Saturday 6 November 2021
The 1983 Californian Sea Serpent
Personally, I consider sea serpents more credible than lake monsters. It's the logistics of it all. The sea is vast, and we move across it with noisy vessels along narrow sea lanes. Anything could be there. Lakes are small, and tend to be surrounded by people. What lives there ought to be seen a lot more often. Yet, when I was researching the digitalised files of Australian newspapers for Australian and foreign sea serpents, I noticed something peculiar: up to the Second World War, it was respectable to see and report sea serpents, often uncritically. However, once the war started, people had much more important things to talk about, and after that date, although it has become respectable to see and report lake monsters, reports of sea serpents droppedoff dramatically. But they still turn up. One case was in late 1983, off the coast of California. Again, I have the old International Society of Cryptozoology to thank for the summary. Although it is anonymous, the author was almost certainly the editor, J. Richard Greenwell.
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"Sea serpents" seen off California coast.
The ISC Newsletter 2(4): pp 9-10 (Winter 1983)
A new "sea serpent" sighting took place at Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco, California, on October 31, 1983. The incident involved several witnesses, five of whom were members of a construction crew repairing Highway 1 on a Marin County cliffside overlooking the sea. Shortly before 2 p.m., according to Steven Rubinstein of the San Francisco Chronicle, who interviewed the witnesses, a flagman named Gary saw the unidentified animal swimming towards the cliff, and he called Matt Ratto, another crew member, on his two-way radio, telling him to get his binoculars. The binoculars were reportedly used by the crew to observe distant objects of interest, particularly nude sunbathers on the beach below during their lunch breaks.
Ratto watched the animal through the binoculars; it was reportedly only a quarter of a mile [400 metres] away and 100 yards off-shore. Of particular interested was the detail that the animal was being followed by about 100 birds and two dozen sea lions. "There were three bends, like humps, and they rose straight up," said Ratto. "Then the head came up to look around." The "serpent" then turned, lowering its head beneath the surface, and moved out to sea, gradually lowering its humps beneath the water until it disappeared. "Look," Ratto told reporters, "I'm not a psycho, I'm a regular guy. If I was going to make up something, I'd make up something like a 12-foot Mickey Mouse with five arms." The animal was described by all witnesses as dark, slim, and about 100 feet [30 metres] in length.
According to the tabloid Weekly World News, another witness surfaced - on the beach itself. Roland Curry, 19, said it was the second time he'd seen the "sea serpent" in less than a week. On the first occasion, he claims, it was visible for about 30 seconds, but the head appeared for only about 2 seconds, just before the body submerged. "I told my girlfriend about it, and she said I was nuts," commented Curry, "but this time I saw it and there were other people who said they saw it. That makes it real in my book. From now on, when I go to the beach, I'm bringing my camera."
The Chronicle also spoke to Jack Swenson, a biologist of the nearby Point Reyes Bird Observatory, who said there have been "periodic sightings" of unknown marine animals off the Marin County coast, and that "no one every figures out what the sightings are ... A whale surfacing in backlit sunshine, silhouetted with a lot of glare, could look like the Loch Ness Monster. On the other hand, there may be all sorts of prehistoric creatures swimming around out there that we know nothing about."
Witness Ratto was emphatic that "there's no way it could have been a whale or a porpoise, and it was too graceful to be a machine. Anyway, a submarine doesn't have a head." Two points add credibility to the incident: 1) the construction crew members admitted to having the binoculars to observe nude sunbathers, and although this in itself is of little (if any) significance in California, the admission tends to indicate a truthful version of the events; and 2) a separate witness, Mrs. Martin, who holds a responsible job, saw the same phenomenon, although she later was "unavailable". This gives independent support to the claimed sighting by the construction crew.
Later in the week, on November 2, a group of surfers reported seeing a "sea serpent" near Costa Mesa. "It was just the way they described it up there - a long black eel," said Young Hutchinson, 29. The sighting took place in the mid-afternoon, about 60 feet [18 metres] off the Santa Ana River Jetty. He thought the observation was "too crazy" to report, until he read about the Marin County sightings. "At first I thought it was a whale, but I've seen a lot of whales and it didn't look the same, " said Hutchinson, who claims that it surfaced only 10 feet [3 metres] from his surfboard. "There were no dorsal fins," he added. "The skin texture wasn't the same [as a whale], and when it broke water it wasn't like a whale at all. I didn't seen the head or the tail."
The Costa Mesa Daily Pilot quoted a spokesman for the Corona del Mar marine facility of the California Institute of Technology as stating: "It could have been a pilot whale or a gray whale ... It also could have been three or four porpoises in a line jumping from the water." The spokesman preferred to remain anonymous.
"It was really moving," concluded Hutchinson, "like a whale with a purpose ... We got the hell out of there and paddled for shore."