Around 95% of the ocean remains to be explored. As the earth’s surface is 70% water, this means that most of the world is uncharted – unknown. 1The seas are the last, great frontier of earth. In their depths all manner of life is capable of existing – variations in shape, size and colour beyond human imagination. As such, what we may consider today a myth, may be regarded as mundane tomorrow. What really lies under the water?
5 – Manipogo
Since the late 1800s, visitors to Lake Manitoba have reported sighting a mysterious, reptilian creature. 2 The lake monster is known as Manipogo.
Lake Manitoba, in the Canadian province of the same name, is located alongside several other lakes. They were formed during the last ice age, over ten thousand years ago. Because of Lake Manitoba’s age and size, tales of a large, serpentine monster inhabiting its waters have flourished for centuries in local Native American culture. 3
Witness testimonies describe the creature as being anywhere between 12 and 50 feet in length. Its body is said to be snake-like, humped, and dark brown in colour. 4
In August 1962, Manipogo was reportedly photographed by Richard Vincent and John Konefell during a fishing trip. The large water serpent appeared close to their boat. At first, Vincent, a TV operations manager, thought the creature was a “large black snake or eel”. However, as it revealed more of itself, the two men realised that they were staring at something inexplicable.
“It was about 30 cm in girth, and about 3.5 m of the monster was above the water. No head was visible.” 5
According to their testimony, they attempted to pursue the beast in their boat. Even with their 10-horsepower motor at full power, they could not keep up with Manipogo. 6
Whilst unable to follow, the pair did manage to photograph the thing they described as a “monster”. Years after the event, the witnesses maintained that they did not know what manner of creature they saw that day. 7 Although of terrible quality, the photograph is said to have perplexed some experts, including a zoologist at the local university. 8 To this day, the image’s subject is unknown.
Since the 1960s and the fishermen’s tale, stories of Manipogo have not diminished.
It is said that Sean Smith and his family, in the 1980s, saw a humped creature 80 feet off the shoreline whilst camping.
In 1997, local news outlets reported that a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Department witnessed a serpentine monster fitting the description of Manipogo swimming in the lake. 9 Some have, however, condemned this account as entirely fictional.
Whatever the case may be, fictional, practical joke, or real, Lake Manitoba continues to attract tourists interested in catching sight of the lake monster for themselves. And, local residents and visitors alike continue to report witnessing strange humps and reptilian heads rising from the lake’s waters.
4 – Hook Island Monster
In 1964, Robert Le Serrec took his family on a boating trip off the Australian coast. They had made plans to spend three months on the largely uninhabited Hook Island. On the 12th of December, as they began their crossing of Stonehaven bay, Le Serrec’s wife is said to have alerted the group to a strange object at the bottom of the lagoon.
It was a giant, tadpole-shaped creature, estimated to be around 80 feet (24 m) long. Unsure as to what they were looking at, the party gradually edged the boat closer. The creature did not move. At this point, Le Serrec claimed he photographed the strange shape in the water. A few pictures later, he and his friend on the boat, an Australian called Henk de Jong, decided to climb down into the water to get a better look.
As they moved closer, they could see that the aquatic beast’s skin was smooth, being mostly black in colour with brown stripes. It had pale, slit-shaped eyes, which were on the top of its head. On the right side of its tail, Le Serrec noticed a large, pale region, which he speculated may have been a wound caused by a ship’s propeller. As the two men continued to swim closer, the creature still did not move. By now, Le Serrec and his friend thought that it – whatever ‘it’ was – must be dead. However, just as they were about to film it, the sea beast opened its toothless mouth and began to move towards them.
By the time they had thrashed their way back on board the boat, the monster was gone.
In March of the following year, Robert Le Serrec appeared in Australia’s Everyone magazine, claiming to have captured genuine photographs of a sea monster.
Is the Hook Island monster real?
In the years since, a debate has ignited as to the genuineness of the Hook Island Monster case. Sceptics have launched a campaign of character assassination, describing Le Serrec as a poor and indebted Breton, who had been chased from France by debtors and was wanted by Interpol; the Hook Island Monster reduced to nothing more than the fabrication of a money-hungry Frenchman, with the intentions of selling a hoax to the media. Yet, bad character alone, however true, is not enough to convict the entire case.
