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observed under a single spar, a cloud of shadowy black forms being plainly visible from the deck.
We went out to them in a row-boat and succeeded in taking thirteen of them in the course of a
day. After the first thrusts of the dip-net they grew shy and sought refuge under the boat, under
which they would sink far below our reach. A lull of a few moments would bring them back to
the log under which they had clustered until disturbed again. When the boat was rowed away
they followed in a close-swimming school until we gained full speed, when they suddenly turned, as
if by one impulse, and swain back to the log or spar. Once they followed us about two hundred
yards from the spar, and then leaving us retreated to their old shelter, reaching it some time before
we could turn the boat and row back to it. I had before this supposed them to be quite unusual,
but on this one day we must have seen two hundred or two hundred and fifty at the lowest com-
putation. They doubtless have gained the name of Rudder-fish from the sailors who have seen
them swimming about the sterns of becalmed vessels.

When the Fish Commission steamer has been dredging off Halifax, I have several times
noticed schools of them hovering around her sides. They doubtless gather around the logs for the
purpose of feeding upon the hydroids and minute crustaceans and perhaps mollusca which
accumulate areund them. Their stomachs were found to contain amphipod crustaceans, hydroids,
and young squids. They are doubtless to some degree protected by the spars under which they
congregate, in the same manner as their kindred, the Butter-fish, which swim under the disk of the
jelly-fish. Their colors undergo considerable change from time to time, possibly at the will of
the fish.

The Rudder-fish attains the length of ten or twelve inches, and is excellent eating. DeKay
states that the fishermen of New York, in 1842, called this species the " Snip-nosed Mullet," but
this name does not appear to have become permanent.




The fishes of this family air found iu nil temperate and tropical seas. The Boar-fish and the
John Dory, both somewhat ini]>ortant sj>ecies in Great Britain, are members of this and related
families. A single specimen, recorded by Storer and Gill, the species which is peculiar to America
and described under the name Zcnopxin ocella-tita, was taken oft' Proviucetown.


The only member of this family of interest to us is the Drama /.'/(/'/.called "Pomfret" in
Bermuda, where a few individuals were observed by the writer in 1870. In 1880 an individual
was obtained on the Grand Bank of Newfoundland, and more recently the species has been found
to be somewhat abundant on the coast of Washington Territory and Vancouver's Island. This
species was described from the coast of South America under the name Brama chilenxix.


This family is represented in the Atlantic by a single species, Lampris yuttatus, a pelagic fish,
which appears to be more abundant in the deep waters of northern seas than elsewhere. It has
been observed at many points upon the Norwegian coast, about Iceland and Madeira, as well as iu
the Mediterranean, but is of unusual occurrence everywhere, except perhaps about Madeira. On
the coast of England it is one of the great rarities, and is much sought for by collectors on
account of its beauty. It is said to be one of the most brilliantly colored fishes known "red
and green, with tints of purple and gold dotted over with silvery round spots. Iris of the eye is
scarlet, and fins of lively red." A specimen was obtained years ago near Sable Island, Nova Scolia,
and the species will doubtless be found still nearer our shores. It is said that no young speci-
mens have yet been seen. The species attains the length of four feet and more, and is said to be
very excellent for eating.


This fish is unfortunately known in Eastern Florida and at Pensacola as the "Sword-fish"; at
New Orleans, iu the Saint John's River, and at Brunswick, Georgia, it is known as the " Silver
Kel," on the coast of Texas as "Sabre-fish,'' while in the Indian River region it is called the
"Skipjack." No one of these names is particularly applicable, and the latter being preoccupied,
it would seem advantageous to use iu this country the name "Cutlass-fish," which is current for
the same species in the British West Indies.

Its appearance is very remarkable on account of its long, compressed form and its glistening
silvery color. The name "Scabbard-fish," which has been given to an allied species in Europe,
would be very proper also for this species, for in shape and general appearance it looks very like the
metallic scabbard of the sword. It attains the length of four or five feet, though ordinarily not
exceeding twenty-five or thirty iuches. This species is found iu the tropical Atlantic, on the coast
of Brazil, in the Gulf of California, the West Indies, the Gulf of Mexico, and north to Wood's IIoll,
Massachusetts, where, during the past ten years, specimens have occasionally been taken. In
1S45 one was found at Wellfleet, Massachusetts; and iu the Essex Institute is a specimen which
is said to have been found in Salem Harbor. The species occurs also on the coast of Europe, two
>pecimens having been found on the shores of the Moray Frith many years ago, and during the past
decade it has become somewhat abundant in Southern England. It does not, however, enter the
Mediterranean. Some writers believe the allied species, Trichiurus haumela, found iu the Indian


