Part way through the text I was thinking "otter" . Then, the woman's description of it resembling a large sea-otter, nailed it.
The sea-otter only grows to 5ft though and even the giant otter to a length of 6ft so, this particular specimen, unless the reported size was an exaggeration, was a giant indeed.
Forgotten Sea Serpents of 1888 - 1889
Posted: 02 Feb 2019 03:14 AM PST
Another month, so let's continue with the task of documenting nineteenth century sea serpent sightings which managed to avoid the gaze of all major researchers, such as Oudemans, Gould, and Heuvelmans, but which serendipitously turned up in obscure Australian newspapers, frequently long after the event. In this post we shall concentrate on the years 1888 and 1889.
Connecticut, March 1888
The nineteenth century saw a lot of sea serpent activity around New England. In this case, it was close to the Cornfield Point Lightship, which was positioned at the mouth of the Connecticut River from 1856 to 1957. The earliest account I discovered was in the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW) of Thurs 7 June 1888, and it cited an undated edition of the N. Y. Herald. However, I have decided to take a later version which is almost identical, except that it provides the date. It is the Victorian Express (Geraldton,W.A.) of Saturday 16 June 1888, on page 3.
AGAIN THE SEA SERPENT
ONE HUNDRED FEET LONG AND AS ROUND AS A FLOUR BARREL
Stonington, Con., March 29. - The schooner Coral, Captain Sherman, is now at this port awaiting favorable weather to proceed to Greenport. To your correspondent Captain Sherman reported that on Friday last [23 March], when his vessel was in the vicinity of Cornfield Lightship, there suddenly appeared astern and not two hundred feet [60 m] away an immense sea monster that fully answered the description previously given of sea serpents. Captain Sherman say he had a perfect view of the monster. He described it as being over one hundred feet [30 m] in length, and in some portions its body was as large round as a flour barrel. The head of the serpent resembled that of an alligator. The captain called his mate, and they both watched the animal until it passed out of sight in the direction of the mouth of the Connecticut River. It passed over the water at quite a rapid gait, and as almost the entire body was on the surface of the water the men had a good view of the creature, and both feel confident that they saw a veritable sea serpent. Captain Sherman appears to be a thoroughly reliable man, and has been master of a vessel for thirteen years, during which time he has made several voyages to the Grand Banks, where almost all species of animals that inhabit the sea are to be found, but never before has he seen anything like the monster above referred to.
Rhode Island, 1888
This event took place near Point Judith, which is roughly halfway along the coast of Rhode Island, at 41° 36' N, 71° 48' W. There is a reference to an earlier one at Watch Hill, which is at the westernmost point of Rhode Island. Presumably this was described in some earlier American newspaper. The following story is taken from page 5 of the Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic) of Saturday 10 November 1888.
The Sea Serpent
The sea serpent (says the New York Sun) has again been sighted, and the newspaper wits will revive the old, old jests at its expense. After having been discovered off Watch Hill a few days before, the mysterious monster was encountered recently to the south-east of Point Judith by Captain Delory, of the sloop Mary Lane.
But we can tell these sharp young men of the newspapers that existence of the sea serpent is no jesting matter. It has been the subject of serious scientific discussion for many years past, and zoologists are now by no means disposed to scoff at the possibility that there is in the sea a creature such as Captain Delory reports having seen, and which may be a modified type of monsters of past geological periods of which we have the fossil remains.
Captain Delory describes the Point Judith sea serpent as having a head like an alligator's, with jaws that 'looked to be at least five feet [150 cm] in length, and were studded with teeth six inches [15 cm] long, while the eyes were as large as the crown of a hat. Back from the head ran a huge fin, which was kept straight.' The entire length he estimates as about seventy feet [21 m]. This recalls the graphic description of the fossil ichthyosaurus and plesiosaurus in Hawkin's 'Extinct Monsters of the Ancient Earth.'
The rest of the article continues with a discussion of said ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. The journalist would have been better off taking his tongue out of his cheek and asking a few questions on such details as distance, time, colour, width, movement, and so forth.
South Atlantic, August 1888
This account comes from the Age (Melbourne), Saturday 15 December 1888, page 11.
