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When Sharks Attack

This incident dates back to 1799. If it were not for the documents still available, one would think this to be a urban legend. This event happened during the British war with France and her allies.

Nancy, a ship captained by Thomas Briggs, an American, was stopped by Commander Hugh Whylie of the British cutter, Sparrow, on the suspicions the Nancy was carrying contraband. The Nancy was sealed and the ship’s papers collected. All of this was remanded to Port Royal on August 28.

If the Nancy was found to be carrying contraband, the ship and goods could be seized and the crew of the Sparrow would earn a share of the prize. Whylie brought suit against Briggs and Briggs returned suit likewise for the claim dismissal and costs incurred. Briggs was likely going to be acquitted since no evidence of smuggling existed.

It so happened that a few days after Whylie seized the Nancy that Whylie met up with Fitton, commander of the Ferret. They discussed the recent event and about receiving their share of prizes from seized enemy ships. Fitton was waiting for Whylie to come aboard for breakfast when a strange object was observed being consumed by sharks. Fitton was able catch a large shark and bring it on deck. The shark was gutted and the crew of the Ferret came upon papers tied with string. These papers were from a ship called Nancy.

These papers proved Whylie to be correct and the Nancy and her cargo became fair prize. Poor Briggs was caught committing perjury for stating he threw no papers overboard. I don’t think he liked sharks after this event.

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