Sharks

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Great White Shark, Guadalupe Island
Mexican Joe (left) with a Hammerhead shark,
Santa Catalina Island, c. 1910
Captain Jim Gardner with shark
caught by Mr. Sharp,
Santa Catalina Island, c. 1910


SHARKS There are 460 known species of living sharks known today.

WEST OF THE WEST ~ SAN MIGUEL ISLAND ~ SHARK PARK


Santa Barbara diver Jim Robinson was killed by a great white shark at San Miguel Island in 1994 while diving for urchins off Harris Point. The shark was estimated to be 16-18 feet long.




In the News~

December 18, 1876 [SBDP]: “The fishermen say that the channel is full of sharks at the present time, and one large fellow was reported washed ashore yesterday between here and Rincon. Anyone contemplating a swim across to the island can feel sure of having a compagnon de voyage, agreeable or otherwise—most likely otherwise.”


August 16, 1878 [SBDP]: “Larco caught a shark eight feet long in his net yesterday. It was of a harmless variety, as indeed all are that visit this portion of the coast.”


November 15, 1879 [SBWP]: “The Surprise arrived from the islands this morning with lots of abalone, shark fins, shark oil and Chinese traps and calamities.”


August 27, 1883 [SBDP]: “A shark ten feet long was caught yesterday by Frank Wise. It was hauled in by a strong line on which was a large hook, baited with a barracuda, having swallowed fish and all. The shark was killed and towed in alongside the pier where it was an object of great interest to promenaders. There are said to be many of these sharks in the vicinity of the islands, but they are comparatively harmless, being fish-esters and not man-eaters.”


October 26, 1883 [SBDP]: “A very queer specimen of the shark tribe was exhibited on the wharf this morning, having been caught by an Italian fisherman yesterday.”


November 17, 1883 [SBDP]: “A shark weighing 400 pounds was caught in the vicinity of the islands this week.”


December 15, 1884 [SBDI]: “Combat between a 14-year-old boy and a shark… Larco the fisherman has a 14-year-old son that manages a fishing smack with as much dexterity as an old tar that had followed the seas all the days of his life, and last summer a year ago when his father owned the sloop Ocean King, would always accompany him on sea voyages… Yesterday morning the boy jumped into one of his father’s boats, bent on a fishing tour, and before he got outside the kelp he hooked on to a ten-foot shark that brought his boat to a standstill… The boy’s exertions were finally crowned a success, for when the huge monster was within reach of the lad he struck him a severe blow with a large knife…”


April 20, 1885 [SBDI]: “Sharks are frequently caught while trolling. It was not long ago that one of Larco’s boys had to lance one in order to capture it. They possess the strength of a young whale, and it is a Herculean task to capture a large one. While they are not considered good to eat, they can be utilized in various ways, for their oil, etc.”


August 27, 1885 [SBDI]: “A Chinese junk arrived from the islands yesterday afternoon with a cargo of oil and sharks, measuring from two to five feet in length. This species of fish, when thoroughly dried and cured, is considered by the Chinese as very palatable, and in the Flowery Kingdom they bring a handsome price.”


August 28, 1886 [SBDP]: “The yacht Annie, having on board Messrs. Balch, Palfray and Flint, about whose continued absence at the islands some uneasiness has been felt, arrived safely in port at 6:30 this morning. The yacht left Prisoners’ Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, day before yesterday, but was becalmed in the voyage across for nearly forty-eight hours, during which time they drifted down the coast to about off Rincon Point. They beat up from there this morning. The voyagers report having a splendid time, and are anxious to go again. They experienced some wind at the islands for three or four days, but not enough to give them any trouble. They caught plenty of fish and brought back as mementos of the trip a splendid starfish and the backbone of a shark, measuring twelve feet from head to tail, caught by themselves. Their friends in this city had become alarmed for their safety, and were going to dispatch a boat today to search for them.”


September 24, 1889 [LAT]: “The barracuda fishermen at Gaviota Beach, Santa Barbara County, have been compelled to abandon the use of seines for piscicapture, hammerhead sharks being so large and numerous as to destroy the nets. Eight of these sharks were captured by the unwilling fishermen last Thursday.”


