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The Luckiest Lobster

Monday, July 12, 2010 - 07:51 PM

One place you absolutely, positively do not want to be if you're a healthy, middle-aged American lobster: trapped in a suburban grocery store in western Pennsylvania. But that's where this week's podcast begins.

It doesn't stay there long, though. Bonnie Hazen and Toni Leone take us on an adventure that carries us by car, by plane, and by boat toward a deeper understanding of those mysterious protective feelings that sometimes sweep over us -- well, some of us -- when we encounter our fellow animals -- um, okay, some of them. Trevor Corson, author of the bestselling The Secret Life of Lobsters, assists.


Trevor Corson, Bonnie Hazen and Toni Leone


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Comments [47]

Charlie from Riverside, CA

What a delightful story. Funny, thoughtful, semi-dramatic and so well edited. I guess in our hearts we'd like to save all creatures. It just does not occur to us as we navigate McDrive through.

Dec. 09 2017 06:45 PM
matt mcclure

The song, the song already!! What is the song at the end?

Aug. 28 2013 09:32 PM
Corey from Provo, Utah

There is just one question that everyone wants the answer to: WHAT IS THE SONG AT THE END?
I can't ID it on Shazaam or Soundhound. Jad or Robert... any help here?
If there is any way you guys could post the credits for the music you use in your shows, that would be awesome!

Apr. 13 2013 12:48 PM
Larry Lobster from Spring Hill Tennessee

I am Larry the Lobster and I am stuck in a tank in Spring Hill Krogers. I am very homesick. I miss my family back in Maine. I am very sexy with big muscles. Save me please!

Nov. 27 2011 11:20 PM

Beauty editing, as usual. A perfect dog-walking podcast. Need to know that riff at the end though. Or is it a mashup? Either way, I'd love to know what it is. Let me know and you could make the artist another $.99 on iTunes!

Apr. 11 2011 02:12 PM
Ev from CNY

What was that awesome ending song?!

Feb. 21 2011 11:21 PM
Lisa from Forest Hills, NY

My daughter was fascinated with lobsters in the grocery tank starting at age 3. She knew nothing about their age or longevity. I suspect the attraction may have something more to do with the fact that they appear to look at you when you look at them.

Nov. 08 2010 05:02 AM
MoSo from Detroit, Mi

This is a great topic. You should expand on it.

Oct. 27 2010 10:06 AM
livinalovesong88 from Athens, OH

i went on a trip through new england with my mother as a teenager, and had a similar lobster liberating experience. we arrived in Kennebunkeport, Maine after having traveled from Vermont. i, who had been a vegetarian throughout my entire life, off and on, and my mother the same, decided that it would be fun to share a lobster (when in maine.... right?) we went into a restaurant and walked up to the lobster tank and..... we couldn't do it. i felt terrible. i felt like i was ignoring a large part of my personality and who i was and i also felt that I was being particularly cruel by doing so. i cried. my mom cried. and then i got an idea. i wanted to rescue the lobster we were going to eat and instead free him into the harbor nearby where we were staying. we ended up buying all 6 of the lobsters that were left in the tank that day and at sunset (just by coincidence) we released their claws from the rubber bands and tossed them between the groynes at the local public beach. this is one of my fondest memories shared with my mother

Oct. 14 2010 12:31 AM

I have checked with some marine bio friends, and lobstering folk, who all agree the lobbie probably didn't die like some of you thought. As Kristina pointed out, a pretty simple creature, not all that adaptable to begin with. Their less evolved status probably helped this guy keep living for quite some time. And no kansas doesn't NEED lobster size limits now anyway :)

Jul. 30 2010 04:52 PM

cute story, made me laugh.... it is a nice break from constantly exploring, "the science or psychology aspects" of everything.

Jul. 29 2010 04:47 PM

I think that why some people respond to old lobsters in this way is that these people are particularly sensitive to vulnerable creatures that can't save themselves, and that these lobsters have attained a level of "presence" because of their age. Our general eating/feeding mentality frequently shows no respect at all to what we so thoughtlessly consume, and these people are counteracting that action in a wonderful way.

Jul. 28 2010 10:44 AM

The song at the end sounded like something by "Fool's Gold". Not sure though.

Jul. 27 2010 02:29 PM

@Brian - one way is to right-click on the link and click "Download As" or "Save Link As" (or something like that, depending on your browser). You can also subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded as they become available -- and then you can set iTunes to sync the podcast to your iPod. (There's a link near the upper-right corner of the Radiolab home page that says "Subscribe iTunes"; this will take you there.)

