old print depicting a sea serpent attack.
On August 6th, 1848, the
Royal Navy frigate HMS Daedalus was cruising near the
Cape of Good Hope when the Officer of Watch spotted an object
in the sea. He drew the attention of the Captain and several
crew members on deck to it. It was a large sea snake, or sea
serpent, that they estimated to be sixty feet long, 15 inches
in diameter, and moved through the sea with it's head some four
feet out of the water.
Strangely enough it seemed
to be able to move quickly through the water with neither vertical
or horizontal undulation. The creature was dark brown, shading
to yellow-white under the throat. On the back there seemed to
be a seaweed-like mane. The Daedalus observed it for
about twenty minutes.
In 1937 Alfred Peterson,
a nurse aboard a British troopship in the China Sea, spotted
what at first he thought was a big tree floating in the sea.
A few minutes later he noticed it was still there, keeping pace
with the ship. This peaked his interest and he took a closer
look. What he saw was a 25 foot long, grey-black, body with
a head shaped like a giraffe.
Tales about sea serpents
have been told and retold by sailors down through the ages.
Skeptics have pointed out that many of these incidents could
be the result of misidentifications. A floating log, or in the
case of the Daedalus, an abandoned native canoe painted
like a snake. Some encounters are so close, though, that it
is hard to believe someone could be mistaken:
Clyde Taylor and his daughter,
Carol, were walking along the beach near the mouth of the Chester
River in the Chesapeake Bay. Out in the bay they spotted a ripple
moving across what was otherwise smooth, calm water. Following
the ripple they spotted a creature in the water. It was black
or amber in color, thirty feet long and as thick as a telephone
pole. It traveled through the water with a up and down undulating
"The eye looked like
a serpent's eye, like a large snake eye," said Clyde. "I
could see no marking on the body - it was just a long tube,
like an anaconda or python. It didn't
look like a fish, but like a giant serpent."
Carol Taylor got within
30 feet of the creature before it spotted her and disappeared
into the water. "There was no way that it could have been
someone faking something," she said, "there was no
one in sight, there were no boats around, the water was only
The Taylors' encounter was
only one of many sightings of a sea serpent that supposedly
lives in the Chesapeake Bay. Appropriately the creature has
been nicknamed "Chessie."
Chessie, or the Chessies,
since they have been seen in groups and differ in size, is a
creature usually 30 to 40 feet in length, with a snake-like
body, dark in color, having an elliptical, football-sized head.
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.
Large groups of people
have spotted Chessie. In 1980 four charter boats carrying 25
people observed a version of the creature. Chessie has also
been captured on video and film, though none of these has been
clear enough to be accepted as proof of the monster.
What's most remarkable
about the large number of Chessie sightings is that they have
been so consistent in the creatures description. One theory
that has been advanced to explain Chessie is that a vessel from
South America had a giant anaconda,
a snake capable of living in freshwater, on board. The snake
escaped and adapted to the brackish water. It would take several
snakes, or a pregnant female to explain the multiple sightings,
though, and an anaconda would not fair well in the cold northern
winters. Other explanations, like the oarfish,
have been proposed, but the color and shape of the creature
seems wrong for these.
In the 1800's animals very
similar to Chessie were reported to be living off the coast
of New England, and particularly the port of
Gloucester. The description of the creatures are so similar
that some have speculated that the New England creatures migrated
south to the Chesapeake Bay at the beginning of the century.
Sea Serpents have also been
reported off the North American West Coast too. There have been
many reports from along the Pacific coast near Vancouver of
several different shaped creatures including a snake-like sea
serpent. Further south more reports center around the city of
On November 1st, 1983,
a construction crew was working on Route 1 just north of the
Golden Gate Bridge near Stinson Beach. Suddenly they spotted
a creature, underwater, approaching the land. They estimated
the creature's length at 100 feet and it's diameter at five.
Using binoculars they watched it making coils, throwing it's
head about and whipping it's body around.
Two years later, in San
Fransico bay, twins Robert and William Clark were sitting in
a car near the sea wall. They watched two seals swimming extremely
fast across the bay. Then they noticed a "large black snake-like"
animal" chasing the seals. They saw that the creature moved
by forming it's body into coils and wiggling up and down. The
animal apparently also had small, translucent fan-like fins
that acted as stabilizers.
Was this a real sea serpent?
Or a more common creature, like a seal, misidentified? The descriptions
do bear a resemblance to "Chessie."
One final sea serpent story.
The SS Tresco was cruising 90 miles south of Cape Hatteras
when Joseph Ostens Grey, the ship's Second Officer, spotted
what he first thought was a derelict hulk in the water. On closer
examination they realized it was no wreaked ship:
"With a conviction
that grew deeper, and ever more disquieting, we came to know
that this thing could be no derelict, no object that hand of
man had fashioned..." reported Grey. He described a head
that emerged out of water on a tall and powerful neck. It was
"dragon-like" and accompanied a body some 100 feet
in length and eight feet across at the widest. The head was
five feet long and eighteen inches in diameter.
There was concern that
the ship, running light without cargo, might be tipped and overturned
if the creature attempted to clamber aboard.
"Presently I noticed
something dripping from the ugly lower jaw," continued
Grey, "Watching, I saw that it was saliva, of a dirty drab
color, which dripped from the corners of the mouth." Eventually
the creature turned away and the danger was averted.
As the years went by skeptics
labeled the story, which appeared under Grey's name in The
Wide World Magazine, "total fiction." That is
until someone looked up the Tresco's log for Saturday 30 May
1903. It reads:
10AM Passed school
of sharks followed by a huge sea monster.
Daedalus and the Sea Serpent.
Lee Krystek, 1996. All Rights Reserved.