Thursday, 23 August 2007

Sea Serpents

On this day in 1817 a sea serpent was sighted in Gloucester Harbour, USA......

They told me of a sea serpent, or snake, that lay quoiled up like a cable upon the rock at Cape Ann; a boat passing by with English on board, and two Indians, they would have shot the serpent, but the Indians dissuaded them, saying that if he were not killed outright, they would all be in danger of their lives...

The above report by John Josselyn in 1638 is one of the earliest sightings of an animal that would haunt the coast of New England, and especially the port of Gloucester, for more than three centuries and be seen by hundreds of people. The report is of a creature that science says does not exist: A sea serpent. The harbour of Gloucester, Massachusetts is located just north of Boston on the lower part of Cape Ann which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Although sea serpent incidents occurred occasionally off the coast of Cape Ann and the rest of New England during the 17th and 18th centuries, it wasn't until the 19th century that the arrival of the sea serpent off the coast became a nearly seasonal phenomenon. The real action started in August of 1817 when two women claimed they had seen the creature swimming into the harbor. The same sea-serpent was seen at almost the same time by the Captain of a coasting vessel.

The caption of this engraving read "taken from life as appeared in Gloucester Harbour, August 23, 1817."

There were eighteen sightings of the "sea serpent" in 1817. Most from Gloucester, but a few from different parts of New England. Most of the reports were very similar: A snakelike creature, sixty to one-hundred feet in length, with the head the size of a horse and the body the diameter of a barrel. Observers noted that the creature swam with a vertical motion and his body appeared as "humps" behind him. A very full and credible report was made by Cheever Felch aboard the United States schooner Science with confirmation from various officers of his crew.

Reports off the New England coast continued strong through the 19th century. Twelve sightings in 1839, nine in 1875 and thirteen in 1886. A total of 190 for the whole one hundred years. Sea serpent reports became fewer in the twentieth century: A total of 56, and most of those before 1950.

There have also been many sightings of a sea serpent that supposedly lives in the Chesapeake Bay, USA. Appropriately the creature has been nicknamed "Chessie." Enough reports have been filed about Chessie that Mike Frizzell, Director of Project Enigma, a study of the Chessie phenomena, was able to correlate it's appearances with motion of Bluefin fish in the area, suggesting that the serpent uses the fish as a food source. The description of Chessie is so similar to the Gloucester sea serpent that some have speculated that the New England creatures migrated south to the Chesapeake Bay at the beginning of the century.

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