In 1555 Eden wrote in his Decades:
tiburoon is a great fysshe and
very quicke and swifte in the water and a cruell devourer" Antonio
Pigafetta, too, in describing an early voyage around Africa in 1497 (with
Vasco de Gama) also wrote of the the tiberons the voyagers saw at Sierra
Leone, "which have teeth of the terrible kind and eat people when they
find them in the sea either alive or dead". Frightful tales of the savage
attacks of this dreaded sea monster continued to filter back from those
who made the long voyages to India, Africa and tthe Pacific. In a letter
dated 10th January 1580, one of the sea travellers wrote a typical
account from Cochin, China in which he describes a fatal attack
by a shark:
"I have seen many kinds of
fish .... What called forth still greater surprise
on my part were other big fishes, that are in the ocean and eat man alive,
whereof I myself have been a witness. For when a man fell from our ship
into the sea during a strong wind, so that we could not wait for him to
come to his rescue in any other fashion, we threw out to him on a rope a
wooden block, especially prepared for that purpose, and this he finally
managed to grasp and thought he could save himself thereby.
But when our crew drew this
block with the man toward the ship, and had
him halfway the carrying distance of a musket shot, there apppeared from
below the surface of the sea a large monster called Tiburon, it
rushed on the man and tore him to pieces before or very eyes. That surely
was a grievous death."
A vase (about 725B.C.) discovered in excavations at
Lacco Amenco, Ischia, depicting shipwrecked sailors, one of
whom is being devoured by a shark.
A drawing of the design of the vase above.