A Fish Story (pt. 4)

Dublin Core


A Fish Story (pt. 4)


This is part 4 of 4, from an article series written by Lorrin Thurston, on his recent trip to Palmyra. This true "fish story", describes young crew member Teddy Dranga's fight with a giant eel, who had swallowed the fish, that had swallowed Teddy's bait fish. In other words, he didn't so much catch the eel, as catch the eel while it had caught his fish. They call it a "round robin" catch, and it's a delightful story.

Interestingly, it also mentions that to prove the story to folks back in Honolulu, photographs were taken of the fishes involved, and the eel itself was skinned and donated to the Bishop Museum!

Thurston owned the Honolulu Advertiser at the time, and had a vested interest in the commercial success of Palmyra, so a number of articles like this were run to promote interest in the atoll.


Lorrin A Thurston




Honolulu Advertiser




Public Domain



Text Item Type Metadata


Wherein figure a 4-inch Ma-Ni-Ni, A 15-inch Ha-Pu-U-Pu-U, a Giant Yellow Eel, and Ted Dranga

By Lorrin A Thurston

We were camped on Palmyra island, a coral atoll, 960 miles southeast of Honolulu - the Professor, the Count, Ted Dranga and I, in search of sea shells and adventure. We found plenty of both, so-be-it the latter was of the mild type.

The mild, one of the most interesting, was the fact that we had figured on the return of the fishing sampan which had brought us, in three weeks, and had a stock of provisions to meet that schedule. The sampan was tend days over due, and we had “gone on rations,” to husband the imported stuff for varieties sake. The local supply was unlimited in quantity, with thousands of cocoanuts; land crabs as big as a child’s head, galore; the hear of the leaf crown of the cocoanut trees as a vegetable - and a delicious one it is - and innumerable fish of many varieties as a standby.

Soon Tire of Unaccustomed Dish

Although in no danger of starvation, it is surprising how soon one tires of an unaccustomed diet.

One day ?? of fare called for fish - and although a single cast of the throw net would have grabbed a score of fine mullet within a hundred feet of camp, in a few minutes, it was voted that a mess of deep lagoon fish, from a spot a half mile away, would better fill the bill.

Accordingly Ted Dranga, our fishing expert, threw the casting net, enveloping a small school of Ma-ni-ni, or "Conviet fish,” a flat, round fish, some four inches in diameter. Taking these for bait, he rowed over in the flat bottom skiff, to the lagoon, baited his hook with a Ma-ni-ni, dropped it overboard and prepared to await results. Before he could think twice results began to happen.

The line stiffened with a snap that cut into his hands and nearly jerked him overboard.

Giant Eel Looms Up

With visions of a big ulua for dinner running through his mind’s eye, Dranga dragged in his catch, until there loomed up from the depths before his startled eyes a giant eel, struggling, squirming, tying himself into a figure eight and churning the sea into foam! It was not an ordinary brown eel, but was of a brilliant yellow color - as yellow as lemon peel - with long rows of inky black rings an inch or so in diameter, extending along its sides for its full length and peppered all over with black dots. It also had an erect, continuous fin four inches high, extending along its back from head to tail, which with its wide open mouth lined with gleaming sharp teeth, gave it a most menacing appearance!

Under Dranga’s steady pull it was dragged, writhing and plunging, to the boat’s edge.

Caused Cold Chills

It was so big, active and ferocious looking as its great head came up over the gun’l of the boat, that cold chills ran up and down Dranga’s spinal marrow. He said afterwards that it was the only thing he had ever hooked that he was afraid to take into the boat. “But,” he thought to himself, “he’s got my hook and I can’t afford to lose it!”

After a battle lasting several minutes, during which the eel struggled so desperately that it was an open question whether Dranga would drag the eel in, or the eel would drag Dranga out of the boat, the writhing, twisting mass of yellow energy landed in the boat, with Dranga huddled at the stern, ready to dive overboard if the eel charged - and it looked as though it might do so!

And the the most astonishing thing happened:

Disgorges 15-inch Fish

With a convulsive shudder the eel raised its head, opened its mouth and disgorged a "Ha pu-u-pu-u” (a sort of rock bass) fifteen inches long and a head that was all mouth, some five inches in diameter!

The Ha-pu-a-pu-u had been bitten square in two, across the middle, the tail half being attached to the other half by a mere shred of skin.

The fish line entered the mouth of the Ha pu u pu u, and upon prying open its cavernous mouth, the Ma ni ni bait was discovered at the far end of the Ha pu u pu u’s stomach unmangled with the hook still attached as it had been placed by Dranga - but protruding so that it had stuck into the interior of the stomach of the Ha pu u pu u!

How the Eel was Hooked

What had happened was this:

The Ha pu u pu u had swallowed the Ma ni ni at one gulp, the hook taking firm hold in the former’s interior.

The eel had then lunged at the Ha pu u pu u, cutting it in two across the middle, as clean as a butcher’s cleaver. By a continuous motion it had then opened its jaws wider and without a second’s hesitation had swallowed the fish whole!

The hook had not stuck into the eel at all. It had been dragged into the boat simply by its stubborn hold on the Ha pu u pu u!

It was a Round Robin Catch

In time the eel quieted down, ??? completed his mess of fish and returned to camp with the tale of his round robin catch - that is Dranga caught the Manini, the Manini caught the Hapuupuu, the Hapuupuu caught the eel and then Dranga ??? in the eel, completing the circle.

Thinking that some scoffer might question this historical statement, we fortified the round by make the measurements above set forth; double banked it with a photograph of Dranga holding the Manini in one hand and the ??? Hapuupuu in the other and the Count holding the eel suspended, reaching from the Count’s shoulder to the ground.

As a third proof of historical accuracy, the Count skinned the eel, announcing that he was going to have it stuffed as a parlor ornament and a souvenir of the joyful occasion.

Had Proof in Photo

The Bishop Museum has fallen heir to the eel hide - somewhat shrunken, shriveled and disfigured, and I have the photo, which is open to inspection by truth lovers. I am going to prepare to meet the recording angel with supporting ??? ??? in by the Professor, the Count and Dranga, as to the truth of this fish story, if the Devil’s advocate questions ??? ??? judgement day!



Lorrin A Thurston, “A Fish Story (pt. 4),” Palmyra Archive, accessed August 11, 2020, http://palmyraarchive.org/items/show/228.