Close Call with a Shark – 1881

A Frightful Situation.

Capt. David L. Longstreet, of Seabright, says a New Jersey paper, accompanied by a fellow-fisherman, was fishing with great success in ten fathoms water. The day was fine, the sea was right, and the trail was strong. — Suddenly the fish stopped biting. Longstreet was unable to account for the phenomenon, but while thinking it over he felt the strong pull of a bluefish at his hook. At the same instant he saw the dorsal fin of a shark close by the boat. The shark’s tail churned the water into foam twelve feet behind the fin.

1880 Census – David Longstreet – Ocean, Monmouth, New Jersey

When the shark snapped at the bluefish Longstreet was pulling to the boat, he could see that it was not the common shark, but the black shark, or dreaded man-eater. Longstreet continues: “I let go of my line, but the blue-fish darted straight for the boat, slipping under it and escaping. The shark, following closely with open mouth, plunged his nose through the ‘tuck’ of the boat, about a foot forward of the stern, and his under jaw closed on the keel with a crash-like the cut of an axe in a dry tree-trunk. Water spurted into the boat. The shock threw me headforemost out of the boat. I sank, and as I rose, I felt that I was kept under by the agitation of the water by the shark’s tail, which stirred the water like the propellor of a tug. But I struck out vigorously, and, to my horror, came to the surface alongside the tail of the shark. I put out my hand before I realized fully where I was, and touched his cold body, and remember I thought, ‘How hard and strong this is!’ As I turned to swim towards the boat my right foot struck his long tail, and here is the mark of the contact. As soon as I got to swimming I felt at ease. I didn’t seem to realize, as I do now, the horrible fate that awaited me if the struggling monster alongside of me got his head clear of the hole in the boat. I climbed into the boat, helping myself by putting my knee on the shark’s back. Meanwhile the other fisherman had been shouting for help, and a relief-boat soon approached, the struggling shark freeing itself and escaping.”

The Indiana Progress (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Sep 8, 1881

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