Sun Fish by Captain Bedford, R. N.

While lying in Little Killery Bay, on the coast of Connemara, in her Majesty's surveying ketch Sylvia, we were attracted by a large fin above the surface, moving with an oscillatory motion, somewhat resembling the action of a man sculling at the stern of a boat; and knowing it to be an unusual visitor, we immediately got up the harpoon and went in chase. In the meantime, a country boat came up with the poor animal, and its crew inflicted upon it sundry blows with whatever they could lay their hands on—oars, grappling, stones, &c.—but were unsuccessful in taking it; and it disappeared for some few minutes, when it again exhibited its fin on the other side of the Bay. The dull and stupid animal permitted us to place our boat immediately over it, and made no effort to escape. The harpoon never having been sharpened, glanced off without effect; but another sailor succeeded in securing it by the tail with a boat-hook, and passing the bight of a rope behind its fins, we hauled it on shore, under Salrock House, the residence of General Thompson, who, with his family, came down to inspect this strange-looking inhabitant of the sea. We were well soused by the splashing of its fins, ere a dozen hands succeeded in transporting this heavy creature from its native abode to the shore, where it passively died, giving only an occasional movement with its fins, or uttering a kind of grunt.

Side View of Sun Fish. Front View of Sun Fish.

This animal, I believe, is a specimen of the Sun-fish (Orthagoriscus). It has no bony skeleton; nor did we, in our rather hasty dissection, discover any osseous structure whatever, except (as we were informed by one who afterwards inspected it) that there was one which stretched between the large fins. Its jaws also had bony terminations, unbroken into teeth, and parrot-like, which, when not in use, are hidden by the envelopement of the gums. The form of the animal is preserved by an entire cartilaginous case, of about three inches in thickness, covered by a kind of shagreen skin, so amalgamated with the cartilage as not to be separated from it. This case is easily penetrable with a knife, and is of pearly whiteness, more resembling cocoa-nut in appearance and texture than anything else I can compare it with. The interior cavity, containing the vital parts, terminates a little behind the large fins, where the cartilage was solid, to its tapered extremity, which is without a caudal fin. Within, and around the back part, lay the flesh, of a coarse fibrous texture, slightly salmon-coloured. The liver was such as to fill a common pail, and there was a large quantity of red blood. The nostril, top of the eye, and top of the gill-orifice are in line, as represented in the Engraving. The dimensions are as under:—

Eye round, and like that of an ox, 2-1/4 inches diameter. Gill-orifice, 4 inches by 2-1/4 inches. Dorsal and anal fins equal, 2 ft. 2 in. long, by 1 ft. 3 in. wide. Pectoral fins, 10 in. high by 8 broad. Length of fish, 6 ft. Depth, from the extremities of the large fins, 7 ft. 4 in. Extreme breadth at the swelling under the eye, only 20 in. Weight, 6 cwt. 42 lb.

Captain Bedford, R. N.