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Mention Manhattan and sharks together, and high-priced lawyers might spring to mind. But for some time in 1800’s, large sharks were routinely caught in the waters surrounding the heart of New York City.

In fact, in 1880 there was a documented attack on a small boat by a group of sharks in the Verrazano Narrows, south of Manhattan Island. The captain fought then off with a wooden sear ripped from the vessel.

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Sharks were actively sought by a few practitioners of chain and hook fishing off the piers that lined below Manhattan. By using a chunk of meat for bait on such a primitive tackle, large sharks were caught in surprisingly high numbers, as many as seven in one day.

At the foot of Vesey Street along the lower Hudson River is a woodcutting of a crowd watching a ten-foot shark being hauled onto a dock using a chain and a hook, while one man readies a pistol at the fish’s head.

This phase in Manhattan’s history probably occurred because of a much greater number of sharks in the near shore coastal zone in those days, as well as the poor sanitation of that time, when meat scraps and other food wastes were dumped in the adjacent waters, forming an unintended shark-attracting chum slick.

Nowadays in the Big Apple, these sharks are gone, but lawyers still flourish.


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