New Hampshire: Celebrating the Shark

Perhaps “celebrating” is not the word that quickly comes to your mind when you hear of a shark being spotted in New Hampshire waters. As recently as July 9th of this year, one of these fearsome beasts was reportedly roaming the sea close to Wallis Sands Beach in Rye.  A few days earlier, a Manchester NH man experienced a close encounter with a Great White shark while kayaking on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Print, “Watson and the Shark,” artist: John Singleton Copley (1738-1815)
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection

The Discovery Channel’s timing is exquisite. This week they are celebrating the shark with a series of related programming to the extreme.  Linda Holmes of NHPR has written a spoofy article worth reading: “Ten Fall Shows That Need More Sharks.”

Living sharks are being studiedby Willy Bemis, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and others, at Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, six miles off the coast of New Hampshire.

Shark tales are not new.  These fish stories have been told in New Hampshire as early as 1715 when a reported 20-foot long shark overturned a man’s canoe in Cape Neddick, Maine.

Piscataqua, July 8, 1715
A strange Accident fell out a few days ago at Cape Nuddeck in York County, one George Stower being fishing in a small Canno, had catcht about half a doze Fish, and as he was tending his Line, a great Shark about 20 Foot long jumps out of the Water close by him which made him paddle toward the shoar, but the Shark (as he thinks) smelling the Fish, jumps upon his Canno, sinks and oversetts her, which put him into no small Consternation, however he recover’d his Canno and got upon her Bottom and paddl’d a shoar, he judges the Shark followed the Fish to the Bottom, which was the mans of his preservation.  SOURCE: The Boston News-Letter, page [2], July 11, 1715, Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts, June 1721
We have had two or three awful and remarkable Providences fallen out here this Week, one Gentlewoman well, who died in a few Hours after. A Gentleman that went to the Foot of the Common to wash himself in swimming, Drowned in a few Minutes, by what Accident we know not, whither by stumbling, or any Fit or Cramp. Another Gentleman at Charlstown had like to have been killed by Jumping out of a Calash that run over him. A Young Man of This Town at Sea in the West Indies tumbled out of the Boat, was snatched up by a Shark, who cut off his Head and Shoulders, which Shark being afterwards taken by the Men of the said Vessel and ript up, they found the said Head and Shoulders freshlike in his Belly.  SOURCE: The Boston News-Letter, page [2], June 19, 1721; Boston, Massachusetts

Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 1751
We hear that about ten Days ago, as three Men were in a Canoe near Wells, a large Shark came along-side of them, and by putting his Head over the side of the Canoe, endeavoured to overset it: This he attempted once or twice in vain, but at last effected it, and got one of the unhappy Men, who was doubtless devoured by the ravenrous Monster, as he was never seen after. The other two Men having righted the Canoe, got into it and escaped. SOURCE: Extract of a Letter from Hallifax, Dated July 29th, 1751; Boston Post-Boy, published 8-12-1751; Page: [2]; Boston, Massachusetts

KINGSTON, in Jamaica, October 27, 1753
On Wednesday last, a Sailor belonging to the Draper, Capt Nuns in this Harbour, fell overboard and was immediately torn to Pieces by the Sharks. SOURCE: October 27; The New-York Mercury; Date: 12-24-1753;Page: [2]; New York, New York

Scituate, Massachusetts – August 1830
A Shark was exhibited in town on Friday, caught on Wednesday evening off Scituate harbor, on the spot where Mr. Blaney of Lynn lost his life a few days before. He is said to be a young shark of a kind not common on this coast, but very common in the West Indies, and there called the Man Eater. It is about ten feet in length. The full grown animals of this species are said to be sometimes of double the length.– He was caught by the sons of the deceased, with a shark-hook baited for the purpose by one of them after seeing him near the fishing boat. He resisted with great violence, and was with difficulty killed and drawn on board the fishing boat. We learn from Mr. B. that they caught another, considerably longer than this, and that they killed him, but before they got him on board the boat, the hook straightened and he sunk.
Mr. B. related the circumstances of his father’s death substantially as they have been already published. He heard his father’s screams for assistance, and saw him standing in the small boat, with the shark lying across it.  While he with his brother and a boy were rowing towards him and had approached within a few rods, the boy saw him fall overboard, and the boat at the same time overset.  When the reached the spot, the man and shark had disappeared. It is conjectured that the shark seized the arm of the deceased, while he was fishing, and at the same leap threw himself across the boat–the man remaining in the bow of the boat, and that when he fell overboard, perhaps having fainted from loss of blood, the boat lost its balance and was overset.–Boston Messenger. Dover Gazette & Strafford Advertiser, (Dover, NH) Tuesday, August 03, 1830; Issue 35; col A.

Baltimore, MD – September 1848
Terrible Bite of a Shark–Yesterday evening while some boys were swimming, at Bintlet’s shipyard near the mouth of the Falls, one of them was observed, about thirty yards from the raft of logs struggling in the water. He uttered no cry, but struggled on until he reached the logs, when he called out for help. Capt. W.D. Roberts, Mr. Bell, and another person ran and pulled him out of the water, when they discovered that his left leg had been nearly bitten off by a shark. The fish appears to have caught him as he was drawing the leg up, as the wounds are above and below the knee. The flesh on the inside of the leg is torn open near three inches in width, exposing the bone and showing the indentation of the teeth on the bone. On the outside the flesh is also torn, but not so severely–the teeth were deeply sunk into the flesh, making terrible gashes.–The boy was taken into the office at Jones and Abbott’s saw mill, and Dr. Dashiels sent for, who dressed the wounds. We could not learn the name of the boy, but understand that he belonged to the brig Knighton, now in our port.  He is about fifteen years of age. The gentleman who witnesses the struggles of the lad did not see the shark, though we understand, one was seen off the county wharf on Wednesday–Baltimore Sun.
Dover Gazette & Strafford Advertiser, (Dover, NH) Saturday, September 16, 1848; Issue 45; col A

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2 Responses to New Hampshire: Celebrating the Shark

  1. Jasia says:

    These shark tales are fascinating to a Midwestern gal like myself. The Great Lakes, where I spend my time, are free from the savage predators and that suits me just fine. I have no urge to see them up close and personal. But it is interesting to learn of the recent sightings off the coast of New Hampshire and that there is a history of such. I would not have guessed that sharks lived that far north. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Heather Rojo says:

    Great post! and my family wonders why we haven’t been to the beach yet this summer… hmmmm! Glad to see you are back at blogging, too, Janice. We missed your posts.

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