The Story of a Deep Sea Monster

Photograph by Capt. Chas. H. Thompson

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So Far as the scientific world is concerned, this is the only fish of its kind ever captured. Length, 45 feet; weight, 30,000 pounds; circumference, 23 feet 9 inches; diameter 8 feet 3 inches; mouth (open), 31 inches; mouth 38 inches wide; mouth 43 inches deep; tongue, 40 inches long; several thousand teeth; hide, three inches thick, no scales; had swallowed an animal weighing 1,500 pounds; tail measures 10 feet from tip to tip: pectoral fin 5 feet long and 3 feet wide; dorsal fin, 3 feet long, 2 feet 9 inches wide; gills, 4 feet; the liver weighed 1,700 pounds.
The early day was blue and silver; one of those colorful mornings peculiar to southern Florida. Sandwiched between the earth and the turquoise sky, the Atlantic lay gleaming like a huge silver wafer in the sunlight. Not the faintest suggestion of a ripple marred its shining surface.
Suddenly out of the stillness of the silver water a huge black fin was lifted and a little group of men lounging on the deck of an idle fishing craft drew near the rail and used their glasses.
"Shark," remarked the captain pleasantly after a moment's scrutiny. "Who wants to go out with me for a little fun?"
The hastily lowered lifeboat pointed a slim nose toward the large black shape thrashing about in the shallow water. Three men were in the boat -Captain Charles H. Thompson of the yacht "Samoa," one of the yacht's crew, and a winter visitor to southern Florida. As they drew near, the sailor took one look at the gigantic creature and yelled to the captain:
"For heaven's sake man, don't harpoon that thing; we will be crushed like an egg shell!"
Poised in the bow of the boat, harpoon in hand, stood the captain, and as they drew alongside there was a flash; the steel glittered for a moment in the sunlight, then sank into the black bulk. Simultaneously the little boat spun around and shot out toward the Gulf Stream like an agitated and very erratic rocket, flinging great sheets of spray high into the air as it sped.
Thus began a thirty-nine hours' ride filled with wildest thrills, during which time Captain Thompson battled with the fish, the sailor bailed the boat unceasingly, lest they be swamped, and the tourist raised an anxious and eloquent voice high heaven. The men were without food the entire time, sharing only a small bottle of water among them.
The news of the struggle spread rapidly, and soon hundreds of interested spectators gathered on the trestle of the East Coast sea-extension railway. Scores of times the men in the boat escaped death only by a miracle, as the wildly thrashing black tail missed them but by a hair's breadth. Finally, after two days and one night, the monsters was worn out, and the triumphant captor managed to fasten it to the trestle work on Knight's Key, where after a few hours' rest it wigwagged a festive tail, smashing the large pilings as though they were toothpicks. After another battle the fish firmly tied up once more, this time to the yacht "Samoa;" and again it waved a wicked tail, disabling the thirty-ton yacht by smashing her propeller and breaking the cables. A tug was then summoned, and the big fellow was towed one hundred and ten miles to Miami, Florida, where it was viewed by thousands of people.
Five harpoons and one hundred and fifty-one bullets were used in subduing the monster, and it took five days to finally kill it.
It was thought at first the creature was a whale but later it was classified as a fish, for it breathed through gills of which there were five in number. Upon careful examination it seemed probable that it was a baby of its species, as the backbone was of a cartilaginous nature, a condition found only in a young creature; in a full-grown one this develop into true bone. That it was a deep-sea fish was indicated by the small eye, which was about the size of a silver dollar. The pressure of the water is so great at the bottom of the ocean that were the eyes large they would be ruptured. That the pupil did not dilate and contract seems additional proof that the fish must have lived at a depth of probably fifteen hundred or two thousand feet, where there is little light.
It is generally believed that some volcanic eruption drove the fish to the surface where, owing to the difference in water pressure, the swim-bladders burst, making it impossible for him to return to his level.


From The Wonder Book of Knowledge

Compiled and Edited by Henry Chase Hill 1919