LETTER: The day we caught a shark!

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RECENT events regarding sharks in the Seychelles, reminds me of an occurrence in my earlier life.

RECENT events regarding sharks in the Seychelles, reminds me of an occurrence in my earlier life.

In 1951 I was the dental officer serving on HMS Mauritius, then the flagship of the Royal Navy’s East India Squadron.

The ship was anchored off Port Victoria, at Mahe, the principal island of the Seychelles, but owing to its deep draft, was laying some way off, and any of the ship’s crew who wanted to go ashore had to use the ship’s small motor boats.

The duty watch on board, probably having not a lot to do in these peaceful surroundings, decided to try their hands at fishing, so fitting a small grapnel to a length of thin wire rope and baited with a side of beef from the cold room, heaved it over the side and fastened it to a guardrail.

Nothing happened for quite a time until one of the watch noticed the guard wire bending outwards!

They had indeed caught something large, which was duly hauled on board by the ship’s crane.

It was a shark about seven to eight feet in length. It looked enormous; suspended at full length by the crane.

When it had been properly dispatched by the Royal Marine ship’s butcher I propped it’s mouth open with a piece of wood and examined it’s teeth.

They were horrid! Many of them and very sharp. I extracted several of the biggest ones as a memento.

They were roughly triangular in shape, the size of a large thumbnail, the side attached to the jaw being somewhat porous and irregular while of the other two sides, one was serrated, the other smooth and extremely sharp.

One could easily sharpen a pencil with it!

When I returned to the UK about a year later, I gave several away to various friends – talk about an unusual chat-up line – “Would you like to see my shark’s teeth?”

Eventually I had only one left, but that too has disappeared somewhere.

This all happened in another lifetime, but I can still visualise that frightening mouth and the damage it can do – by contrast the human mouth was quite a friendly place!


Surg Lieut Comdr(D) RN(rtd)