Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/363

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349
ABOUT SHARKS.

a third of his body is occupied by spleen and liver. The bile and other digestive juices which are secreted from such an immense apparatus, and poured continually into the stomach, tend to stimulate appetite prodigiously—and what hungry animal with good teeth was ever tender-hearted? In truth, a shark's appetite can never be appeased; for, in addition to this bilious diathesis, he is not a careful masticator, but, hastily bolting his food, produces thereby not only the moroseness of indigestion, but a whole host of parasites, which goad as well as irritate the intestines to that degree that the poor squalus is sometimes quite beside himself for the torment, and rushes, like a blind Polyphemus, through the waves in search of anything to cram down his maw that may allay such urgent distress. He does not seek to be cruel, but is cruelly famished. "It is not I," expostulates the man in the crowd, "that is pushing; it is others behind me." The poor wretch must satisfy, not only his own ravenous appetite, but the constant demand of these internal parasites, either with dead or living food; and therefore it is that, sped as from a catapult, he pounces on a quarry, and sometimes gorges himself beyond what he is able to contain.

Having said thus much of the rapacious habits of the Squalidæ, we would have it remembered that every man's hand is against them, and that no tortures are considered too severe to inflict upon them when caught. If they are relentless to man and every living thing around them, their insatiable appetite renders them equally destructive to their own species, and we of the white population of this globe ought to recollect, with some show of gratitude, that they always prefer an African to a European; for, although they are fond of men of any color, a negro is to them as the choicest venison. Commerson tells us that one of the atrocious amusements practised on board slave-ships was to suspend a dead negro from the bowsprit, in order to watch the efforts of the sharks to reach him, and this they would sometimes effect at a height of more than twenty feet above the level of the sea. Wonderful are the tales that sailors tell of the various things that have been found in a shark's stomach, and it was thought that any substance that would enter its mouth was at all times acceptable. The following, which details a cruel trick, as described in the Glasgow Observer, dispels this illusion: "Looking over the bulwarks of the schooner," writes a correspondent to this journal, "I saw one of these watchful monsters winding lazily backward and forward like a long meteor; sometimes rising till his nose disturbed the surface, and a gushing sound like a deep breath rose through the breakers; at others, resting motionless on the water, as if listening to our voices, and thirsting for our blood. As we were watching the motions of this monster, Bruce (a little lively negro, and my cook) suggested the possibility of destroying it. This was briefly to heat a fire-brick in the stove, wrap it up hastily in some old