Thursday, June 9, 2011

Peeking at Ivan's SITU files: meaningless reports of sea monsters.Part four.

Onwards into the depths of the ocean in search of monsters!!! Ten more newsclippings from Ivan will get us to forty so far. Whenever I get involved in an anomalistic claim, and the pile of reports reaches up towards one hundred, I begin to get a creepy feeling that, regardless of the "strangeness" of whatever the business is, there seems to be some foundation to it --- and very likely NOT just the stupidity of us humans. Sea monsters, in the guise of the "serpent" or elongated variety, are starting to approach that level of "Hmmmm, Yes" in our current story. There have been some hoaxes in here; and there have been other non-credible weirdnesses, but a pattern is forming, isn't it?? Well, let's keep on, and see what there is to see.

Ivan's "individual reports" newsclips notebook offers us these next ten encounter claims:

#35: 38degrees south/ 13degrees east roughly in the Cape of Good Hope area, 1855. On another of those remarkably calm smooth water days, a huge thing raised its head 30 feet out of the water. The head was about twelve feet long. The body was black and estimated at 180 feet long. It was 20 feet in diameter. There was a white stripe down the side of the head, and a "pouch" of lighter-colored loose skin under the chin. On its back was at least one "protuberance" shaped like a small water cask.

#36: Lochs, Lewis, UK/ 1856. A "sea serpent" manifested in an inland lake near the ocean. It was 40 foot long.

#37: 29-degrees north/ 34+degrees west [roughly in the area of the Azores]/ 1856. In a sea so calm it was "glassy", an elongated undulating thing broke the surface, swimming strongly and creating ripples. It was 40 feet long and swam with its head raised.

#38: Near Bathurst, South Africa, coming from Madagascar or Mozambique area/ 1863. A huge "snake" manifest. It was about 100 feet long and swam with both head and tail out of the water. Its body was about a foot in diameter and dark brown. There was a "mane" on its head.

#39: 19-degrees south/ 10.6-degrees west [roughly near St.Helena Island]/ 1858. An "enormous sea serpent" swam rapidly with the ship, holding its head 30 feet out of the water.

#40: Waimarara Beach, New Zealand/ 1950. A carcass washed up on the beach [near Hastings] which was 30 foot long and with a head three feet wide. Described alternately as a "sea serpent", a huge "alligator-like" monster, or a decayed whale, the thing was stated as having one tusk sticking out of its head. A scientist said it was a Layards Whale, despite the fact that they only grow half this size

#41: Gloucester, MA/ 1817. Brief mention of this encounter with the "huge serpentine" monster with the head the size of a horse.

#42: Off the coast of Brazil [no further location given]/ 1905. A large strange animal with a head and neck like a huge turtle [raised up eight feet out of the surface], showed nearby a ship. It seemed to have "rubbery" skin. {My moneys on something in the "sea lion family" on this one}.

#43: During a military blockade in the North Sea/ 1917. An animal similar in description to the previous "turtle" surfaced and was fired upon by the British Navy.

#44: Long Beach Island, NJ/ 1906. This is the report which goes with the illustration/news story on this page. A "great snake" greater than 60 feet
long raised its head twenty feet above the surface. The head was like an eel's, but four feet in diameter and having eyes the size of dinner plates. Its mouth was four feet wide. The animal was black and its texture slick. No fins nor protuberances were seen. There was a flabby loose-skin gathering under its chin. It swam like slithering. This thing is a bit like a junior version of #35. Here's our accumulating map. A "little" variety taking place here, but it's obvious that we have a huge English-speaking reporting bias going on. It would be nice to hear of a completely different culture's collection of Sea Monster encounters. [I know that Heuvelmanns tried to do this and Gary Mangiacopra tries as best he can today but I'm not sure that we have a convincing culturally-independent set --- like we have, for instance, with UFOs].

As a sidenote: here's a better-look at the Ballard WA hoax monster which was featured as the Yarmouth UK monster of 1897, even though this monstrosity was made in 1907. Another bunch of fun-loving very unhelpful idiots at work.


  1. Aha! That Yarmouth critter was a hoax after all.

    All of these huge heads and unusually long necks ('8 feet above water') are so suggestive of plesiosaurs that it makes one wonder. The locations on your map fall within typical regions were plesiosaur fossils have been found too. I'm not saying that proves anything and I'm aware of the coastal changes over the millions of years. Nevertheless, it's an interesting convergence of information.