Ocean and Archipelago and in various parts of the Pacific, to be specifically the same. The
Cutlass-fish is abundant in the Saint John's Eiver, Florida, in the Indian River region, and in the
Gulf of Mexico. Several instances were related to nie in which these fish had thrown themselves
from the water into row-boats, a feat which might be very easily performed by a lithe, active
species like the Trichiurus. A small one fell into a boat crossing the mouth of the Arlington
River, where the water is nearly fresh. 1

Msftiy individuals of the same species are taken every year at the mouth of the Saint John's
River, at Mayport. Stearns states that they are caught in the deep waters of the bays about
Pensacola, swimming nearly at the surface, but chiefly with hooks and lines from the wharves.
He has known them to strike at the oars of the boat and at the end of the ropes that trailed in the
water. At Peusacola they reach a length of twenty to thirty inches, and are considered good food-
fish. Richard Hill states that at Jamaica this species is much esteemed, and is fished for assidu-
ously in a "hole," as it is called, that is, a deep portion of the waters off Fort Augusta. This is
the best fishing place for the Cutlass-fish, Trichiurus. The fishing takes place before day; all
lines are pulled in as fast as they are thrown out, with the certainty that the Cutlass has been
hooked. As many as ninety boats have been counted on this fishing ground at day-break during
the season. All carry on this kind of uninterrupted hauling in of fish.

A closely allied species, Lepidopus caudatus, is the " Scabbard-fish" of Europe, which also occurs
in the Gulf of California. In New Zealand it is called the " Frost-fish," and is considered the most
delicious food-fish of the colony.


Although it may not seem desirable at present to accept in full the views of Dr. Liitkeu
regarding the specific unity of the Spear-fishes and the Sail-fishes of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans,
it is convenient in discussing their geographical distribution to group the different species in the
manner he has suggested.

The Sword-fish, Xiphias gladius, ranges along the Atlantic coast of America from Jamiaca,
latitude 18 N., Cuba, and the Bermudas, to Cape Breton, latitude 47. It has not been seen at
Greenland, Iceland, or Spitzbergen, but occurs according to Collet, at the North Cape, latitude 71.
It is abundant along the coasts of Western Europe, entering the Baltic and the Mediterranean. I can
find no record of the species on the west coast of Africa south of the Cape Verdes, though Liitkeu,
who may have access to facts unknown to me, states that they occnr clear down to the Cape of
Good Hope, South Atlantic in mid-ocean, west coast of South America and north to Southern
California, latitude 34, New Zealand, and in the Indian Ocean off Mauritius. Good authorities
state that sperm-whales, though constantly passing Cape Horn, never round the Cape of Good
Hope. Can this be true in the case of the Sword-fish f

The Sail-fish, Histiophorus gladius (with H. americanus and H. orientalis, questionable species,
and H. pulchellm and H. immaculatus, young), oiscurs in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Malay Archi-
pelago, and south at least as far as the Cape of Good Hope, latitude 35 S.; in the Atlantic on
the coast of Brazil, latitude 30 S. to the equator, and north to Southern New England, latitude
42 N. ; in the Pacific to Southwestern Japan, latitude 30 to 10 N. In a general way the range
may be said to be in tropical and temperate seas, between latitude 30 S. and 40. N., and in the
western parts of those seas.

The Bill-fish or Spear-fish, Tetrapturw indicus (with various related forms, which may or may not
be specifically identical, occurs in the Western Atlantic from the West Indies, latitude 10 to 20 N.,

Kx-.il ir ii, ex aquis mepe in cyiiibiiiii. I,IN\.I:I s.

i: ANCK OF TilK SI'KA IM'IS! 1. 337

to Southern Now Kn^ljind. latitude 12 X.; in tin- KaM.Yn Atlantic, from Gibraltar, latitude 4f) N.,
to the Cape of Good Hope, latitude 30 S.; in the Indian Ocean, the Malay Archipelago, New
Zealand, latitude 40 S., and on the west coast of Chili and Peru. I'M a general way, the range is
between latitude 40 N. and latitude 40 S.