Jul. 24 2010 07:37 PM
Scott Trimble

The title of this podcast reminds of me the fictional children's book title from the movie Wonder Boys. The book was called The Lonliest Prawn. No idea if the creators read these comments, but if they do, is this where you got the name?

Jul. 24 2010 05:14 PM

How do I download? It isn't a download, it just opens it up in a quicktime window. I can't find anywhere on the internet where I can download RL and listen to it on my ipod.


Jul. 24 2010 04:12 PM

first time listening to the radiolab. wonderful story. make me the third person who's interested in getting a bead on the music played at the end. thanks!

Jul. 23 2010 11:25 PM

I'm disappointed that you guys did another story about lobsters, but DIDN'T get back to the point of the Mortality episode regarding their theorhetical immortality. What's the latest with that? It almost seems more of an urban legend than factual science.

Jul. 22 2010 06:28 PM

Looking for an ID on the song played at the end of this episode! Had an electric steel drum quality. Just like the listener scott above, I have had no luck IDing it even with Shazam app. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Jul. 22 2010 09:46 AM

This episode was great. I work at a Seafood restaurant near a very shallow wharf in Boston - every year we have a customer that comes in and orders the largest lobster in house so he can set it free. Hilariously, he throws it directly into the shallow bay water: the lobster would have more of a chance of surviving the tank.

Jul. 22 2010 02:51 AM
Ben Thoma

When I worked in Westport, CT there was a riverside bar that my softball team would frequent after games. Amidst beers & chicken wings, I became infatuated with a claw game near the front door. Unlike other claw games, this one didn't have small, stuffed animals. Instead it had about a foot of water and a dozen lobsters.

The bar was using the claw game as a means to make money. I think it was $20 for 10 chances, and if you were successful, the bar would have the kitchen cook your catch at no extra cost.

Needless to say, it was rather difficult to play, and I loved the irony of a claw game where the target were creatures with claws.

Soon I discovered that I was actually pretty good at this claw game. The team shared in my catches, and began enjoying lobster regularly.

It didn't take long, however, until I decided that it wasn't very fair. I mean their claws were bound and I was partaking in a game where their life was at stake. All I had to lose was some extra cash. It didn't sit very well with me.

So, I decided to change the game a bit. I could usually catch one or two lobsters with $20, and I decided that for that price it was worth setting them free.

So, after plucking them from the game's tank, I would run outside with one of my buddies, we'd quickly remove the rubber bands, and toss the lobster into the river.

Now, I don't know if that river could sustain them, or if they ever lived long after, but I saw it as a better ending then being dropped into a boiling pot after losing an unfair fight.

I'm not sure how many lobsters we rescued in all, but I like to imagine those lobsters have set up a small colony today—one where they are free from fishermen, predators, and mechanical claws.

Jul. 20 2010 03:41 PM
Jenny O'Brien

"The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop is a fantastic poem that sums up the whole reverence for the ancient being. Check it out!

Jul. 19 2010 12:15 PM
Marc Naimark

A much earlier (fictional) lobster rescue takes place in Nancy Mitford's 1960 novel "Don't Tell Alfred", in which the char's ming niece (and social secretary) of protagonist, the wife of the British Ambassador to France, an animal lover, rescues the lobsters provided by a guest, an MP from Normandy, by taking the embassy's car down the Seine to the estuary where she releases them.

Jul. 18 2010 06:09 PM

I think it is so weird that another commenter said that she used to name the store lobsters Larry.

I remember my father once came back from a corporate retreat with a pretty good-sized lobster that he had won in a raffle. I wanted to keep him as a pet so my parents and I put him in the bathtub and named him, yes, Larry.

Needless to say he died in the unsalted, heavily chlorinated Southern California bath water -- and we did eventually eat him, which was a very bizarre experience for me -- but we always remembered him as Larry the lobster...

Jul. 16 2010 01:16 PM

I have to disagree with comparing a captive lobster with say, a captive chimpanzee. Lobsters are not nearly as social, and as far as I know, not as behaviorally complex. Unless that lobster had some sort of physical problem or immune deficiencies like you said, I doubt it would have a hard time in the ocean scuttling around and filter feeding. That is what it would have done in the tank if given the chance.

Jul. 16 2010 01:07 PM

I second Dave's comment. The lobster probably died shortly after his release. As the previous Radiolab story about Lucy demonstrated, captive animals don't feel "at home" in the wild. The wild is a tough and dangerous place that they're not experienced to handle. After living in cramped tanks and being feed most his life, it’s unlikely he had the strength, adapted immune defenses, or ability to survive in the ocean. This is just a case of humans projecting their beliefs and desires on to the lobster. A zoo or aquarium would be far more comfortable for him.

