[Adapted from Lying Wonders, Strangest Things]:
God’s creations are endless, not only as witnessed in stars afar, but also right here within the confines of tiny earth.
In May of 2017, a gigantic blob washed ashore in Indonesia. What was it? At seventy-two feet long and twelve feet in girth, it was a good question: this big “something” of flesh, bone, and sinew.
Locals immediately figured: giant squid. Those are certainly known to history!
The problem: giant squid are not known to surpass forty-five feet in length.
Odds are, alas, it was nothing more exotic than a decaying whale carcass…
Many years ago in St. Augustine, Florida, a similar mass of blubber washed in with the waves.
In this case, what greeted the eyes of curiosity-seekers was twenty-three feet long and totally unrecognizable, said to have a “head” resembling that of a seal, if the part they were looking at was the head.
The badly decayed carcass was first sighted the evening of November 30, 1896, by two boys named Herbert Coles and Dunham Coretter, riding bikes along the barrier island. Post-haste, they summoned a local physician, who, after examining it, wrote: “The head is as large as an ordinary flour barrel and has the shape of a sea lion head. The neck, if the creature may be said to have a neck, is of the same diameter as the body. The mouth is on the underside of the head and is protected by two tentacle tubes about eight inches in diameter and thirty feet long. These tubes resemble an elephant’s trunk and obviously were used to clutch any object within their reach in a sucker-like fashion…”
Color: silvery pink. Texture? Virtually axe-proof, the skin four inches thick. Weight: it took four horses and a team of perspiring humans to drag it from the crashing waves!
Imaginations were at full throttle. At first it was thought to be a squid, then an octopus (with what were guessed might once have been hundred-foot-long tentacles!). Call it a “globster.”
But again… in the end… guessed to be nothing more than the putrefied head of a sperm whale.
But that’s not to say there aren’t mysteries out there.
Reports of “sea monsters” are legion — and often bafflingly consistent — through history — so many, in fact, that one can be excused for wondering if there had been, and may still be, remnants of the dinosaur age, huge beasts that navigated or navigate the seas, perhaps in tunnels we know nothing about, linking oceans to lakes, never seen by our deep-sea equipment, let alone explorers such as Ponce de Leon and Magellan. Might it be that ancient seafaring maps depicting serpentine oceanic creatures were not quite the fiction they seem?
An interesting proposition, for reports date back to Aristotle – and through time. In 1555, an archbishop from Sweden, Olaus Magnus, compiled a survey of zoology and described marine animals “of vast magnitude, namely two hundred feet long, and moreover twenty feet thick” that hid in shoreline caves and, when they came out, devoured all they saw — including, it seems, the occasional unfortunate proximate sailor. Curiosity has its price! In 1028 A.D. a Christian, Saint Olaf, is said to have killed a sea serpent in Valldal, Norway.
In the following centuries, captains and other observers spoke of aquatic reptiles with snake-like bodies such that “humps” rose from the waves like massive hose and fell like a roller-coaster — or had long necks that poked in view in a way that recalled a plesiosaur from the Mesozoic.
And not all were ancient history: I spoke to a man, Robert Frew, who with wife and four friends caught sight of what they were sure was a plesiosaur on Memorial Day, 1982, along the eastern shore of Maryland – the Chesapeake. It was around seven in the evening, no doubt after hamburgers and salad, Robert said, that, peering across the water with binoculars, he spotted a thirty-foot creature; hardly the birds and frolicking swimmers and sailboats he expected to see… at first discerned as a dark object in shallow water but, as Frew stared, first through the binoculars, and then a camcorder — as others, equally transfixed, took their turns viewing it – showed its size and shape: snake-like with the girth of an adult human thigh. They watched as the slithering, undulating black creature make its way near swimmers in five feet of water – littoral, diving and resurfacing… with most of those frolicking folks oblivious to it.
Some called it “Chessie,” and others reported it as fifty or more feet long, one sighting in the Potomac. Similar “creatures” were cited along the tip of northeastern Massachusetts. During a visit to Lake Champlain in 1993, I asked the first person I saw on the New York side if she had ever seen anything unusual in the water (here there is the legend of “Champie”), and she asserted emphatically and with no hesitation in the affirmative: a sauric head that once poked out of the often smooth water near an inlet bridge we had just crossed.
Could such creatures really exist in the modern world, and in lakes that, while deep, should not allow, in theory, for a large animal to hide quite so readily? Some hypothesize existence of undiscovered subterranean networks that connect inland lakes with the ocean. Others believe there’s a sea under China with the capacity of all five of the Great Lakes. The Cross Cave system in Slovenia includes twenty-two underground lakes! As Dante wrote, “Through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea…”
Legend has it that Lake Tahoe, with a maximum depth of 1,645 feet, is linked to an underground system that feeds into Pyramid Lake north of Reno. Lake Tahoe’s monster: “Tessie.”
There are at least three hundred lakes in North America alone with monster legends.
But here it becomes peculiar: while frequently bringing to mind an aquatic dinosaur, such “monsters” are often seen at spots of ritual.
At Loch Ness, famed occultist Aleister “The Beast” Crowley conjured “Nessie” from his home on the shore, a house known for the smell of sulfur and built on a site where an ancient church had burned down, next to a “haunted” graveyard…
It was nearby, at the River Ness, that another Christian, Saint Columba, did battle with a serpent, causing the enormous “water beast” to flee circa 565 A.D.
Native religio-mythology? Dragons. Serpents. Leviathan?
In North Dakota is Devil’s Lake with high cliffs, nubilous air, and spooky creatures. The Sioux called it “water spirit” (mni wak’áŋ chante) and insisted that one night a boatload of warriors were killed by it.
The Sioux believed an underground channel linked Devil’s Lake, famously brackish, to the Gulf of Mexico, allowing for sea monsters as well as saltwater to infiltrate.
While this seems fanciful, the same was hypothesized for northern England, where unseen waterways harbor what some believe are living relics of… yesteryear.
[resources: Lying Wonders, Strangest Things]