. The species of Tetrnplurux which we have been accustomed to call T. albidux, abundant about
Cuba, is not very unusual on the coast of Southern Now England. Several are taken every year
by the Sword-fish fishermen. I have not known of their capture along the Southern Atlantic
coast of the United States. AJ1 I have known about were taken between Sandy Hook and the
eastern part of George's Banks.

The Mediterranean Spear-fish, Tetrapturus belone, appears to bo a land-locked form, never
passing west of the Straits of Gibraltar.

NAMES OP THE SWORD-FISH. The names all have reference to its most prominent feature,
the prolonged snout. The "Sword-fish" of our own tongue, the "Zwaard-jis" of the Hollander,
the Italian "Sifio" and " Pesce-spada," the Spaniard's "Espada," "Espadartef and varied by "Pez
de spada" in Cuba, and the French "E*padon," "Dard," and Epee de Mer? are simply variations
of one theme, repetitious of the "Oladius" of ancient Italy, and "A'lp/u'as," the name by which
Aristotle, the father of zoology, called the same fish twenty-three hundred years ago. The French
"Empereur," and the "Imperador" and "Ocean King-fish" of the Spanish and French West Indies,
carry out the same idea; the Roman emperor was always represented holding a drawn sword in
his hand. The Portuguese names are "Agulha" and "Agulhao, 1 " meaning " needle" or " needle-fish."

This species has been particularly fortunate in escaping the numerous redescriptions to which
almost all widely distributed forms have been subjected. By the writers of antiquity it was spoken
of tinder its Aristotelian name, and in the tenth edition of his Systetna Natnrre, at the very
inception of binomial nomenclature, Linnaeus called it Xiphias glatlius. By this name it has been
known ever since, and only one additional name is included in its synonymy, Xipliias Itondeletii,

* The Sword-fish has been so long and so well known that its right to its peculiar name has
seldom been infringed upon. The various species of Tetrapturun have sometimes shared its title,
and this is not to be wondered at, since they closely resemble Xipliias gladim, and the appellative
has frequently been applied to the family Xiphiida the Sword fish family which includes them all.

The name "Bill-fish," usually applied to the Tetrapturus albidus, a fish of the Sword-fish family
often taken on our coast, and described below, is objectionable, since it is in many districts used for
the various species of Belonidte, the "gar-fishes" or "green-bones" (Belone truncata and others),
which are members of the same fauna. " Spear-fish" is a much better name.

The " Sail- fish ," Histiophorm americanus, is called by sailors in the south the "Boohoo"op
" Woohoo." This is evidently a corrupted form of "Guebncu," a name, apparently of Indian origin,
given to the same fish in Brazil. It is possible that the Tetrapturus is also called "Boohoo," since
the two genera are not sufficiently unlike to impress sailors with their differences. Bleeker states
that in Snmaha the Malays call the related species H. gladius by the name " Joohoo" (Juhu), a
curious coincidence. The names may have been carried from the Malay Archipelago to South
America, orvice versa, by neighbors.

In Cuba the Spear-fishes are called "Aguja" and " Aguja de PaJada"; the Sail-fish, "Aguja,
Prieta" or "Aguja Voladora"; Tetrapturus albidus is specially known as the "Aguja Blanco,,"
T. albidus as the "Agujade Costa."

In the West Indies and Florida the scabbard-fish or silvery- hair-tail, Trichiurus lepturut, a
form allied to the Xiphias, though not resembling it closely in external appearance, is often called
22 F


" Sword-fish." The body of this fish is shaped like the blade of a saber, and its skin has a bright
metallic luster like that of polished steel; hence the name.

The various species of sticklebacks, Qasterosteus aculeatus and Pygosteus pungitius, are known
as "Little Sword-fish" by the boys of Portland, Maine, and vicinity. The spines, damaging in the
extreme to small fingers of tyro fish-gatherers, give reason to the name.

Sail-fish appear to occur throughout the tropical and souther.i parts of the Atlantic and the
I nilian Ocean. Its names, wherever it may be found, point to the most striking characters. In
Marcgrave's time the Portuguese of Brazil called it "Bicuda," referring to its snout, and Rochefort,
in his "History of the West Indies," calls it "B6casse de Mer"; a bccasse being a long snouted bird
like a woodcock or a suipe, while in the Malay Archipelago the Dutch call it "Zee-snip" or "Sea-
snipe." The Malays of Amboyna called it the " Ikan-foyer" or Fan-fish, in allusion to the fan like
movements of its dorsal fin, while those of Sumatra called it " Ikan-jegan" or "Sail-fish." The
French "FoiKer"and the Dutch " Zeyl-fisch" and " Bezaanfisch" mean the same; a bezaan being the
sail upon the mizzen mast of a ship. The family name is "Myl-meen," signifying "Peacock-fish."
The names "Boohoo" and " Woohoo" have already been referred to.

GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION AND MOVEMENTS. The Sword-fish was known to Pliny, who
wrote: "The Sword-fish, called in Greeke Xiphias, that is to say in Latin Gladius, a sword, hath
a beake or bill sharp pointed, wherewith he will drive through the sides and plankes of a ship,
and bouge them so, that they shall sinke withall. The experience whereof is scene in the ocean,
neare to a place in Mauritania called Gotta, which is not far from the river Lixos." 1

Many other classical and mediaeval writers made curious allusions to the Sword-fish. The
summary of their views is given by Bloch, and is quoted below. This summary is very satisfactory
though the skepticism of this author is sometimes a little excessive:

"This fish is found in the North Sea and the Baltic, but is rare in those waters. In the Med-
iterranean, however, it is very abundant. It lives for the most part in the Atlantic, where in
winter it is found in mid-ocean. In spring it appears on the coast of Sicily, where its eggs are
deposited on the bottom in great numbers. However, according to what I have been told by the
illustrious Chevalier Hamilton, it is never seen in that region more than three or four feet long.
The larger ones, often weighing four or five hundred pounds, and eighteen to twenty feet long, are
found on the coast of Calabria, where they appear in June and July. Pliny remarked that they
often exceed the dolphin in size. . . .

"Various writers have spoken of the 'Emperor of the Sea' as occurring in the Baltic. Olea-
rius and Schelhammer record its capture near Holstein ; Schoneveld mentions one from Mecklen-
burg; Walbaum one from the vicinity of Liibeck; Hanover and Klein one from the vicinity of
Danzig; Hartmann one from near Pillau, and Wolf another taken near Kouigsberg.

"One mentioned by Schoneveld as taken near Mecklenburg was so large that it required two
strong horses to draw it from the water. The body, without the sword, was eleven feet long, the
sword three. The eyes were as large as hens' eggs, and the tail was two feet broad. Of four seen
by Professor Koelpiu during his stay at Greifswald, one measured more than three and one-half
feet in circumference. . . .

"These fish, according to the story of the Chevalier Hamilton, always appear in pairs as they
approach Messina, a female and a male together.

" This fish lives upon marine plants and fish. It has such a terrible defensive weapon that
other voracious fishes do not dare to attack it. According to Aristotle, it is, like the tunny, tor-
mented by an insect, and in its fury leaps out of the sea and even into vessels. According to

' Holland's Pliny, ii, p. 428.

IJLoril ON TIIK s\voi;i> FISH. :;:;;

Statins Miiller, the skin is phosphorescent ;it ni^lit. Although such large fishes are not usually
\\cll flavored, this one is considered palatable. Pieces of the belly and tin- tail arc especially
esteemed, and hence they an* expensive. The tins are salted and sold under the mime '(alto'. . . .

".flElian errs in sa\ in^ that it enters fresh water, and in cataloguing it among the fishes of the

Siena, secluded and almost forgotten among the hills of Northern Italy, should have a peculiar
interest for Americans. Here Christopher Columbus was educated, and here, in the height of his
triumphs as a discoverer, he chose to deposit a memento of his first voyage across the seas. His
votive offering haugsover the portal of the old collegiate church, closed for many years, and rarely
visited save by enterprising American tourists. It consists of the helmet and armor worn by the
discoverer when he first planted his feet on New World earth, his weapons, and the weapon of a
warrior killed by his party when approaching the American coast the sword of a Sword-fish. 1

It is not probable that Columbas, or some of his crew, seafaring men of the Mediterranean,
had never seen the Sword-fish- Still, its sword was treasured up by them, and has formed for
more than four centuries and a half a striking feature in the best preserved monument of the
discoverer of America.

The earliest allusion in literature to the existence of the Sword-fish in the Western Atlantic
seems to occur in Josselyn's "Account of Two Voyages to New England," printed in 1674, in the
following passage:

First Voyage: "The Twentieth day, we saw a great number of Sea-bats, or Owles, called
al.-o Hying fish, they are about the bigness of a Whiting, with four tinsel wings, with which they
fly as long as they are wet, when pursued by other fishes. Here likewise we saw many Grand
pisces, or Herring-hogs, hunting the scholes of Herrings, in the afternoon we saw a great fish
called the Vehuella or Sword fish, having a long, strong and sharp finn like a Sword-blade on the
top of his head, with which he pierced our Ship, and broke it off with striving to get loose, one of
our Sailors dived and brought it aboard."