    Unless we assume *all* reports are misidentifications and hoaxes (where have we heard that before?), it's really difficult to imagine what animal was being seen. Plesiosaur fulfils many of the criteria, but is it conceivable that such a large predator could survive in small numbers after it was supposedly extinct?

    I notice that most of the sightings are reported after the first discovery of plesiosaur fossils in 1844; perhaps an element of hoax crept in after publication? Whatever the case, it's quite a puzzler and something I haven't considered since childhood.

  2. Apologies. I meant to link this illustrated article for others to have a look at; it's quite interesting. :)

  3. Thanks for the comments and the link.

    Regarding plesiosaur survival: if you have the oceans to inhabit, then avoiding ordinary detection is no problem, if you are "shy" enough not to get into big fishing nets. But this awareness allows for a great variety of currently uncatalogued "monsters", so plesiosaurs are "in competition" with a lot of imaginable things for crypto-star-of-the-Deep. The real interest to me vis-a-vis detection is what the United States Navy's submarines may or may not have detected. Their systems [including satellite intel] probably should detect creatures of significant size regularly, and in widely uncovered [by fishing fleets] areas. There should be relatively little opportunity to hide from the USN. The Navy will, however, NOT be interested in telling any of us [including biologists] about this, as admission of what their systems can detect tells "others" about the systems' characteristics. Who knows how long we'll have to wait for the "news".

    Regarding Yarmouth: what we've "proved" is not that the case was a hoax, but that the picture was. If the picture was all that there was to it, then the case IS a hoax. What would be nice to know is whether there was a sighting (sightings) of some kind, and then years later some screw-ass saw the Ballard WA picture and "re-visited" the Yarmouth claims by posting this hoax.

  4. Thanks for posting the clipping. Very cool. I'd love to see that 1856 Isle of Lewis clipping. I have a clipping from, I think, the same year, from the London Times about much excitement concerning one of those creatures "reported from time to time in Highland lochs." I got the reference to it from Costello's book on lake monsters. It sounds like you have a different clipping, since I don't believe the LT article made any reference to anything being 40 feet long. It just talks about guys sitting in trees with guns hoping to get a shot at the monster! I'm searching my brain - is the water-horse reference in Boswell's account of his and Johnson's tour of the Hebrides on the Isle of Lewis? Here, I'll check... Nope, it's Rasay. If I had a scanner, I'd send you a copy of the London times piece, which I don't have time to ferret out of my files at the moment.
    Hope you're doing better!

  5. Alas, it does look like the same article, most likely. I found the text of the Times article online:


    While researching for his book In Search Of Lake Monsters, Peter Costello uncovered the following article from the London Times dated March 6, 1856:

    The Sea Serpent in the Highlands

    The village of Leurbost, Parish of Lochs, Lewis, is at present the scene of an unusual occurrence. This is no less than the appearance in one of the inland fresh-water lakes of an animal which from its great size and dimensions has not a little puzzled our island naturalists. Some suppose him to be a description of the hitherto mythological water-kelpie; while others refer it to the minute descriptions of the "sea-serpent," which are revived from time to time in the newspaper columns. It has been repeatedly seen within the last fortnight by crowds of people, many of whom have come from the remotest parts of the parish to witness the uncommon spectacle. The animal is described by some as being in appearance and size like "a large peat stack," while others affirm that a "six-oared boat" could pass between the huge fins, which are occasionally visible. All, however, agree in describing its form as that of an eel; and we have heard one, whose evidence we can rely upon, state that in length he supposed it to be about 40 feet. It is probable that it is no more than a conger eel after all, animals of this description having been caught in the Highland lakes which have attained huge size. He is currently reported to have swallowed a blanket inadvertently left on the bank by a girl herding cattle. A sportsman ensconced himself with a rifle in the vicinity of the loch during a whole day, hoping to get a shot, but did no execution.

  6. Just some sociological news: I rejected an uncivilized comment about one of our cryptozoologists, which, like almost all such tripe, offered no substance to the collegial search for truth. It was one more sad reminder of the depressing number of cheapshot jerks that the internet has empowered with the idea that their shallow opinions have a "right" to be broadcast to the detriment of all of our spirits... and even in another person's "internet home" which is a personal place and not a Hyde Park Corner open forum. As always, opinions are welcome if they are accompanied by substance and direct themselves to the objective issues without character smearing.



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