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The large blue shark that infests the waters surrounding the West Indies is the most dreaded of all the monsters of the deep. Its length varies from twelve to fourteen feet, and its weight from four hundred to five hundred pounds. The mouth of the shark is provided with a series of sharp, triangular teeth, which bend inwards, so that the victim, once caught between the shark's jaws, has no possible chance of escape. As soon as the shark rises to take the bait, the skilful harpoonist throws his weapon, which penetrates the flesh of the shark just as it is about to make off with the bait. In order to try to get rid of the harpoon, the blue shark follows the curious practice of turning over and over in the water very rapidly, but, unfortunately for the victim, instead of this ridding it of the weapon, its body becomes scored by the rope with which it entwines itself.

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CHAPTER XI

A THRILLING FIGHT WITH A BLUE SHARK

Capturing a shark by baited hook

The large blue shark that infests the waters surrounding the West Indies is the most dreaded of all the monsters of the deep. Its length varies from twelve to fourteen feet, and its weight from four hundred to five hundred pounds. The mouth of the shark is provided with a series of sharp, triangular teeth, which bend inwards, so that the victim, once caught between the shark's jaws, has no possible chance of escape. As soon as the shark rises to take the bait, the skilful harpoonist throws his weapon, which penetrates the flesh of the shark just as it is about to make off with the bait. In order to try to get rid of the harpoon, the blue shark follows the curious practice of turning over and over in the water very rapidly, but, unfortunately for the victim, instead of this ridding it of the weapon, its body becomes scored by the rope with which it entwines itself.

"These Ishmaels of the deep," writes one who knows the Bahamas well, but is anxious to clear the shark of the unenviable reputation it has acquired, “have such a villainous reputation that it would be useless to attempt to change it, but I must confess that, as far as our experience went, they were ‘not so black as they are painted.’ It may be that even sharks acknowledge the mild influence of the climate, and that the benignant atmosphere of the land of eternal afternoon has, like music, ‘charms to soothe the savage beast’: For certainly in the Bahamas the shark appears to be a cowardly fish, and unless impelled by hunger rarely assails a human being, except first attacked. Instances of their devouring the bodies of people who have been drowned are frequent, but we did not hear of any case in which any living person had been taken by a shark. Personally, we found the sharks really forbearing creatures. On one occasion some members of our party, including two little boys, who would have been toothsome morsels for a shark, were bathing in the harbour close to the barracks. A soldier was observed shouting and gesticulating, but my husband failed to catch what the man said. On leaving the water, he learnt that the soldier had been trying to caution him about the vicinity of a large shark. The small boys had heard the man cry “A shark! A shark!' but had maintained a judicious silence about it, as they were afraid of being made to leave the water sooner than usual. This shark was killed a couple of days afterwards, and measured fifteen feet in length.

“One of the most singular instances of the voracity of the shark was related to us by a gentleman on whose testimony reliance may be placed. At a little distance from the town of Nassau there is good sport catching ‘Black Fish’, as they are locally termed. These fish are found in deep water, so that it is necessary to play out sixty fathoms or so of line; on hauling up, it is often tantalising to find that a shark has been beforehand and taken the prize off the hook. On one occasion this happened so frequently that, in order to secure some fish and get rid of the robber, the men let go a shark hook and soon captured a large shark. They cut the unhappy creature open, extracted the liver (which contains a considerable quantity of oil), and flung the carcase overboard. In another few minutes there was a tug at the hook, and to the no small surprise of the fishermen, they brought up the very shark they had just thrown away as dead.”


EXTERNAL LINKS:

Blue Shark

Other shark breeds

Ishmael

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