Jul. 16 2010 12:38 PM
fraser hopwood

i agree, do NOT change anything about the show! it's awesome, the editing and effects add so much to the experience, thank you thank you

Jul. 15 2010 10:30 PM

Would love to see some pics!

Jul. 15 2010 04:22 AM
Dan Harlow

Whenever a discussion about Radiolab comes up, there is always that one person who has to complain about the audio levels of the show.

I listen to the show mainly on my iPod (with either my cheap earbuds or nice headphones), but also listen to it in my car, on my computer, on my clock radio and my other radio in the living room. Of all these different sources, I have never, not once, experienced any audio difficulties or issues.

Jad and Robert, please do not change a thing about the audio production of the show. The people who complain about this are having end user audio issues and are not pointing out something the rest of us have somehow missed.

In fact, I'd really like to see an episode that's produced within an inch of all possibility since it's one of the features that I love abut Radiolab. There is nothing else like Radiolab on air, so please, don't throw the audio producing back to sea like some giant, crusty old lobster :)

Jul. 14 2010 09:34 PM

soooooo tired of them not crediting the music they use in the show. can anyone help?

Jul. 14 2010 04:32 PM

Hey Bonnie, way to go!!!!!

Jul. 14 2010 04:20 PM

When I was a little girl, I used to be fascinated by the supermarket lobster tanks. I'd run right over to them, watch the scramble around, and talk to them. I named all of them Larry. I used to say, "Mama, the Larrys are walking on top of each other!" Or I'd asked, "Mama, can we buy a Larry?" I thought they were pets, not food. It was a long time before I learned that they were at the store to be eaten. So here's to you, Nick. I would have rescued you too, but I would have renamed you Larry.

Jul. 14 2010 03:05 PM

Jess, do you really think we need lobster limits in Kansas?

Jul. 14 2010 01:20 PM


I listened to few podcasts of Radiolab. I think you guys are amazing at picking fascinating topics, researching and weaving an awesome story.

However, I could do without the sound effects. They are distracting to me and I constantly have to adjust volume up or down. The banter works very well on 'car talk', actually it might here too, I am just not so sure because some of the stories are so touch, and listening to a joke right after that ruins the moment.

However, this is a truly unique program. And I will obviously take whatever I can :)

Jul. 14 2010 10:13 AM

Hate to be a wet blanket but did anyone think about what was best for him. He had lived in captivity for a long time so I am not sure he would be able to fend for himself again. On top of that was returning him to an environment that he was not used to a good idea. I have a feeling that most likely he died soon after being put back in to the water. To really rescue him would have been to put him in a zoo or aquarium where he could live out his life in relative comfort.

Jul. 14 2010 09:35 AM

Glad to hear a big guy got back where he belonged, and the size limits should be made national. The only reason the lobster fishery is at all sustainable is because of those limits, and while lobstering is by no means a steady market (mostly due to it's luxury status) at lest there are still big lobbies out there.

Jul. 13 2010 11:26 PM

Another Nick cheering for the lobster

Jul. 13 2010 09:53 PM

Hey Mark, please send us some pics! We'll post them to the website (if you and your nephew are cool with that)

Jul. 13 2010 09:48 PM

I'm Toni's brother--- and I have photos of the lobster AND the cooler, decorated by my 11 year-old nephew (at the time). It was an amazing way to end a horrible week!

Jul. 13 2010 02:02 PM

That is the best answer I've heard anj I thank you for it.

Jul. 13 2010 01:02 PM

then maybe anj is the new cool way to say and. neither of us was hip enough to get the memo.

Jul. 13 2010 01:00 PM

Clark, I considered that, but I can't fathom what kind of editing would result in that sound. I'm a video editor myself and, while I won't claim to know everything about all things, I simply don't see what edit or effect would result in that pronunciation.

Jul. 13 2010 12:52 PM

Rob, i think she is saying 'and'. just with the fancy editing it sounds like anj.

Jul. 13 2010 12:43 PM

OK, maybe this has been answered, but it's killing me: Why does the woman in the beginning of the show say "anj NPR". What is "anj"? It bugs the hell out of me every time!

Jul. 13 2010 12:38 PM

What's the name of the song at the end?

Jul. 13 2010 06:43 AM

Cool story! Thought I do wish you could have explored the longevity science or psychology aspects a little more though, felt I got more This Lobster Life and less RadioLabster :-P

Jul. 13 2010 04:42 AM

From one Nick to another, you go Big Lobster!

Jul. 12 2010 11:33 PM

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