Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Swordfish to Tanning >> Swordfish

Swordfish

fishes, power and strong

SWORDFISH, an enormous mackerel-like fish (Xiphias gladius), representing alone the world-wide family Xiphiider. It has an elongate mackerel-shaped body which may equal is size that of the largest sharks, and whose muscles are astonishingly strong. A powerful forked tail, a lofty, sail-like dorsal fin, usually divided in adults, but continuous in the young, and other strong fins, give the creature a power and speed in swimming equaled by few oceanic animals. The skin is naked, more or less rough, and the flesh red in color and rich in flavor is greatly enjoyed when eaten. These fishes are predatory, obtaining their food by fierce forays upon flocks of lesser fishes. Their strength and sharp teeth are supplemented by the pro longation of the fore part of the skull into a horizontally flattened °sword;° composed of the consolidated vomer, ethmoid, arA pre maxillary bones. The excellence of this weapon and the power of attack is attested by the fre quent piercing of boats and even of large wooden ships, through which the sword has been deeply thrust before breaking off. Al

though occasionally seen in the Pacific, the swordfish is characteristic of and numerous only in the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea, and about the Antilles, where in summer it approaches the shore, in pursuit of schools of spawning fishes, and itself becomes the object of a profitable fishery, especially in Italian waters. Along the northern seaboard of the United States this is regarded as a prime summer sport. The fishermen cruise a few miles from the coast in small schooners, hav ing at the extremity of the bowsprit (from which the jibboom has been removed) a small platform supporting a belt-like rail of iron at the height of a man's waist, within which a harpooner may stand securely while his arms are free. Having sighted a swordfish, visible by its projecting backfin, the vessel is steered UD to it and a barbed harpoon is thrown to which is attached a rope by which the catch is hauled aboard. Consult Goode, G. B., 'Fishery (Washington 1884).