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Jaws on the Potomac!

Just when you thought all the sharks had moved to tony Law Offices or cushy Lobbyist quarters on K street!

Seen 1 shark …You’ve pretty much seen them all. Turns out during the 1920’s there was a “bathing beach” located at the Tidal Basin, complete with sand down to the river. This is a collection of the “bathing beauties” attire one might have run into at that time.

From the Ghosts of DC Blog

This is not a joke. A long time ago, there was a perceived oncoming epidemic of invading sharks, hell-bent on destroying humans and their boats.

I found this article in the Washington Post from July 26th, 1911 — by the way, two days earlier, Hiram Bingham had announced the discovery of Machu Pichu. This shark story is fantastic.

Alexandria, Va., July 22.–Savage sharks, which have attempted to climb on board small boats and drag occupants into the water, have created widespread excitement among the rivermen of this city, and are responsible for the organization of the “society for the suppression of man-eating fish,” of which Capt. Henry Simmons is president.

According to Capt. Simmons, who had an encounter with one of the fish, the sharks are desperate, hardened, and totally without fear of human beings. They are not even scared of motorboats, he declares.

“Something must be done,” said Capt. Simmons last night, “before it is too late. Positive measures must be resorted to if these sharks are to be shown where they get off. We cannot afford to have our leading citizens attacked. As soon as I learn the best way of killing a shark, I shall lead a party that will exterminate them; yes, suh, exterminate them.”

Capt. Simmons’ adventure occurred about 30 miles below here, last Wednesday. He was moving along in his gasoline boat, when, in the distance beheld a man in a batteau [sic], who seemed to be earnestly punching something. As Capt. Simmons drew nearer, his horrified eyes discerned a giant shark–a creature between 15 and 20 feet long–which was determinedly trying to climb into the small craft.

While he hurried to the batteau man’s assistance, the fish made a vicious leap, and almost got over the gunwale. The man punched the shark on the nose, and it fell into the water.

This is the way Capt. Simmons tells the rest of it:

“I was astonished. Throwing on the high speed clutch of my boat, I hurried toward the man who stood panting as he nursed the bruised place where his hand had come in contact with the shark’s face.

“Hurry,” he yelled, or you may be too late. This shark is trying to find something. I don’t know what it is, but I won’t give it to him.

“I picked up a chunk of iron and cautiously went alongside. As I did, the enraged shark came to the surface, and, with gleaming eyes, again rushed toward the batteau. His mouth was open, and I could see his interior works as he lashed himself against the side of the batteau. Just as he poised himself for a spring, I struck. I hit him fairly behind the ears, and, with a roar, he disappeared under the water and made away, leaving a trail of foam behind him.”

Returning to Alexandria, the captain spread the news, and, within a short time, plans were arranged for a shark hunt. Several other residents claim to have seen these creatures in the river. The “society for the suppression of man-eating fish” was formed late yesterday afternoon, and comprises the leading fishermen of this community.

OK – So that was fun (although a real article) establishing that a long time ago, sharks actually roamed the river up to near Washington DC. 30 miles south would have been about the Occoquan Bay. Of course the river was a lot bigger then, before much of it was drained to supply drinking and potable water to the region. If you are familiar with Georgetown. you will notice the canal is about 20-30′ higher than the surface of the river at 33rd st NW. That is because until about the Civil War, what is K St., where Wisconsin ends would have been under 10-20 ft of water. Several rivers/creeks were covered over as well. Here is a high res PDF showing where those rivers that were  covered over are in relationship to the modern DC. Goose/Tiber Creek still run under the streets today. The washington Monument sits at the edge of what was the river in 1792.

One of the earliest Maps of the (then) planned city of Washington, DC. You will notice that “Goose Creek” AKA Tiber Creek and James Creek are gone. That is because they were buried by city developers. Goose/Tiber still runs under Constitution Ave. which was the Washington City Canal.

In 1790, reportedly as 13′ shark was caught from the docks in Georgetown. which brings us to my latest story, SHARKS in the Potomac!

2 Sharks Caught at Mouth of Potomac River

Fishermen have caught two bull sharks at the mouth of the Potomac River in Maryland about 200 yards from a spot where people had been swimming.

John “Willy” Dean caught the 8-foot, male sharks weighing about 220 pounds each in nets on Tuesday near Point Lookout State Park where the Potomac meets Chesapeake Bay. The catch comes three years after Dean captured the first bull shark recorded in the Potomac in 37 years.

The first shark had drowned while caught in the net. The second was alive and thrashing when hauled on board by Dean and three other fishermen.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fact sheet says bull sharks live off the Atlantic coast and are common in lagoons, bays and river mouths. They can be found where fresh water meets salt water.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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