Sapadilli Tam - (A Sailor's Tale)
by: By James S. Martinez, for
Belize Audobon Society Newsletter Vol. 32 No. 4 - (January 2001)
PREFACE- Recently, tourists to Belize have been flocking to a southern caye for a unique ocean event. The unforgettable, mind blowing experience of swarming with the whale shark (Rhiniodon typus), largest of the shark family and largest fish in the world at over 40 ft in length, has stirred a lot of excitement in Belize. The magnificent fish, characterized by its huge size, wide mouth and distinctive pattern of spots, can be seen feeding amidst spawning snappers during certain months of the year.
But nearly eighty years ago, the legendary size and very existence of this monstrous fish was immortalized in a humorous poem by James S. Martinez entitled "Sapadilli Tam". The poem forms a part of a 1920 collection of his works entitled, Caribbean Jingles - Dialect and Other poems of British Handuras. James, the humble and self-educated son of a mahogany woodcutter, was a prolific poet whose simplistic style often captured and reflected the local atmosphere of that period of our Belizean History. Early British Honduran fishermen nicknamed the Whale Shark "Sapadilli Tam" because the huge fish was frequently sighted around Sapodilla Cayes off the Southern Coast of Belize.
You want to hear of of w'at I know,
Now list'n don't y'u be supprise;-
De fust time dat I seen dat shark,
Jus' den dere came in sight a sail,
But w'en it get to us quite near.
He check his speed den round us swim;
He start at once de food to eat,
An' so it was we get away,
Dere's some strange story dat I hear,
A dorey once was coming o'er,
So we'n dey went asho' an' look,
'Tis also tol' dat coc'nut tree,
But many a time about dat sea,
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