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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/499

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ft Vol. 90 ^^ No. 4

��Popular Science Monthly

��239 Fourth Avenue, New York City

April, 1917

��$1.50 Annually

��Fighting the Terrible Devilfish


��^HE American Museum of Natural I History wanted to secure a big speci- men of a devilfish (called by natural- ists Manta birostris) and Air. Russel J. Coles undertook to obtain that specimen at his own expense. He is probably the most skilful hunter of the devilfish in the United States of America. We are indebted to him and to the American Museum of Natural History for the material on which the following article and the accompanying drawings are based.

The devilfish is the largest of all the fish known as rays. It owes its name to its appearance — an appearance given by a pair of flaps or feelers, one at either side of the mouth to help in feeding.

Mr. Coles decided that ordinary methods would not do. He says:

"I found that both sharks and rays sometimes con- tinue fighting long after both brain and heart have been pierced by lance and bullet, but that death is instantaneous when the spinal cord is severed at a certain spot just back of the brain. ... I therefore designed and had forged a huge lance, more than three times as heavy as a whale lance, which I call a 'spade lance' on account of its having a square cutting edge four inches wide."

A devilfish once towed a lOO-ton vessel far out to sea, and the crew had to cut the rope and let the creature escape. In view of the creature's strength, Mr. Coles de- cided that he would have to inventsomeway of bring- ing the devil-

��The story of a thrilling hunt con- ducted in the interest of science

��fish to close quarters as soon after harpoon- ing it as possible. To this end he designed a drogue, or dray for offering the greatest possible resistance to a pull. In his account Mr. Coles says:

"I also carried a ver>' powerful repeating rifle and a large shoulder whale gun, from which either a harpoon, or a bomb lance containing half a pound of powder, can be fired. ..."

In securing his specimen for the American Museum of Natural History, Mr. Coles had with him, in addition to Captain Charlie Willis, the best known and most efficient fisherman on the Florida coast. Captain Jack McCann, who selected the three other members of the crew — all young men, trained, active and without fear. Captain McCann also furnished the boat which was a small tvventy-six-foot open boat with an eight-horsepower gasoline engine.

In killing a devilfish it is necessary- for every man to move instantly when the word is given, like part of a perfect machine. The procedure is thus described:

"Charlie Willis stands forward with me to throw the auxiliary harpoon; Captain Jack McCann steers the boat; another man stands just behind me to throw the drogue overboard as the harpoon leaves my hand, and to give me my spade lance; the next man runs the gasoline engine, while the last stands ready with a bucket to bale water should this be- come necessary. .All, including myself, are ready at a word to throw their weight on the high side of the boat if it should begin to turn over."

���After the long fight, it took ten hours to tow the big fish to shore. The "horns" on each side of the huge mouth are here rolled up. The instinct of the animal is to clasp these horns around any object that bars progress. A blow from one of the huge fins is likely to sink a boat


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