THE SEA SERPENT SURPASSED
The sea serpent is completely thrown into the shade by a creature which has been seen in latitude 39.50 south and longitude 00.13 west. Mr. Webster, chief officer of the ship Bienvenu, has written to the Calcutta papers saying that on August 4, when the ship was hove-to in a strong gale, the second officer, Mr. Parsons, who was on watch, reported that between 4 and 5 in the morning a tremendous living monster passed the port side of the vessel measuring nearly as long as the ship itself. It had large wings or ears, two immense humps on its back 14 or 15 feet [4½ m] high, and a tail like a whale. The monster had two eyes the size of teacups, while its back was covered with shells or scales resembling barnacles as large as cocoanuts. It remained near the ship for 20 minutes, its movements being very slow. It is to be hoped that a party of scientific men will, without loss of time, charter a ship and proceed in pursuit of the monster. It differs so entirely from all other described creatures that its capture will create a prodigious sensation, for even the extinct prediluvian monsters were shapely and agreeable to look upon in comparison with this uncouth beast, with large wings or ears, and two immense humps. The public will be glad to learn how many of the Bienvenu also saw this creature, and whether their impressions correspond with those of the second officer. In matters of natural history the minutest accuracy is important. - Standard
I am sure we can all agree on the last sentence. It is not clear whether anybody but Mr. Parsons saw the monster but, considering it was in view for 20 minutes, it is likely there were others. Nevertheless, the wee small hours of the morning is not a good time for visibility, and the strong gale would imply a choppy sea. I suspect this is an exaggerated description of a humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae. I've noticed the same mistake in Australian waters. The "large wings or ears" were the very long pectoral fins which give the whale its scientific name. (Megaptera means "big fin".) Its body also possesses large numbers of pale rugosities, "as large as cocoanuts", which serve as anchorages for barnacles. And, of course, it does have a tail like a whale. The incongruities are its being almost as long as the ship, and the two very tall humps. However, if the tail was seen, we must assume it was swimming, albeit slowly, by flexing its body, and who knows how that would appear under the lighting conditions?
Pacific Coast off Oregon, ? January 1889 or late 1888
This stretch of coast has long been notorious for sightings of an elongated, vertically flexing creature whimsically labelled "Cadborosaurus", and the next report is a perfect early example. It comes from the Brisbane Courier (Brisbane), Friday 18 January 1889, page 6, MAIL NEWS.
THE SEA SERPENT AGAIN
The regular annual sea serpent has made his appearance again. He is a little out of his latitude this time, having been seen in a place where heretofore he has never been known to roam. There is no doubt as to the identity of the creature, as it is vouched for by several parties who are known as strictly temperate men, whose eyes have not been accustomed to seeing every variety of snakes floating in the air and in every conceivable position. Captain Edgar Avery, of the barque Estrella, while coming from Tacoma to this city [San Francisco] with coal, descried the monster when the barque was passing the Umpqua River. The serpent, for such the captain solemnly declares it to be, was swimming on the surface of the water in a southerly direction. The barque at the time was headed south-south-east, and when the captain first noticed the reptile it was about 200 yards off, and was apparently not the least disconcerted by the proximity of the vessel. As it was 10 o'clock in the morning, and the sun was shining brightly, the startled captain had a good view of the serpent. When he was satisfied that he beheld a real live serpent, and not a creation of his imagination, the captain sprang below and got his rifle, calling to his wife and crew to come on deck and view the wonder. The lady and several of the crew came on deck and plainly saw the monster swimming by. He appeared to be about 80ft. [24 m] long, and as big round as a barrel. He rode over the waves with is head and about 10ft. [3 m] of his body elevated above water, every now and then dipping his immense head into the water, the body making gigantic convolutions while gliding caterpillar-like over the waves. The head was flat, or "dished," as the captain described it, and the body appeared to be covered with scales. About 10ft. of what might properly be called the neck was covered with coarse hair, resembling a mane. After viewing the monster for a time, the captain raised his rifle and fired several shots at it, but the bullets fell short. The sea serpent seemingly paid no attention to the shooting, but kept on his way. The excited spectators kept it in view for fully a half-hour, when, without any apparent flurry, it sank out of sight in the sea, and was not seen after. - San Francisco Alla
Galápagos Islands, 1889
This is a short paragraph from the Evening News (Sydney), Saturday 21 September 1889, page 5.
Here He is Again!
THE SEA SERPENT KILLED.