August 18, 1892 [SBMP]: “At Quava Val Dez, fish are usually abundant. For several days the harbor was full of sardines and with them came the sharks, which drove them up onto the beach and kelp where we picked up over 5,000 in a single morning. As they rushed upon the beach they created considerable excitement among the campers. An Indian war dance is the only thing that approaches it in wildness. Of course this excitement was confined principally to the male population of the camp.”


May 8, 1893 [SBMP]: Captain Larco’s sons, Sunday, captured a thrasher, a species of shark family, that measured 15 feet in length. The monster became tangled in a fish seine, and when brought to the surface he displayed no little animation and evinced his fighting qualities by making the water fairly boil with long, lank, sword-like tail.”


May 12, 1893 [LAT]: “A thrasher shark is on exhibition at the beach. It is fifteen feet long, and was caught in a net Sunday by the Larco boys. They are mourning the loss of a net.”


March 12, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The big shark. The monster on view at Santa Barbara… Amid the delighted shrieks of the crowd this effort was attended with success and the shark was dumped, a quaking mass, upon the upper end of the wharf. The following morning the skinning and cutting-up process was commenced… In cutting the fish immense quantities of blubber were found in the region of the backbone. Thirteen barrels were filled, the liver occupying another half dozen…”


March 15, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The big [basking] shark. Some unsung scoundrel has lopped two or three inches off the extended fluke of the big shark’s tail now undergoing a pickling process preparatory to mounting. One hundred dollars is offered for information leading to the conviction of the wretch; it is even stated that if the perpetrator will himself acknowledge the deed, he will be given the money, and need not fear arrest. As a matter of detail however, he will probably be lynched for we are justly proud of that shark. Three barrels of oil from the liver were shipped Tuesday to San Francisco by Mr. Rogers. The oil has a medicinal value equal to that obtained from cod liver, and finds a ready market. The present idea is to exhibit the shark properly mounted in Mayor Gaty’s Amphibia at the Fair…”


August 9, 1895 [LAT/SCat]: “…Hooks were thrown out and no less than fifteen sharks were caught, two of them being pulled in by hand by W. D. Shirk, who seized the monsters by their tails and, with the assistance of another gentleman, succeeded in hauling them into the boat. The largest was fully six feet long…”


September 16, 1896 [LAT/SCat]: “Catalina Island. A. B. Chappelle captured a shark weighing over three hundred pounds and measuring nine feet, six inches in length. This is the largest shark taken up to date. It was not a man-eater, as none are found in these waters.”


September 12, 1897 [LAT/SB]: “A shark measuring twelve feet was caught in Captain Larco’s net yesterday afternoon and is on exhibition today.”


September 19, 1897 [LAT/SCat]: “Santa Catalina. Harry Nichols of Stockton had a sharp battle last Wednesday with a nine-foot hammerhead shark weighing 200 pounds…”


October 24, 1897 [LAT/SB]: “A shark weighing 300 pounds was caught in one of Larco’s nets Thursday evening.”


May 22, 1900 [SBDI]: “A shark was caught at the wharf late yesterday afternoon by a fisherman named Vasquez, the whale was not of the large species, but he says that it was a big one for this part of the country.”


November 6, 1903 [LAT]: “Avalon, Nov. 5.—George Johnson and T. D. Clark and Mexican Joe this morning went to the grouper banks in the launch Katherine for a shark hunt. About five miles off Church Rock some enormous sharks had been seen, and in such numbers that they robbed the anglers of their fish before they could get them into their boats.”


May 9, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The fishers on the wharf last night took thirty-eight sharks, embracing a great many varieties, two of them being of the horned species. A skate which was taken along with them was placed in the aquarium. The shark is a nocturnal animal and usually lies by during the daylight and sallies out for food at night.”


May 29, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. One of the greatest fish ever brought into this port was captured by Vincente Moricich’s fishermen Wednesday night. It was a thrasher shark measuring fifteen feet and six inches, and while there was no means of weighing the monster, it was estimated to weigh from 800 to 1000 pounds.”


July 23, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The sharks were on parade today. Instead of his favorite fish, ‘Yellowtail Johnnie’ turned his attention to shark, and brought in ten of the horned variety, all of them about three feet in length. Two small boys brought in five more, and another party had three.”


September 4, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. At intervals large schools of sharks are seen about the island, the species seeming to clan and travel in company. Within a few days large numbers of these creatures have been encountered along the island coast towards Seal Rocks. Yesterday they swam in hordes and some of the anglers in that vicinity had lively tussles.”