A half century later I find a reference in Gatesby's work. 2

Pennant, though aware of the statement made by Catesby, refuses the species a place in his
"List of the Fishes of North America," 3 supposing him to refer to the orca or high-fiuned killer-
whale: "I am not certain whether Catenby does not mean the high-flnned Cachalot by his Sword-
fish; yet, as it is found in most seas, even to those of Ceylon (Mr. Sotur), I give it a place here."

Catesby's testimony was soon confirmed by Dr. Alexander Garden. This enthusiastic col-
lector, through whose correspondence with Linnaeus so many of our Southern plants and animals
were first brought to knowledge and named, writes to John Ellis, from Charleston, South Carolina,
March 25, 1755: "I have sent >ou one of the rostrums of a fish found on the Florida coast, which
1 take to be a species of the Ziphius rontr. apice ensiforme, pinni* ventralibus nullis. 4 I have been
told that they are frequently found on the Carolina coast, though I have never seen any of them,
and I have been all along the coast to the Florida shore."* (Vol. i, p. 353.)

1 For this fact, which I <lo not remember' to have ever seen on record, I am indebted to CoL N. D. Wilkins, of
the Detroit Free Press, who visiled the locality in 1879.

'HistoriaNaturalisCaroliuie, &c., 17:11.

'Arctic Zoology. Hi, 1784, p. 364.

'The name by which this fish was designated in the earlier editions of Linnaeus'* writings.

'A Selection of the Correspondence of Linnaeus ami other Naturalists, from the original manuscripts. By Sir
James Edward Smith, M. D., F. R. 8., Ac. president of tbi. Linniean Society. In two volumes London. Printed
for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, Paternoster Row, 1891.


Another allusion occurs in a communication by l>r. S. L. Mitchill, of New York, to the
"American Monthly Magazine":

"An individual of this species was taken off Sandy HooN . by means of a harpoon, on the
19th June, 1817. The next day it was brought to New York inaikct and cut up like halibut and
sturgeon for food. The length was about twelve feet, and girth, by estimation, five. . . . The
stomach contained seven or eight mackerel. The flesh was remarkably firm; it was purchased at
a quarter of a dollar the pound. I tasted a chop of it, broiled, and found it savory and excellent.
It resembled the best sturgeon, without its strong and oily flavor. While I ate it I thought of
veal cutlet. ... I have been informed by my friend John Renny that a Sword-fish sixteen
feet long was exhibited at New York in the year 1791." '

DISTRIBUTION IN THE EASTERN ATLANTIC. The Sword-fish is abundant in the Mediterra-
nean 2 even as far east as Constantinople, .^Elian said that it was frequent in the Black Sea,
entering the Danube. Unfortunately, this is neither confirmed nor contradicted by any later
writer whose works I have seen. JSliau says that this species', with several others, is frequently
taken in the Danube at the breaking up of the ice in spring. This is so contrary to the known
habits of the fish that it throws discredit on the whole story, for the present at least. From the
entrance to the Mediterranean they range south to Cape Town. Berthelot saw great numbers of
them off the Canaries. They have been frequently noticed on the coasts of Spain and France.
They occur sparingly in summer in the British waters, even to the Orkneys and the Hebrides.
They occasionally reach Sweden and Norway, where Linnaeus observed them, and, according to
Liitken, have been taken on the coast of Finmark. They are known to have occurred in Danish
waters and to have found their way into the Baltic, thus gaining a place in the fauna of Russia.
A number of instances of the occurrence of Sword-fish in the Baltic have been recorded.

early accounts of the Sword-fish on the coast of the United States both in the work of Catesby and
the letters of Garden to Ellis and Linnaeus; also, to Mitchill's account of it in 1818. Though it is
strange that this very conspicuous species was not recorded more frequently by early American
authors, it is still more remarkable that its right to a place in the fauna of the Western Atlantic
was either denied or questioned, as late as 1836, by such well-informed authors as Sir John Rich-
ardson and MM. Cuvier and Valenciennes.

Storer's " Report on the Ichthyology and Herpetology of Massachusetts," published in 1839,
was the first American faunal list, after Catesby's, in which the Sword-fish was mentioned among

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 59 of 146)