International Sea Serpent Reports
A Sea Monster.
Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW)
Date: July 14, 1894
Page Number: 25
When the barque Loongana, the well-known island trader, arrived in Sydney from a cruise to the Gilbert Group, her commander, Captain Runcie, reported having seen, when in the vicinity of the Santa Cruz Group, a "sea monster." The barque was slowly gliding along when the hideous looking brute came up alongside. It was not a whale, neither did it appear to be a shark, and nobody on board had ever seen anything like it before. For some time it swam side by side with the vessel, and afforded Captain Runcie and his men an excellent opportunity to have a good look at it, in fact the monster remained in company sufficiently long to allow a sketch to be made of it, from which our illustrations are taken. The dimensions of the monstrosity, as near as could be judged, were : About 33ft long, 11ft wide across the back, which was almost flat. The most extraordinary feature about the brute was its mouth (figure 3), which was about 10ft long and toothless. One of the seamen remarked that it was large enough to take in a dozen good-sized men. Its tail was like that of a shark and very powerful, being apparently its chief propelling power. Along the back was a ridge about 3in to 4in high—a horny looking substance—and at its sides were flappers, or fins, which the monster kept in a horizontal position. In the matter of eyes, none were seen, but they are supposed to have been located below the water line. Captain Runcie fired several bullets at the monster, all of which merely glanced off its back, leaving scarcely any marks. However, a shot was fired at its mouth, and this had the desired effect of getting rid of the monster. It evidently felt the bullet, for it gave a slash with its tail and disappeared. Figure 1 represents the back of the phenomenon as seen from the vessel's side, and figure 2 its tail as noticed just as the fish parted company.
Santa Cruz Islands
Captain James Runcie
The species was distinguished in April 1828 after the harpooning of a 4.6 metres (15.1 ft) specimen in Table Bay, South Africa. Andrew Smith, a military doctor associated with British troops stationed in Cape Town, described it the following year. The name "whale shark" comes from the fish's physiology, being as large as some species of whales and also a filter feeder like many whale species.