A dispatch from Panama to the San Francisco CHRONICLE, dated August 1, says: Captain William F. Smith, of the bark Nautilus, reports that when off Cape Berkeley, Galapagos Islands, a sea serpent was seen about thirty yards from the vessel. Captain Smith estimated the serpent's length at 80ft [24 m], and he was about as large round as a barrel in the thickest part.
The head was shaped like a snake's, only on the extreme end of the upper jaw there was a ridge or bunch. The head was about 3ft [90 cm] in length, and about 2ft [60 cm] back of the head was a mane of hair. No fins were seen. The tail was long and tapering, and shaped like that of an eel. The captain and mate loaded two bomb-guns, and banged away at him, and for about fifteen minutes there was quite a circus, the serpent lashing the water with his tail, and running his head out 4ft or 5ft [1.2 - 1.5 m]. At last he ran out his head, whisked around, and sank, dead.
Did it really happen? In this series I have deliberately omitted outrageous stories which are clearly hoaxes, including tales about the sea serpent being killed and the body brought back for scientific investigation - stories whose expected follow-ups never occur. I suspect this belongs in that category. The reason, however, I am not prepared to completely rule it out is that there exists a much better documented case of H.M.S. Hilary using a sea serpent for target practice in 1917. I shall spare you my opinion of this sort of behaviour.
Four More Forgotten Sea Serpents
Posted: 02 Apr 2019 03:29 PM PDT
Once again I shall continue with my program of publishing old "sea serpent" reports which had evaded the attention of earlier researchers, such as Oudemans, Gould, and the redoubtable Heuvelmans. As before, my sources are the old Australian newspapers digitalised by the Australian National Library under the title of Trove. No doubt, as more and more nations digitalise their newspapers, more and more incidents will come to light, if other researchers take the time to unearth them.
North Atlantic, 1873
I'm assuming the Western Islands in the article refer to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Therefore, the site of the incident must have been a bit west of Ireland, perhaps about 55° N, 15° E, give or take a few degrees. A major problem is that it wasn't reported until 18 years after the event. This comes from the Tasmanian (Launceston), Saturday 12 September 1891, on page 4.
The Sea Serpent
Yet another sea serpent story has come to light, this time through the columns of an Adelaide journal. A contributor signing himself W. J. Horawell, relates his experience of this much discussed monster as follows:- In the year 1873 and the month of September, whilst on the return passage from the coast of Chili [sic] in the bark Glanrafon, 472 tons, J. Sharp, master; owners, Messrs Richardson and Co., Swansea; and being about 300 miles [500 km] W.S.W. of the Western Islands, therefore subject to the influence of the Gulf Stream. The ship was not making more than three knots per hour, although the wind was several points free and the yards checked in. During the morning we had seen many large pink objects near the surface and around about us, but none close enough for observation, or to ascertain what they were without going out of our course. About 11 30 a.m. I was sent aloft to arrange the gear for settling the maintopgallant studding sail, and seeing one about quarter mile distance and few points on the starboard bow, I reported it to the master, who ordered the helmsman to luff up but keep the sails full, with the object of passing close to it. Unfortunately this order did not permit of our passing within sixty feet [18 m] of it, although some of the sportsmen on board were prepared to harpoon it, with a hope of making a closer acquaintance and solving a mystery. Being still aloft and on the upper topsailyard at the time of passing it, and from this elevated position I was situated most advantageously for observing its form and size and on sketching it afterwards to another apprentice (W. White) who was on the mainyard, said it appeared somewhat different and this difference was accounted for by my being about 25ft [7½ m] above him. The general impression of those on deck was that its length was 40ft, but I think this was in excess of what should be seen by them, for they were unable to discern what I presumed to be the tail turned back over the body for about a third of its length. Therefore I am safe in saying its full length was 47ft [14.3 m], and at the broadest point 10ft [3m]. The master and all hands regretted we had not passed close to it.
With as little detail as this, at least it is unlikely he was making it up! Personally, I would not regard a width to length ratio of 21% to be very serpentine. This alone would suggest it was some sort of whale. It would not have been the last time a whale had been confused with a sea serpent. But what are we to make of the tail flipped back over its body for a third of its length? That doesn't sound very whale-like. And was it really pink? I haven't heard of any whales, or sea serpents, for that matter, of that colour. And how come there were not one, but "many large pink objects"? It is all very mysterious.
