Gympie Times Saturday December 6, 1873
This article is titled: A FIGHT WITH A SHARK.
A sport which promises to become fashionable amongst Gympie visitors to Newsa is hunting stingarees near the mouth of the river at low water. If we are to believe the following, however, the amusement may have a spice of danger in it:—
An officer of one of the ships of the United States Survey Service relates the instance of his own rashness and narrow escape with life. He waded into the sea at Charlotte Harbor, Florida, to spear "stingarees," a fish like a flounder, but with a curious rattle-like tail:
"I had started up a good sized stingaree, probably about three feet in width to two in length, with a 'beauty of a tail, and soon the hunt became interesting. Twice had I pierced its body with the boat-hook, and the water in the immediate neighborhood became dyed with blood.
"The shoals extended out a mile in many directions in Charlotte Harbor, and I in my excitement, had waded out full half that distance from the shore,—at least a mile from my men. The thought of danger never once entered my head, though the harbor was full of sharks, many of them from twelve to fifteen feet in length. My feet and legs were bare, my trouser being rolled up as high as possible. But I had gone out some distance from that depth, the water being up to my waist, and not dreaming of peril, was bent upon the capture of the fish I was pursuing. Suddenly, but why I could never comprehend, I turned my eyes from the Stingaree, and looked out into the harbor. I never saw that stingaree again, for my heart almost ceased to beat, as I beheld a monstrous shark, that no doubt had scented the blood of the wounded fish, coming in a direct line for the place where I was standing. A feeling of horror pervaded me at once. Powerless, death-stricken it seemed, I gave one yell—'Shark!' —and giving one desperate, agonizing look towards my men a mile away, I turned my eyes almost starting from their sockets, upon the monster from which I expected the most horrible death.
"The agony and mental torture of that fearful moment can never be described or forgotten; it makes me shudder now to recall it. As the shark approached me he lessened his speed, evidently reconnoitering the position. His graceful evolutions; the perfect ease with which he glided through the water, the under jaw just dropped far enough to disclose the glittering rows of teeth, sharp as razors; the careless, lazy movement of that powerful tail; and above all, the cold, horrible glare of those small yellow eyes, fascinated me with a deadly terror. In those short seconds, I lived years of horror. To see that ravenous demon so leisurely confident of his power, and I almost powerless, waist deep in water, and no weapon of defense but a common boat-hook! I seemed to shrink to nothingness when compared to my enemy.
"He gave me but a few seconds to think or prepare for death, for as quick as a cat he faced directly for me, and seemed almost to spring clear of the water as he dived for my legs. I could scarcely hold the boat-hook in my trembling grasp, but as the body came within reach I struck at it with the energy and despair with which a drowning person would catch at a straw.
In a breath, I committed my soul to Providence, and for the next few seconds became nearly unconscious. Whether the monster felt the point of my spear or not I cannot tell. I presume, however, that he did, for he missed me, his ponderous jaws coming together with a rush and snap. Passing full around me, he dashed out into the harbor again, but not far, when he turned and began the same maneuvers as before.
"My feelings as he sprang for me, and the revulsion consequent upon my taking another swipe with my boat hook, this respite, seemed to inspire me with new courage and I felt that the cowardly shark wouldn't get the balked of his prey. I gained an astonishing feeling of coolness and nerve and determined to present a firm front when he attacked me again, which I knew he would. I began to retreat, stepping cautiously backward, with my eyes fixed on the shark. Stealing a look towards the boat, I saw with joy that the men had got it off the beach and were manning the oars. That look nearly proved my last, for I had hardly turned towards the shark before he was upon me. I cannot minutely describe what occurred, for I was taken completely by surprise, and lost my wits as well as my nerve. I saw the dull glare of those terrible eyes, the almost white, shining surface of the belly as it was partially turned upwards, and the waters dashed in my face. A deadly cold feeling went over me like an electric shock, as I felt the slimy body brush my bare legs; something struck me on the chest, and for an instant I believe I became unconscious. The shark seemed to twist his body completely around me, the boat-hook dropped from my hand, and I fell over the monster's back, my feet and legs being thrown entirely out of the water, as my head and body were wholly submerged.
"My escape from death was wonderful. The shark failed for the second time in catching me between his massive jaws. The water restored me a little. I scrambled to my feet, and, almost wild with terror, looked for the shark, and none can imagine the joy I felt as I saw him swimming at full speed towards the entrance of the harbor. I turned my face to the shore and staggered along till within a few yards of the beach when I was wholly overcome and swooned from the effects of the dreadful ordeal I had undergone. Falling in water only four feet deep, after such a remarkable escape from a horrible death, I came within a hair's breadth of being drowned. The boat's crew arrived not a moment too soon, as it was over an hour before I was resuscitated, and then only after the most unwearied exertions."