Winter Harbor lobsterman Jacob Knowles shares his deep knowledge of the Gulf of Maine and the many creatures that live within it with his millions of TikTok and YouTube subscribers every day.

This week — not long before Knowles received a plaque from YouTube acknowledging his crossing of the one million subscribers mark — he shared a short video showing how to put a lobster to “sleep.”

If you’ve never done it, check out Knowles’s video below. In short, you turn it upside down, tuck its claws in and start humming to it and stroking the backside of its tail. After a minute, the lobster will be “asleep” or “hypnotized.”

While the humming part of Knowles’ method is pretty novel, the back-stroking part of it is well-known in lobster fishing communities across Maine. It’s a neat party trick to wow tourists and make the process of plunging them into boiling water to cook a little less traumatic for sensitive humans. 

The science behind it isn’t totally clear. It may be that a nerve along the lobster’s back is temporarily paralyzed by the rubbing action. The University of Maine’s Lobster Institute doesn’t shed much light on the phenomenon, only that it helps reduce the amount of thrashing a lobster may do when it’s put into a boiling lobster pot.

Knowles’ videos don’t just showcase Maine’s most beloved crustacean — they also show the gnarly sea creatures he and his crew catch, like wolf fishes and sculpin, and the daily life of lobstermen on the ocean. Among his first viral videos was from three years ago, when Knowles rescued a tiny, bedraggled goldfinch from the water and brought it back to shore.

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.