When presented with the evidence, Ivan Sanderson, a Scottish biologist and writer, known for his interest in cryptozoology, struggled to condemn the case outright. His initial response was to explain the photographs as misidentification.
Sanderson stated that the object may well have been a plastic bag used by the US Navy “for experiments in towing petrol”, or a deflated skyhook balloon which had become covered in weeds. Despite his original, rather far-fetched, responses, the biologist later conceded that the image may well be that of a known creature, suggesting the possibility of a giant swamp eel. However, this explanation was far from convincing, with swamp eels being eel-shaped – not tadpole – and generally measuring less than two feet (60 cm) long.
The creature being a tightly bunched shoal of fish has also been dismissed as a weak argument. The straight and obvious edges of Le Serrec’s stationary sea monster contradicting the usually active, constantly moving, messy arrangement of a shoal of fish.
Other theories include that of the Hook Island Monster being a giant piece of plastic weighed down by sand.10
In all cases, there is lack of evidence either way. No one has been able to positively conclude whether these photographs are fraudulent. For now at least, the Hook Island Monster remains a mystery.
3 – Kempenfelt Kelly
North of Toronto, Canada, lies Lake Simcoe. It is in this lake that an elusive creature called Kempenfelt Kelly is said to dwell – a long-necked aquatic beast with a dog-like head. 11
Local sightings of this bizarre, canine-headed creature are in abundance. Far from being exclusively water-dwelling, Kempenfelt Kelly, or Igopogo, as it is also known, has been spotted out of the water for extended periods of time, seemingly basking in the sun. 12
In 2005, a local retired businessman called Arch Brown, described sighting the lake monster on four separate occasions. Unfortunately, all of his encounters were at a distance. Regardless, when interviewed by Live Science, he was still able to offer details about the beast. Brown stated that it was ten feet long, with a dark-grey, serpentlike body and a dog-shaped head. It swam smoothly, moving up and down in a wave-like motion. 13
Eye-witness accounts of Kelly have provoked such curiosity, that in 1970, the president of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club (BCSCC), John Kirk, organised a search for the creature. Unfortunately, the investigation was unsuccessful. 14
“I went out in the lake in 1988 and did a circumnavigational look, but really didn’t come up with anything at the time. That wasn’t to say there was nothing there. The lake at the time, and I haven’t been back in many years, was very able to sustain a large array of aquatic life. It was very pristine and habitable.” – John Kirk, BCSCC 15
In August 2005, another team of investigators set out to track the mysterious serpentine lake-dweller. Despite using a “boat equipped with sonar and an underwater camera”, the search ended in disappointment. 16
Regardless of these investigative failures, there are some people who claim that they have captured Lake Simcoe’s monster on camera.
In 1976, a mysterious photograph was taken at the lake. Published in the local newspaper, the Barrie Examiner, the strange humps in the water were claimed to be Kelly. 17
Kempenfelt Kelly and the hydroplane footage
In 1991, further visual evidence of the elusive creature came to light. It is said that an amateur video recording showing a mystery animal in Lake Simcoe fell into the hands of Don Hepworth, an Englishman with an interest and experiences in cryptozoology. Hepworth had appeared on a cryptozoological chat show with the BCSCC’s John Kirk in 1991. After the show, a viewer had contacted Hepworth with a videotape which he thought may be of interest to him. Hepworth proceeded to contact John Kirk, who examined the footage.
The story goes that the cameraman had been enjoying a day of filming a friend race a hydroplane around Lake Simcoe. During the excursion, the hydroplane broke down, forcing it to be fixed whilst still out on the water. As the racer lifted the front hatch of his boat, those on the shore – including the cameraman – witnessed something strange. Immediately in front of the boat, a large animal rose vertically out of the lake. The driver was panicked, as the creature was “clearly a monstrous animal much larger than the beavers sometimes seen in the lake”. Yet, before anyone had a chance to react, the creature returned to the water, peering upward once more, before disappearing out of sight. 18
A phenomenal sounding scene indeed. However, the current whereabouts of the footage is unknown, with the identity of the cameraman, and the video he filmed, being fiercely guarded by John Kirk, who claims to have the video in his possession.19
When asked to comment on the video, Kirk stated that:
“The video is clear as day of something jumping out of the water and frolicking about. My honest opinion was that it looks like a massive seal, a seal of some sorts, but sincerely very big. I’ve never seen anything like it before, but that would be my opinion.” 20
With the videotape kept hidden from public scrutiny, curious onlookers are forced to take Kirk’s word for it. As far as the mystery of Kempenfelt Kelly goes, it still remains. Despite numerous sightings and personal testimonies, no one else has solid evidence for or against this lake-dwelling beast’s existence.