Puget Sound, 1891
The following case involves a more conventional, honest-to-goodness serpentine shape - in a very conventional setting. Similar sightings off the coasts of British Columbia and Washington have been frequent right up to the present day, so much so that the animal has received the whimsical name of "Caborosaurus". This report comes from the Petersburg Times (South Australia), Friday 11 December 1891, page 3. Note that the story apparently took four months to reach this obscure antipodean newspaper.
A Pacific Sea Serpent
A sea serpent in Puget Sound is the latest sensation. On Sunday, August 2, while rounding Port Williams about 7 o'clock in the evening the Sehome was passed by a huge sea monster from 30 to 40 feet [9 to 12 m]long and about a foot [30 cm] thick. It was seen by H. B. Street, the boat's quartermaster, and George W. Doney, the pilot. Street was standing near the pilot house when he saw the huge serpent swimming rapidly past the steamer. He did not realize what it was at first, but when it rose to the surface of the water he was rooted to the spot. He says the boat was running about twelve miles an hour [19 kph], but the serpent was swimming so rapidly that it passed immediately in front of the bow of the boat and went down on the opposite side.
In describing the scene Street said:
'I first thought it was a seal when I saw its head, but as it rose to the top of the water and I saw about ten feet [3 m] of it clear out of the water I knew it was not a seal. Then when I noticed how it lashed the water with its tail I saw that it was a sea serpent thirty or forty feet long, and it left a hundred feet [30 m] wake in the water behind it. As it passed around the bow of the boat it lowered its head and spread out a big fin on the upper part of its neck, just back of the head. It swam just like a snake and twisted itself through the water in regular snake fashion. I have been on the water a long time but never saw such a monster before. As soon as I saw what it was I called the pilot's attention to it, and he said at once that it was a sea serpent."
Both Street and Doney are reliable men whose word cannot be questioned, and the fact that they say they saw the monster beyond all doubt establishes the fact there is or was a sea serpent in the water of the sound among the many other wonderful creatures that are found in this arm of the sea.
North Atlantic, 1894
I don't like this story. In the first case, the distance appears to have been very great. In the second, as far as I can ascertain, the sighting took place during the morning twilight. But most of all, I don't like its style. It reads more like a short story than a news report. In the course of my investigations, I have come across "sea serpent" stories which do appear to have been intended as fictitious short stories. Nevertheless, this one was presented as if it were intended to be taken seriously as a news report, so I shall leave it to you to make up your own mind. After all, it might just that the journalist decided to insert his tongue into his cheek when he wrote up what the witness said. The source is the Evening News (Sydney), Saturday 23 June 1894, page 5.
Another Sea Serpent
STATEMENT ON AFFIDAVIT
MONSTER WATCHED FOR FIVE MINUTES
The sea serpent has been seen again, and by a teetotaller. Discreet and circumspect is First Officer Peters, of the American. The steamer is a "tank". He keeps his tongue from deceit and his lips from grog. So when he said that he had seen a chocolate sea serpent moving over a citron colored sea everyone believed him.
The American left Rotterdam on November 22, bound for New York, with her compartments full of water ballast. The morning of December 2 dawned with lowering clouds and a frost-laden air. A heavy sea was running, and yeasty waves bustled over the scene like the white capped cooks in a hotel kitchen at dinner time.
According to the patent log the tank was in latitude 43deg 55min and longitude 56 deg, which is south-west of the Banks of Newfoundland. At 1min past 7 o'clock Mr. Peters grasped the bridge railing convulsively and craned his neck three points to the port bow.
"Vas ist los mit Peters?" muttered the helmsman.
"Shut up!" roared the first officer. "Look behind you, man, and see that drunken zigzag wake you're making. Lose anything when you came over here the last time?"
"There, sir," said Mr. Peters, "about half a mile [800 m] away, three points off the port bow, I saw a great snake more than 100ft [30 m] long and as big around as a sugar hogshead. I could just see his back rising and falling in the sea. His head was under water and so was his tail."
"I could see," said Mr. Peters to a reporter, "little of this big fish, and I am sure that it was not a wreck, a whale, a school of porpoises, or a lot of seaweed. I have been at sea, man and boy, these 21 years, and I know that what I saw was a big fish or a snake. He moved with a wavy motion. He bent his back into arches until he looked like a lot of crankshafts. You could see the humps plainly. They rose and fell with a steady beat.
