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  • Whalesharks (Fact/Fiction)

    "With a crowd of pilot fish he prowled around the raft, and went on doing this for so long that that we plucked up courage. And when he lay to under the steering oar to scratch his back a bit, we thumped him in return, in a friendly way rather than otherwise, to see how he took it. But he liked it and came back and let himself be thumped three of four times. Then we gave him a bit of a jab with a harpoon, but we ought to not have done that, for he didn't like it and cleared off" (Hesselberg 1950: 48).
  • Whalesharks (Fiction/Fact)

    Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the largest shark, and indeed largest of any fishes alive today. These gentle marine giants roam the oceans around the globe, generally alone. They only feed on plankton. In the Norwegian explorer, Thor Theyerdal's account of his journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands in 1947, the crew is visited by one of these curious and benign creatures: ​ "In reality the whale shark went on encircling us for barely an hour, but to us the visit seemed to last a whole day. At last it became too exciting for Erik, who was standing at a corner of the raft with an eight-foot hand harpoon, and, encouraged by ill-considered shouts, he raised the harpoon above his head. As the whale shark came gliding slowly toward him and its broad head moved right under the corner of the raft, Erik thrust the harpoon with all his giant strength down between his legs and deep into the whale shark’s gristly head. It was a second or two before the giant understood properly what was happening. Then in a flash the placid half-wit was transformed into a mountain of steel muscles. We heard a swishing noise as the harpoon line rushed over the edge of the raft and saw a cascade of water as the giant stood on its head and plunged down into the depths. The three men who were standing nearest were flung about the place, head over heels, and two of them were flayed and burned by the line as it rushed through the air. The thick line, strong enough to hold a boat, was caught up on the side of the raft but snapped at once like a piece of twine, and a few seconds later a broken-off harpoon shaft came up to the surface two hundred yards away" .
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