September 16, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. A huge hammerhead shark, one of the many curious forms of marine animals found by sea anglers, was caught yesterday afternoon just outside the bay… The creature is nearly ten feet long and weighs 226 pounds…”


May 4, 1905 [LAT/SCat]: “The schooner Edith, Captain Tom Whittley, owned by the San Clemente Island Wool Company, touched here this morning… The Edith took on a wagonload of nuts and fishing paraphernalia belonging to Frank Josephs, an old Catalina fisherman, who with a fishing crew goes over under a six months contract to fish for the new cannery established on San Clemente by a firm of Japanese. The fish company proposes to take and can any kind of fish brought here, from a sardine to a jewfish or a whale — even the despised shark receiving attention for its fins and tail. The cannery has a capacity of 2500 pounds of fish per day.”


November 24, 1905 [SBMP]: “Big shark washed in. An immense shark measuring 15 feet in length was washed in from the channel to the beach west of Booth’s Point yesterday afternoon and was seen by many people as it was rolled up and down on the sand by the high waves.”


August 21, 1906 [SBMP]: “Wilbur Teiford, Dean Gidney and Chester Moore hooked a shark said to be from fifteen to twenty feet long, while fishing opposite the lighthouse yesterday. The monster broke the line, much to the relief of his captors.”


March 3, 1907 [SBMP]: “Shark’s skeleton not preserved. Captain McGuire, who purchased the rare shark captured by B. Falconi, is now fully convinced that the huge fish is not a basking shark, but a casual visitor from the Indo-Pacific Ocean. The captain is collecting data and photographs which will be sent, together with the accounts which have appeared in the Press, to the South Kensington Museum, London; the Academy of Sciences, New York; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., and other scientific bodies, besides Lord Walter Rothschild, who is a purchaser of these varieties for his own extensive collection and for gifts to various scientific institutions. The skeleton of the creature was not preserved… The carcass was towed out to sea by the launch Peerless and sunk in deep water, some three miles from shore. The hide is being pickled.”


April 13, 1909 [LAH]: “Long Beach, April 12. Five boys who returned yesterday after a cruise among the Santa Barbara and San Nicolas islands witnessed a fight between a whale, thresher shark and swordfish near San Nicolas. They say the memory of the terrific struggle between the three monsters of the deep will remain long in their minds. The lads found many remarkable curios, including Indian bones, war implements, beads, hammers and other things.”


January 12, 1910 [SBI]: “Local fishermen had an exciting and dangerous experience while out in the channel waters Monday night. As they approached their fishing grounds to haul in their nets, a commotion was seen over the dark waters. The tossing of a large body was plainly discerned, and upon closer investigation it was found that a huge shark had become mixed up in the nets… Early yesterday morning the boats returned with their conquest. The big animal is at present at the fisherman’s landing on the spur of Stern’s Wharf. Crowds visited the waterfront all day to gain a sight of this big basking shark…”


June 25, 1910 [LAT]: “Roosevelt to fish. Preparations are being made here by Mexican Joe, Catalina Island’s oldest and most noted boatman, for a ten days’ cruise to San Clemente, with Col. Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, Dr. Garrett Newkirk, Prof. C. F. Holder and Maj. Frederick Burnham of South Africa. The chartered oats will leave Avalon on orabout September 20. The party will encamp at Mosquito Harbor, San Clemente Island, making this headquarters and supply center. Captain Al Shade who came over from Mosquito Harbor yesterday, said: “If Col. Roosevelt doesn’t get all the fun out of Clemente fishing which ought to come to him next September, I’ll miss my guess. When I left the island the sea was almost black with fish. Coming over I had two swordfish strikes while trolling with a piece of white rag for bait.”


September 14, 1910 [SBI]: “According to the Long Beach Press, the crew of the yawl, Minerva, seen in recent races here, had a narrow escape from a hammerhead shark near Catalina Island Sunday. The shark attacked Gordon Whalen, whereupon A. Lester Best, secretary of the South Coast Yacht Club, hit the big fish with an oar. Then a rifle was brought to bear and the shark, after overturning a rowboat, got away.”


