A Look Back… Missile Head Found Near Fort Myers Beach


 Shrimp trawlers have long been a staple business of Estero Island. Maybe one thing that keeps their profession interesting is every now and then something would get tangled up in their nets that would make for a great story during happy hour or after family dinner. Strange net catches are nothing new.

Two Strange Tales

In 2004 off the North East coast near Tynemouth, England, two brothers were presumed dead when their boat sank. Although the wreckage of their fishing vessel was discovered, their bodies never were – until 2007.

Oddly enough in the summer of 2007, a good friend of the two missing fishermen was out trawling. Pulling in his net he noticed a bizarre object. Upon closer inspection, he netted a human skull. Turning it over to authorities, who ran a DNA test on it, they were able to identify it as one of the two missing fishermen from 2004. The other missing body was never found.

Off the coast of Baja California was another peculiar catch. In June 2011 Mexican fishermen claimed to have caught a one-eyed shark. As photos circulated around the web, they came under scrutiny as being fake. Another twist in this story is that people began to speculate that the shark was actually the work of a special effects artist, as the shark had no gills.

When experts began to weigh in on the one-eyed shark, they said it could be a very rare case of holoprosencephaly. Known as HPE, “is the failure of the prosencephalon, or forebrain, to develop normally. . .Instead of the normal complete separation of the left and right halves of the forebrain, there is an abnormal continuity between the two sides,” according to the WebMD website. It causes defects in the development of the face and in brain structure and function.

It is not known if the photos of the shark were indeed faked or if it was deformed shark.


Guided Missile 20 Miles From Beach

US Air FOrce Northrop SM-62 SNARK Missile
US Air Force Northrop SM-62 SNARK Missile

The Eglin Air Force Base is located near Pensacola up in the panhandle area of Florida; but in January 1961, Fort Myers Beach residents began to wonder, perhaps that it just a little too close for comfort.

The crew of the Dallas Neal shrimp boat was trawling about 20 miles off shore when their net got tangled. Pulling their net in, they had caught some kind of guided missile.

One crewmember, Carl Hudson told a reporter “We didn’t know just what it was, but we did know that we didn’t want it.” They docked their boat and unloaded it there. The director of the NASA tracking station then took it to Eglin Air Force Base for examination.

Authorities at the base from the Eglin Testing Grounds identified it as an “air-breathing SNARK” which was an early model intercontinental range ground-launched cruise missile. Eglin Air Force Base defined it as “not an actual rocket but is powered by a jet-type engine.” The missile was in use from 1958-1961

Residents expressed concern that the “air-breathing SNARKs” are a little close being only 20 miles from the beach and in the area where shrimp boats work.


Most Recent Strange Catch 

The most recent odd catch was a goblin shark caught off the coast of Key West. In May 2014 fishermen reeled in a “prehistoric looking goblin shark that is the rarest of all sharks ever to be seen by human eyes,” according to the Daily Mail. The shark measured 18-feet long and had a red/pink hue to it.

The goblin shark is known to swim the deep waters of Japan, making the appearance of one in the Gulf extremely unlikely.

The crew snapped many pictures then released the shark.

 T. M. Jacobs

Southwest Florida historian T. M. Jacobs serves as an advisor to the Southwest Florida Historical Society and is a regular contributor of articles about early life on the beach. His latest book “The 1864 Diary of Union Civil War Solider Sergeant Samuel E. Grosvenor: A first-hand account of the horrors at Andersonville Prison,” available at Gulf Coast Bookstore (1815 Fowler, Fort Myers) and Amazon.com.