2 – The Loch Ness Monster
“[…] When the blessed man [Columba] was living for some days in the province of the Picts, he was obliged to cross the river Nesa (the Ness); and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw some of the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man, who, according to the account of those who were burying him, was a short time before seized, as he was swimming, and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water” 21
Written in the 7th century, this story refers to an episode from the life of St. Columba, a 6th century Irish missionary, credited with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland. It is also the first known reference to the Loch Ness Monster.
From the shore of Loch Ness, Columba is said to have confronted the terrifying “monster”, invoking the name of God, and banishing it to the depths of the water. Since then, Nessie – as the monster has grown to be known as – has been a constant presence in the mythology of the Scottish highlands.
To many, however, the Loch’s famous monster is more than just mythology.
Whilst the scientific community generally disregards the beast’s supposed existence, this hasn’t discouraged scores of investigators from flocking to the loch in search of Nessie.
Far from being an isolated event in Columba’s time, the monster is claimed to have been sighted by innumerable people, right into the modern day. The latest phase of the search for Nessie even has the loch under constant observation using live, Internet cameras. 22 Sightings continue to flood Nessie hunters’ databases. Incredibly, some witnesses allege to have seen the monster up to eighteen times. 23
Descriptions of the water-dwelling creature agree that the monster is large and long-necked. Because of this, it has been proposed that Nessie is a plesiosaur, a marine reptile thought to have become extinct sixty-six million years ago. At 750 feet (230 m) deep, the bottom of the loch suffers from poor visibility,24 leading to suggestions that such a creature could remain hidden to even the most pervasive of modern technologies.
Yet, not all attempts to catch the beast have been scientifically rigorous.
In 2001, Jan Sundberg, a Swedish man who styles himself as a “monster hunter”, came to Loch Ness for two weeks with the outrageous intention of catching Nessie in a net. However, Nessie, it turns out, had an unexpected protector. Kevin Carlyon, the High Priest in the British Coven of White Witches, arrived from Hastings, England, to prevent Sundberg from achieving his aims. Carlyon, joined by a throng of supporters, performed a special magic ritual at the water’s edge to thwart the Swedish monster hunter. Sundberg was far from pleased with the High Priest’s appearance, aggressively confronting him and threatening to throw him into the water. Ultimately, the White Witches won the day, as Sundberg never did catch his monster. 25
This quirky episode was not the first time that the Loch Ness Monster became a topic of hot discussion. Indeed, Nessie’s supposed appearance in photos and film has also created arguments.
The Loch Ness monster caught on camera
What was claimed to be the first photograph of elusive Nessie dates back to the 1930s.
Taken by a visiting London doctor, the photo is said to show the monster’s head and neck. For a number of years, many accepted the grainy image as evidence of the long-spoken-of creature. However, in 1993, a documentary analysis of the full photograph found it to be fraudulent. The image was condemned.
Regardless, there are others who have come forward claiming to have captured Nessie on camera.
In May 2007, 55-year-old laboratory technician Gordon Holmes visited Loch Ness from his home in Yorkshire. While there, he videotaped what he described as a “jet black thing, about 14 meters (46 ft) long, moving fairly fast in the water.” Many have applauded the video as being amongst the “best” Nessie footage to date. As Holmes panned back the shot, it is easy to estimate the size of the unidentified creature and how fast it was moving. This also makes it less likely to have been a hoax. 26
In 2014, it was reported that Nessie had been captured on the satellite mapping service, Apple Maps. The image appears to show a large creature just below the surface of the water. 27
Sceptics have dismissed this image, and others, as a mixture of wishful thinking and misidentification. Certainly, at such a distance it is difficult to distinguish ripples caused by seals and floating logs from a hitherto extinct, aquatic reptile. Could there really be a plesiosaur, or other bizarre beast, living at the bottom of Loch Ness? Undoubtedly, the literature on the monster could fill libraries. And, with an army of devoted ‘spotters’, Nessie folklore and field trips are not going to go away any time soon.
