Wednesday 12 February 2020

Last Forgotten Sea Serpents (1926 to 1931)

     I know I've said this before, but this probably really is my last post on old sea serpent sightings. As before, they represent foreign cases which turned up in Australian newspapers, but which earlier researchers had apparently missed. Most of these were reported in the major capital cities dailies, but many others were picked up by minor rural newspapers, often at random. Which makes one wonder how many others are "out there", waiting to be unearthed.

Los Angeles, ? late 1926
     One imagines the editor in Perth, Western Australia saying, "Where in the U.S.A. is this place, Venice? Oh well, it's a good story. It'll fill up a paragraph, so we might as well run it." But none of the readers were left with any idea of the geographic context in those pre-internet days. Venice was a Californian seaside town which was annexed by Los Angeles in 1926. It has a popular amusement pier, and during the 1920s its mayor was  Clinton Gordon Parkhurst, who now has a building named after him in Santa Monica. Presumably, local newspapers provided more details concerning who, when, and what than is provided in this short paragraph which, if accurate, indicates something rather strange. It comes from the front page of the Daily News (Perth) on Monday 3 January 1927. This suggests to me that the events took place in late December 1926.
     A giant "sea beast" sighted off shore between Liek and Venice piers (U.S.A.) caused a buzz of excitement among beach residents. A permit to kill the huge fish was obtained from the Venice police by residents along the waterfront. The "beast," according to Mayor Parkhurst, was about 35 feet [10½ metres] long and had six fins projecting out of the water. Fishermen who sighted the strange water creature believe it was attracted by the presence of an unusually large number of dead seals in this vicinity.
Gibsons, British Columbia, 1927
       The city of Vancouver, of course, is situated on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Just to the northwest lies a triangular stretch of water known as Howe Sound. Gibson lies just on the other side of the sound, at 49° 24' N, 123° 30' W. This was the location of the following series of encounters - in a stretch of water known as the Strait of Georgia, separating Vancouver Island from the mainland. By this time, readers should be aware that this whole area is a known haunt of a sea serpent known as "Cadborosaurus". The story is taken from the Mercury (Hobart) of Friday 22 July 1927, at page 12. Needless to say, the vertical undulations reported clearly reveal that the animals are mammals.
     Two sea serpents measuring more than thirty feet [9 metres], and carrying their heads nearly six feet [1.8 m] above the sea level, are reported to have been seen by three Vancouver men, and many residents of Gibson's Landing, British Columbia (says a message from Vancouver to the New York "Herald-Tribune").
     The heads of the creatures were said to be about two feet [60 cm] broad by one foot high, with enormous mouth and bulging eyes. The neck tapers slightly from the body, which is thirty inches [75 cm] thick. Coils, twenty feet [6 m] behind the head, were two feet in diameter, and loose skin hung below the lower jaw, probably a pouch. The head resembled a snake's, but the serpents swam by an up and down wave-length motion. They were devoid of anything resembling fins or scales, the skin being pale pink, blotched with dull yellow.
     This description is given by Frederick Parnell and William Park, of Vancouver. Parnell was fishing near shore at Gibson's Landing, when two serpents broke water within 25 feet [7½ m] from his boat, reared their heads nearly six feet, and blew heavily, but did not eject water like a whale. Terrified, he remained silent, watching. Moving their heads from side to side like snakes, the creatures moved rapidly away coils appearing and disappearing behind the heads, which had been lowered slightly.
     Recovering his nerve, Fred, shouted to his brother George, on shore, "Look, quick." Immediately he did so both serpents lowered their heads into the water and dived from sight.
     William Park was with D. Smith in a row boat when they saw a serpent near the same spot. It appeared fifty yards away, and blew heavily, its head nearly five feet [1½ m] above water. Both thought it was a seal or sea lion, but on observing it closely they saw it was neither. After blowing for half a minute the creature dipped its head. As it dived several coils broke water before the tail disappeared.
     Fishermen who have also seen the monsters are worried, as fish have almost disappeared from the bay. Plans are being discussed for an organised effort to capture the creatures.
     W. Messenger Racher, of Gibson's Landing, has signed a statement declaring he saw the sea serpent twice within 300 yards from the shore off Gower Polat, on April 18. The creatures appeared within 40 feet [12 m] of his boat.
Jersey, English Channel, 1928
     Here we have a brief, but graphic account from the Advertiser (Adelaide), on Friday 6 July 1928, page 15.
Pilots on duty near Corbiere Lighthouse, Jersey, are confident that they have seen a sea serpent. A huge head with bulging eyes appeared a few hundred yards from their bat, they reported in May. "Its head was held upright for some seconds, and, snorting loudly, it dived back and swam off at great speed in a southerly direction," they said. In all their experience, the pilots stated, they had never seen such a large or repulsive-looking fish. It appeared to have horns on its head and spikes or spines from the head downwards.
Off West Africa, 1929
    Originally published in a prestigious English newspaper, this story was taken up by one in rural Queensland, the Western Star and Roma Advertiser (Toowoomba) on Saturday 26 September 1931, on page 5. Note that the location was not far from that of the S.S. Aro sea serpent of 1911, which I referred to earlier.
     Mr. J. J. R. Smythe, of Notinghill, London, in a letter to "The Times Weekly Edition," makes an interesting contribution to the immemorial controversy concerning the sea serpent. "While travelling to England from Durban in Grantully Castle on March 1, 1929," he writes, "I was on the promenade deck with my wife and my son, who was fourth officer of the ship. At 7.15 a.m., the ship being then in latitude 15.38deg. N., longitude 17.39deg. W., I noticed a big disturbance in the sea ahead. Looking through my binoculars I saw that it was caused by a swimming reptile of some sort. I handed my glasses to my son and asked what he made of it. He said that it was a sea serpent, and that he had seen one on a former voyage; but with usual reticence of those who make their living on the sea he had said nothing about it. The creature rapidly approached the ship and passed us going south at a distance of about 600ft. [180 metres]. From the time I first sighted the serpent till it passed out of sight astern could not have been more than three minutes. I estimated its length to be 100ft. [30 metres] and its diameter to be 4ft. [1.2 m]. Its colour was a dirty yellowish green with large white spots on the body. I saw three distinct undulations or curves above, though not clear of the sea; my son saw the head and said that it looked like that of a snake."

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