The Sea Cadet, No. 8, Vol. 2, April 1945

Shark Hunting in the Navy By RAYMOND V.B. BLACKMAN Sharks swimming underwater, photographed from an aeroplane at a height o f 60 feet Shark ,ahoy !”is not a cry from the British Fleet of the dim and distant past. It is frequently heard in the Royal Navy of to-day. Within the experience of the present writer, the struggles of three of the vicious brutes were closely observed, a few years before the war. In 1932 the programme for the spring cruise of the Home Fleet in­cluded a “showing the flag ”tour of the West Indies, with calls at Barbados, Trinidad, Antigua. Anguilla, St. Lucia and Montserrat. It was while steaming from the Windward Islands to the Lee­ward Islands that H.M.S. Dorsetshire, a 10.000-ton cruiser, dropped anchor just before noon off a small uninhabited island. It was atypical West Indian islet, of even contour and almost flat, but for a gentle rise from the shore to the centre, entirely covered with coconut and other palms, its appearance was most attrac­tive. A wide beach of white sand fringed the trees, and for hundreds of yards out from the island the sea was warm, crystal clear and shallow, enab­ling one to spend long hours in the water and to dive for pieces of coral. A cruise to the West Indies is always very popular with the crews of H.M. ships. In Barbados, especially, the white residents receive the officers and men with open arms. Able seaman or petty officer, midshipman or commander, all are met at the jetty and whisked away in cars, to enjoy home comforts and to savour the delights of the island— 226 sailing and exploring. Of the West Indies cruise, most of them must have exclaimed at sometime or another: “Millionaires payout fortunes to get a trip like this! ”On this occasion, when a particu­larly strenuous exercise had been carried out en route, the men were expecting to “drop hook ”for a lazy afternoon and to “get their heads down” but just after the rum and limejuice rations had been issued a “make and mend ”was piped. This was received with general acclamation, and swimming, sailing and “banyan ”parties were hastily planned. I joined the banyan party. We went away under sail in the cutter, well stocked with provisions, with orders that leave expired at 1730. The ship was due to sail at 1800. As we left the ship, I saw the petty officer cook sling a wire rope over the side. It had a few pounds of scrap meat on the end. This was to attract fish near the ship, for the benefit of the fishing party, who pre­ferred to stay on board and fish deep water. As soon as the shore appeared to be within swimming distance most of the “passengers,” including myself, dived over the side but I, for one, found the distance deceptive and almost beyond my capabilities. First we explored the island allover and found it uninhabited. Having knocked down a few green coconuts and drunk the milk, we then built afire and lay down near it to rest in the shade until teatime. After that dances, picnics, and moonlight bathing. Some members of the ship’s com­pany, however, rarely went ashore in these populous and popular places. Being married, engaged, or of ashy and reserved nature, they preferred to spend their few shore outings in de­serted or scantily populated places in the company of other men, and they particularly enjoyed fishing, swimming, "and the shark was slowly hauled up the ship's side”
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