September 21, 1910 [SBI]: “Gaffed by the crew of the prize-winning yacht, Alert, Sunday a big hammerhead shark gave battle to the yachtsmen for more than half a mile before it got away. In the crew were John S. Edwards, his skipper, Edward Gourley and Harlow Fink…”


August 10, 1912 [SBMP]: “Justice Jacob Shoup yesterday continued his series of lectures on his recent fishing tour around Santa Cruz Island… He says that while his party was camped in Willow Canyon it was only a five minute task to catch ass the fish needed for a day’s eating. One day the party set some nets near Gull Rock for sea bass. Visiting their nets the next day they found no sea bass in them, but instead there were ensnared in them forty small sharks of the man-eating variety…”


October 6, 1914 [SBDNI]: “One of the largest sharks caught here in some months was taken yesterday morning by Captain Falando of the fisherboat Mimi. The fish was 10 feet long and weighed nearly 400 pounds.”


March 6, 1916 [SBDN]: “Wanted—one shark. This is a fish story and although it has to do with the activities of the movie people here, it is not a publicity yarn—just a plain attempt to land one of the finny denizens which make their homes in the channel. The moving picture people want the shark to use on a submarine and the fishermen at the waterfront are busy trying to hook one and then get it ashore. The tank in which the big fellow is going to be kept until the director calls ‘camera’ awaits the captive. Captain George W. Gourley has been seen by the various fishermen who asked suggestions as to bait, etc. Captain Gourley advises the placing of a dead horse out in the channel and then baiting the sharks which will gather with a heavy hook. The biggest shark ever captured here was taken out just above the Rincon. The monster, which was hooked several years ago, was thirty-six feet long and weighed eighteen tons. The skeleton and mounted skin were sold to a Vienna museum. Captain Gourley still has a picture of the monster. Several of the fishing craft were out after the shark the movie people want this morning, but were unable to land one large enough. The shark has to be at least six feet long to qualify for a job in the movies.”


June 27, 1916 [SPDJW]: “George H. Baldwin positively denies that he had been eaten by a shark, despite seemingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Recently a man-eating shark was killed off Catalina Island, and when its interior was examined fragments of a man’s coat were found, to which was attached a pin of the American Society of Civil Engineers bearing Baldwin’s name. His demise was announced in Los Angeles newspapers, and his wife began to receive scores of telegrams and letters of condolence. Mrs. Baldwin some time ago gave away one of Baldwin’s old coats, from which she forgot to remove the pin.”


July 11, 1916 [SBMP]: “Last Sunday evening a happy party of ten people, seven from Santa Barbara and three from Ventura, under the chaperonage of Mrs. Helen K. Sexton, returned from a week’s camping at Dick’s Harbor, Santa Cruz Island. The campers reported a very enjoyable time at the charming island resort, with fishing luck that included the capture of a big shark. The Sea Wolf took the party over and brought it home.”


August 18, 1916 [SBMP]: “Yesterday Frank Maglio, the well-known fisherman, came across the channel with 300 pounds of fish that he caught in the bight at Chinese Harbor, Santa Cruz Island. In this haul the comparatively small catch of fish was varied by several tons of sharks in the nets, and Maglio had a big job in getting the monsters out of his nets without destroying the same.”


November 21, 1918 [SBMP]: “Fishing in the channel waters is coming back, following a relapse of about a month, during which time local fishermen were bewailing the fact that many sharks were basking outside, much to the detriment of those who make a livelihood by furnishing the populace with deep sea food.”


December 14, 1920 [SBMP]: “Government expert at kelp station makes discovery said to be unique. Sharks captured off Santa Cruz Island recently saved Santa Barbara a place in the sun as experiments proved that shoes, the best of their kid, it was stated by government expert, could and were being made from the tough skins of the man eaters…”


July 18, 1927 [LAT]: “Fictionists’ stories of battles with sharks in the deep were reenacted in real life yesterday when Harry Boosinger slew his quarry at Catalina Island. The shark was not a real man-eating kind, because there are none such hereabouts, but the thrill was no less genuine. A whale on exhibit was about to be towed from Avalon when Harry, a professional diver on the glass-bottom boat Empress, dived under to see what was making the dead mammal ripple the water. An eight-foot thresher shark glared back at him as it fed on the blubber beneath the whale. Harry drew his trusty knife and swam to the attack… [the whale] happened to be a Bryde whale]…”