became a renegade, making enemies throughout the scientific establishment for the way he collaborated with fishermen to make surprising new discoveries. In the book he pursues the mysteries of the lobster in the waters around Little Cranberry Island and elsewhere,
sometimes with tools as simple as a tank of air and a ruler, sometimes in a submarine.


 

Diane Cowan

Another unconventional scientist, Diane Cowan fell in love with lobsters in 9th grade and never looked back. The Secret Life of Lobsters describes her obsession with the sexual escapades of lobsters, and goes on to relate the story of how she turned her back on the typical career of a scientist to build an army of citizen and fishermen volunteers, who became grass-roots researchers, collecting data in the quest to understand the lives of baby lobsters along the coast.

Jelle Atema

Known in certain circles for his peculiar ability to play a tune by blowing into a lobster’s claw, scientist Jelle Atema became fascinated by how animals communicate underwater. Director of Boston University’s Marine Program, he developed a series of bizarre experiments—described in hilarious detail in The Secret Life of Lobsters—that helped expose the secrets of lobster romance,
reveal that lobsters remember each other “by name,” and expose the fact that they flirt with each other by urinating in each other’s faces.
 

Rick Wahle

Logging hour after hour underwater in Maine’s frigid sea, Richard Wahle of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences started out as student of Bob Steneck’s and went on to make astonishing discoveries about how baby lobsters and young lobsters survive the dangers of the ocean floor to grow into the adult lobsters
that fishermen catch. The Secret Life of Lobsters describes how Rick’s tenacity as a diver and rigor as a scientist led to a dramatic new early-warning system for tracking the health of the lobster fishery.
 

Lew Incze

An avid sailor, Lewis Incze was always fascinated by the movements of the winds and sea, an interest that has served him well as an oceanographer with unprecedented scientific tools at his disposal—hyper-sensitive weather satellites, massive radar arrays, fleets of waterborne robotic detectors, and supercomputers. The Secret Life of Lobsters describes how Lew’s curiosity about how individual lobsters were traveling around inside the enormous gyre of the Gulf of Maine led to the use of these hi-tech tools to untangle the big picture of the entire lobster population. His ground-breaking collaborations with his colleagues Bob Steneck and Rick Wahle led to the three of them occasionally being referred to jokingly as “the lobster mafia.”
 

Carl Wilson

Bioscience Research Institute,

University of Southern Maine

The son of a famous anthropologist, James Wilson, who was one of the first social scientists to study the lobster industry, Carl Wilson grew up on his father’s knee chatting with lobstermen in their kitchens. Carl chose a career as a biologist, ended up as a student of Bob Steneck, and went on to become the chief lobster biologist for the Maine state government. The Secret Life of Lobsters shows him earning the trust of lobstermen and devising radical new systems for using
their knowledge and experience to help scientists—Carl managed to win over even Bruce Fernald when he happened to send a pair of attractive female research assistants to spend a day on Bruce’s boat.
 

Meet the characters in
The Secret Life of Lobsters

Behind the Scenes

All text, photos, videos, and other content on this website that was originally created by Trevor Corson is copyrighted material, © Trevor Corson.

“The Lobster Sex Guy” and “Sushi Concierge” are TradeMarks of Trevor Corson.

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