Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Voices from the Past: The Things Fish Eat

Found this article in The New York Herald Sunday Magazine for 30 December 1906 and thought it was interesting. The strangest thing I've ever found in a fish is a clam.

ONE day in 1903 A.E. Levy, of No. 529 Broadway, New York, felt the piscatorial fever surging through his system, so took a day off and went out to the fishing banks to try his luck. As he was dressing his catch that same evening he discovered in the stomach of a cod a ten dollar gold piece, with two diamonds set on one side and the initials P.C.E. on the other. Levy was so amazed that he sent the story to the papers, and it was copied throughout the country.

He hardly expected ever to hear from it, but a few weeks later was surprised to receive a letter from Patrick C. Evans, residing in Kansas, who claimed the piece as his own and presented sufficient evidence of this to satisfy Levy, who accordingly turned it over to him. It seems that Evans was in New York earlier in the year and spent a day blackfishing in the lower bay, and as he was hauling in a fish the chain to which the coin was attached got caught in the rigging of the sloop, which just then rolled, the chain snapped, and away went the coin, never to be recovered, as he then supposed.

Odd Place for a Wedding Ring
One of the saddest finds recorded was that of a St. Johns, Newfoundland, fisherman, who discovered a wedding ring in the entrails of a cod in 1871. It was eventually proved to have belonged to Pauline Burnam, an Englishwoman who was lost in the steamship Anglo-Saxon, wrecked off Chance Cove, Newfoundland, in 1861. The lucky fisherman received a present of fifty pounds for restoring the
highly prized memento to the woman's son.

A Havre fisherman's wife, drying codfish caught by her husband on the coast of France in 1904, noticed that one fish had a hard substance inside. On investigation she found in the fish a golden bracelet. How the ornament came into its strange receptacle is, of course, not known; but it is conjectured that it must have slipped from the wrist of some fair passenger leaning over the bulwarks of a transatlantic liner, and been seized by the cod.

Last year the greater part of the male, and part of the female, population of the village of Portishead, at the mouth of the Avon, in England, turned anglers for awhile. Fishing tackle and bait boomed for sometime, and all because one of the local anglers shortly before had landed a good sized fish; and when it came to be dissected on the domestic table it was found to include a diamond ring declared to be worth one hundred and fifty dollars.

This Fish Absorbed a Knife
WHILE discharging a fare of codfish from the schooner Vinnie M. Getchell at Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1886, Captain John M. Getchell, master of the vessel, found imbedded in the thick flesh of a large cod a knife of curious workmanship. The fish was caught on the northeast part George's Bank, in seventy five fathoms of water, and was apparently healthy. The knife was not found sometime after the fish had been cured. When found, the knife blade was closed, and the small, or posterior end, of the handle was nearest the tail of the fish, the flesh at this place being about two and a half inches thick. The knife, when closed, was three and five eighths inches long.

In 1884 Captain McEachern ofthe Gloucester schooner A. F. Gilford found a knife—one of the kind known to fishermen as a haddock ripper—in the stomach of a forty-five pound cod which had been caught on the Le Have Bank.

Lars Petersen, an able seamen of the steamship Hypathia, which arrived in New York in 1903 from St. Lucia, made a curious find on the voyage. After the vessel left St. Lucia a large gray shark was seen following it. For two days it continued in the wake of the ship when Petersen resolved to get it. Procuring a large hook, he baited it with salt pork, and after some difficulty landed the monster, which measured almost twelve feet from tip to tip Upon opening its stomach Petersen discovered there a ring with the initials L.H.B. engraved on the inside.

Cod as Junk Gatherers
OWING to the fact that cod seek their food on the bottom and are voracious feeders, their stomachs, when opened, frequently present a curious and sometimes amusing collection of odds and ends. Bits of leather, marlin-pikes. iron bolts, a ball of twine, leaden sounding plummets, hoofs of deer, scissors, brass, oil cans, potato parings, com cobs, the head of a rubber doll, stones, and big shells have been found in them. A codfish caught at Vineyard Haven was found to have in its stomach two full grown ducks. When taken out they were quite fresh, having most of their feathers on.

Because the heel of a rubber boot, and fragments of a rubber coat, together with a knife, were found in the stomach of a cod one day, a Gloucester wag reported, and the story was taken seriously for a time, that the fish had eaten the fisherman to whom they had belonged, and that these were the undigested fragments.

-- Dr. Todd

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