Sunday, 29 August 2010

'Sea serpent' captured, never identified (via Dale Drinnon and Chad Arment)

'Sea serpent' captured, never identified

From Staff Reports
Sunday, Aug 29, 2010

Before dams upstream could regulate the Savannah River's flow, Augusta pretty much had to take whatever the Good Lord put in the river.

Sometimes it was high water. Sometimes it was low water.

And on a warm day in 1820, it was something else.

"Sea Serpent" says a headline in a September edition of The Augusta Chronicle.

What followed was an account of the remarkable discovery of something in the river that no one could identify.

"This monster of the deep has at last made his appearance in Sav. River. He was discovered coming up about 5 o'clock on last Thursday & was witnessed by several respectable citizens," the paper reported.

The creature appeared in the river below Augusta and frightened a man chopping wood, then disappeared beneath the water as others rushed to the riverbank to see it.

About four days later, it was back.

"Sea Serpent Caught!!!" a new headline read.

The story beneath it added this:

"A large concourse of citizens was attracted to the Sand Bar Ferry on Thursday evening to witness the monster of the deep, whose arrival in our waters was announced last week.

"In endeavoring to force himself over the shoals, he foundered, and laid high and dry, exposed to the entire observation of a vast multitude."

Apparently a crowd then attacked and subdued the mystery monster -- still identified as a mighty serpent. It was rolled into town "alligator style" and "the triumph was now complete and a general shout announced it."

So what was it? Augusta didn't know.

The paper added this:

"Postscript -- a number of distinguished Naturalists are now busily engaged in examining this nautical phenomenon. It is stated, but upon whose authority we know not, that three Expresses to Doctor Mitchell of New York, left this City at 12 o'clock, last night, upon this important subject."

Apparently they never heard back.

[--This is interesting and it may have some bearing on a report of 1850 from Port Royal, South Carolina, which Oudemans called a hoax but said it was a likely description. Oudemans was predisposed to discount freshwater reports in general up until the Loch Ness Monster became big news. Heuvelmans follows Oudemans' lead and calls it a hoax: both reports are in the same general area and both of them could indeed be hoaxes because the naturalists certainly should have been interested and there should have been some general announcement in the scientific journals of the time. In the postscript it mentions "a number of distinguished naturalists" examining the dead creature and they are unnamed. Doctor Mitchell of New York is named but evidently he never responded, so that any mention of him at all is a red herring.

It might be that there were creatures in both 1820 and 1850 cases and possibly there were giant eels involved, but the fact that in both cases no announcements were made in the scientific journals and in both cases the assumed bodies disappeared without a trace shortly thereafter does make it sound as if there were no actual bodies at the time and that both stories were indeed hoaxes. In this case, the wording of the postscript makes that sound pretty likely.

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