"The steamer was steering west by south and the sea serpent was headed for the south-east. He was of a dark brown color. For five minutes I stood on the bridge watching this great chocolate colored snake wriggling and squirming. When we sighted him he was on the port bow, as I was telling you. When I started down to tell the captain about it the sea serpent was just abeam.
"The captain and I came on deck a minute later and the sea serpent was gone. He had dived and disappeared. We looked for him a long time. All we could make out was the long trail of foam which he had left behind. He seemed to moved moved through the water as though he was urged on by a propeller. He left a wake like a naphtha launch.
"What makes me certain that it was a sea serpent? Well, he was not a whale, or he would have come to the surface to blow. He was not a porpoise, for he was not the right color. It could not have been a derelict, for it would not have sunk or left a wake."
Mr. Peters says that one of these days he will capture the sea serpent and discomfit the doubting Mr. Thomases by towing it into port.
Needless to say, if the animal had been swimming in vertical arches, it must have been a mammal. Snakes and eels flex horizontally.
This story comes from an obscure rural newspaper, the Glen Innes Examiner and General Advertiser of Friday 21 August 1896, on page 4. Note that, although it dated the event to "Friday night", this could have been any Friday in the previous few months. As for the setting, Redhead is a prominent headland near Arbroath, a town on the east coast of Scotland at approximately 56½° N, 2½° E.
THE SEA SERPENT
The sea serpent has again broken loose, and seems to be disporting himself off the Redhead, near Arbroath, Scotland. The crew of the fishing boat Diligence, which arrived late on Friday night at Arbroath from the deep-sea fishing, reported having encountered a sea serpent off the Redhead on the same evening. One reporter interviewed the crew, and elicited the following narrative of what actually occurred. - the skipper of the boat is Hugh Smith, residing in South Street, Arbroath, and the other members of the crew are Hugh Smith, jun., David Shepherd, Joe. Cargill, and Robert Smith. The skipper states that between five and six o'clock on Friday night, when the Diligence was about seven miles [11 km] off land, with the Redhead bearing N.W. by W., Shepherd, the Steersman, called attention to an object which he at first took to be the sale [sic] of another boat. The object stood straight out of the water about eight feet [2½ m] high, and the head, which was of considerable dimensions, was slowly turned round in the direction of the boat. The skipper, with great boldness, shouted to steer the boat straight for the animal, but this had hardly been done when the monster suddenly disappeared. A minute or two later, however, it again appeared, this time somewhat closer to the boat, and it stood out of the water for a couple of minutes or so, giving the fishermen ample opportunity of seeing it more closely. The body was about 14 inches [35½ cm] in diameter and its head was shaped like that of a serpent. What appeared to be the tail was seen at a distance of about 30 yards from the head. The animal appeared to be timid, and no sooner caught sight of the boat than it disappeared. It was, however, seen more than half a dozen times afterwards. As may be imagined, the fishermen were somewhat put about at the strange sight, but they are firmly of the belief that the animal was a veritable sea-serpent.
The fact that the whole crew was interviewed - but probably not separately - suggests this was not simply one man's hoax. The text is difficult to read, but it appeared to state the animal's diameter as 1¼ inches. This, of course, is absurd, and I note that the identical story in a later newspaper gives it as 14 inches, which I have followed. Even so, this precision is not normal for people estimating size at a distance, and I wonder if it were not a misprint. It also sounds surprisingly small for something with a head "of considerable dimensions", and with a tail 30 yards [90 feet or 27½ metres] from the head. What a pity the reporter did not ask a lot more questions!
About 20 years back I remember seeing a picture of what we would now call monster fish, this
was taken about 100 years ago in Fleetwood docks fish market, the fish were I seem to remember
Hake but I may be wrong in that, any way it showed a dock worker standing on one of these fish
and there were many others the same size. any one of which could have if it got a snot on swallowed him.
I believe the last such fish was sold to the Japanese after near 100 years in deep freeze unfortunately
I cant find any proof of this, Fish no longer get chance to grow to these sizes as trawlers have got very
good at hovering them up before they do, though a place was landed in Fleetwood a few years back
that measured 7ft tip to tip, though it was caught off Winscale so maybe other things need to be taken
into consideration on that one.