Humphrey Simmons, a Bahamian portfolio manager, often tells the story about the shark he caught last month.
On the island, Nassau, Simmons’ shark is known as “the shark,” because it’s the one that had a body inside of it.
“Someone came up to me yesterday and, my friend was like, this was the guy who caught the shark,” Simmons tells us. “He thought it was a hoax, he was laughing.”
“But I convinced him.”
Simmons’ story gets gruesome – he remembers what a body looks like when it’s decomposing – but it’s amazing (and we’ll warn you before you’re about to read something gross with this: <>. When you see the <> again, you’ll know it’s safe to start reading).
“I go out deep fishing once or twice a month,” says Simmons, who managers a “small” portfolio for Xanthos Investment, an offshore fund management company.
“Work has decreased,” he says, because heavier financial regulations have hit the Bahamas too, it seems.
“Most of the clients say the cost of doing business in the Bahamas has increased.”
So in his increasing off time, Simmons ventures out on his 30-foot cabin cruiser, a fully-equipped deep sea fishing boat. He says he frequently encounters sharks on his fishing trips.”When you’re pulling up a grouper or a red snapper, a shark will come along and eat it off your line,” he explains. “It’s a common occurrence.”
Simmons and the two friends he took with him that day planned to fish around the shark as usual. They use squid as bait (sharks like fish, not squid) and whenever they encounter a shark, they move to the next area. Usually, the sharks won’t surface (they don’t like the sunlight) and they won’t follow the boat when it travels to a new location, so they don’t bother the fishermen.
“We weren’t trolling or anything (fishing while driving at a slow pace),” he explains about how he deep-sea fishes. Simmons and his two friends anchor the boat stationary and hover over a spot, then an electric reel sends the line down around a thousand feet.
You don’t often see a shark face-to-face, he explains, but when you do, “You’ll notice they’re really rank.”
Simmons vividly remembers the way the shark smelled that day. They had started fishing around 8 am.
“Stanley shouted out, ‘tiger shark’!” says Simmons. A shark had stolen a fish from Stanley.
“Of course we see them all the time, but not that size – the shark was half the size of the boat.”
Then he slammed into side boat.
“We didn’t really feel it – it was just the side of the boat. So we left the area and went 2 miles away.”
Before they left, Simmons snapped a picture of the shark with his cameraphone (“I’m not a techie – it’s an old phone,” he says). He had noticed something funny in the shark’s mouth.
“We thought it was a grouper or something.”
Then, at the next spot, Simmons’ friend Keith pulled up his line, and just before reaching surface, a shark snapped his line.
“It’s a normal occurence,” says Simmons. They thought nothing of it.
Now it was time for Simmons to pull up his line.
“I noticed it was really heavy, like something was dragging on it,” he says.
The shark was on the line. He had followed.
“He was chasing after my grouper,” Simmons explains. “There are 6 hooks on my rigging and the shark was hooked on the bottom. The grouper hooked on top.”
“While he was hooked, he was still trying to catch my grouper,” Simmons says excitedly. He was not about to surrender his catch to a shark he had just spent 10 minutes fighting.
“I had the gaff (a fishing hook) and I was trying to pull the shark to cut him loose.”
Then something gross happened. The shark burped up a foot, attached to a leg from the knee down.
“The leg popping out was a shock at first <> but because it was starting to decay, it didn’t look that real,” he says. “The skin was starting to come off and you could see all of the muscle tissues (fibres) – some were white and some were red with blood.”
Simmons remembers the leg in excruciating detail.
“And some parts of it were more decayed than others,” he says. “The leg was gone but the foot was still there. The toenails were still on.” <>
“It wasn’t as gruesome,” Simmons pauses for a long time. “It was gruesome, but it wasn’t as frightening as you think. Because it looked unreal.”
Stanley quickly shot the shark. A friend of Simmons’ had a father who had gone missing on a boat trip six days earlier. He thought the leg might be a clue.
“My first instinct was to gather the leg because it was floating,” he says. “After catching my composure, I hooked the foot and brought it in.”
Turns out, Simmons’ had snapped a picture of the leg in the shark’s mouth hours earlier. Simmons still has the photo. He says you can tell now that what’s in the shark’s mouth is a leg (he doesn’t know how to send pictures with his phone, so he couldn’t send it to us).
With the foot on board, they radio-ed in the “defence force,” as Simmons’ calls it.
“Then we started to tow in the shark and about a half an hour later, we met up with the defence force,” who towed the shark in the rest of the way.
Once they got it on shore, a team of about four morticians began removing body parts from inside the shark’s body.
Simmons is very impressed with the morticians and the work they did.
“I have to give kudos to the morticians because I would not have done what they did in terms of taking parts of the body out and putting them in a body bag with their hands (they had gloves of course).”Some wore masks over their faces to block the smell, but some didn’t.
“Have you ever smelt a decomposing human?” he asked us. “The scent stayed in my nose for two days. I’ve smelled dead animals before and it wasn’t anything like that, by far the stinkiest thing I’ve ever smelled.”
“I was finally able to eat on Monday (two days later).”
So the morticians, who cut the shark’s body open and removed the body parts, handled the situation with the utmost respect.
“They cut the shark’s body open and <> you could see the right leg and the two arms and the torso, which was cut in two,” he says. “The skin was like jelly coming off the rib cage.”
“Everything that came out was like coated in a tan colour, because everything already started to decay.”
“The head part – it didn’t have a head – that was the only strange part of all of this,” says Humphrey, jaded from the experience. He doesn’t even have a picture from the day framed, let alone the shark’s head mounted on a wall.
“I guess they eat their prey and after they’ve digested everything, they regurgitate out what they don’t want. The head would probably take longer to dissolve, it’s such a hard object.”
“I think [the shark] was too full, also.” <>
The morticians, the defence team (about fifteen people), and the missing man’s family were able to identify the body, the missing man Simmons had first suspected, using fingerprint analysis. The conclusion is that the man drowned, and the shark ate his body later.
Simmons tells the story – and shows off the photos on his phone – all the time.
“Mine are way better than the defence team’s,” he says.
We are left to only imagine. The defence teams’ photos and a couple from Simmons’ friend (the two of Simmons that are interspersed throughout this story) are only photos we have.
We’ve included the more gruesome photos in another (updated) story. Click here to see >
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