Friday, 16 August 2013

The monstrous serpent was real!

On a calm and sunny day in August 1817, a few Gloucester fishermen rowing out to work saw a strange animal break the surface right in their harbor. Something they’d never seen before. Something moving in jolting, up-and-down motions. And something really, really big. Witness Solomon Allen III later reported, “I should judge him between eighty and ninety feet in length, and about the size of a half barrel, apparently having joints from his head to his tail. His head formed something like the head of a rattle snake, but nearly as large as the head of a horse.”

The sighting in Gloucester, and others in the following weeks, spread through New England. The Salem-based Essex Register wrote, “Yesterday information was received in this town from Gloucester of the appearance of an unusual fish or serpent in the harbor. The letter represented, that the head of it, eight feet out of the water, was as large as the head of a horse, and great in length” The article quoted the letter: “‘[The animal] appears in joints like the wooden buoys in a net rope, almost as large as a barrel. Two muskets were fired at it, and appeared to hit it on the head, but without effect. It immediately disappeared, and in a short time was seen a little below, but in the dark we lost sight of him. It appears like a string of gallon kegs 100 feet long.’” The Boston Weekly Messenger ran two articles about the animal in late August, two in September, and one in October. “Monstrous Serpent,” the Aug. 21 headline read in the Messenger. Ferries out of Gloucester increased their scheduled trips for the many tourists who came.

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