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Another extraordinary fish story – 1851

Photo: Greg Skomal/NOAA Fisheries Service
Photo: Greg Skomal/NOAA Fisheries Service
The Argus 11th March, 1851 p4
A short time since, no small excitement was produced in Londonderry by a report that the Fenella iron steamer, on its way down the lough, had been piratically attacked off Ennishowen Head by some indescribable animal. It seized the vessel by the bow with its jaws and dragged it all the way into Portrush harbour – the very port to which the vessel was bound. The terror of the passengers and crew was greatly augmented by beholding the creature preparing to board. They were saved from the cruellest of all imaginable deaths by the prompt interposition of a party of the constabulary. With repeated volleys they compelled the monster to a hasty retreat.

It seems that when the Fenella was at the tail of the Tons, nearly opposite to Downhill, those on board felt as if she had grazed upon something, which they supposed might be a sunken wreck, though from the depth of the water, that was scarcely possible. Some observed an agitation about the bow as if caused by a huge animal. When the Fenella reached Portrush harbour (about seven miles further) it was observed by those on shore, as well as some on board, that an enormous fish had hold of the vessel by the bow with its jaws. It turned out that the marks of its teeth were distinctly imprinted in the paint of the bow (which, like the rest of the vessel is of iron).

It was then twilight, so that its shape could not be well observed; but it was judged to be fourteen teet in length, and of a very dark colour. We think that it may have been one of the basking sharks which are common off the coast of Galway.
Londonderry journal.