1 – Lusca Monster
Lusca is a general term used to describe sea monsters reported from the Caribbean. Many reports of such creatures come from blue holes – large marine caverns and sinkholes, which extend well below sea level. As blue holes may provide access to submerged cave passages, cryptozoologists believe that such locations may very well conceal hitherto unknown species of sea creatures. 28
One case of a lusca dates back to 1896, when a large carcass washed up on a beach in the United States, near St. Augustine, Florida.
The strange remains soon became known as the “St. Augustine Monster” (and also the “Florida Monster), due to the fact that it appeared to be an as of yet to be discovered marine animal.
It was the evening of 30th of November, 1896, when the carcass was first spotted by two boys, Herbert Coles and Dunham Coretter, who had been riding their bicycles along the coast.
The day after, the boys returned to their peculiar discovery with a local physician, Dr. Webb. Due to its enormous weight, the decaying mass had half sunk into the sand. Upon closer inspection, the pale pink bulk was found to be composed of a rubbery substance, which could only be cut with great difficulty. The mass appeared to have the stumps of at least four arms. From what could be seen of the half-buried carcass, it was huge: it measured 18 feet (6 metres) long, and 7 feet (2½ metres) wide. It was estimated to weigh at least 5 tons. Dr. Webb’s first impression was that it was the mutilated remains of a giant octopus, in an advanced state of decomposition.
With identification provided by a man of science, one would think this would be the end of the St. Augustine Monster case. However, it was not to be. As the media spread news of the discovery, other academics and eyewitnesses came forward to offer different theories as to what the stranded mass could be. To many, it was regarded as a monster of legend.
In early January of the next year, a storm tide dragged the carcass back out to sea. It re-emerged two miles south of its original location, having been washed ashore on Crescent Beach. This provided the opportunity for academics to re-examine the mysterious remains.
One such specialist was Professor Addison Emery Verrill of Yale, at that time the foremost authority on cephalopods – namely squid and octopus.
At first, he suggested that the “St. Augustine Monster” was the remains of a giant squid.
The proportions [given by Webb] indicate that this might have been a squid-like form, and not an Octopus. The “breadth” is evidently that of the softened and collapsed body, and would represent an actual maximum diameter in life of at least 7 feet and a probable weight of 4 or 5 tons for the body and head. These dimensions are decidedly larger than those of any of the well-authenticated Newfoundland specimens. It is perhaps a species of Architeuthis.29
The Yale professor soon changed his mind as to the nature of the beast, stating that it was not a giant squid, but rather, an octopus of enormous – previously unknown to science – proportions.
Throughout the examination of the perplexing creature, numerous photographs were taken and sketches made. Due to its enormous size, interest in the carcass was widespread, with dozens of volunteers gathering at the beach to help with the examination. Yet, it was the very size of the creature which was the problem.
“Its great size and immense weight have thus far prevented its being moved for a more careful examination. A dozen men with blocks and tackle not being able even to turn it over.” – A contemporary excerpt from a local news sheet. 30
Eventually, Dr. Webb and a team of six horses were able to drag the mass further inland, so that it would not be washed out to sea again. Asides from becoming something of a short-lived tourist attraction, no one knows what happened to the carcass. Evidently still unsure, Prof. Verrill’s final word on the matter was that the creature was not an octopus or squid, but the detached head of a sperm whale.
The St. Augustine Monster re-examined
In more modern times, samples taken from the carcass in the 19th century have been re-analysed. Yet, far from clarifying the identity of the strange remains, they have only complicated the mystery.
In 1971, Dr. Joseph F. Gennaro Jr., a cell biologist at the University of Florida, compared connective tissue of the St. Augustine carcass (which had been preserved at the Smithsonian Institution) with known octopus and squid species. His findings proved “beyond any doubt” that the creature was not a whale’s head, as Verrill had concluded. Rather, the St. Augustine Monster “was in fact an octopus”. Using knowledge of the bodily proportions of known octopus species, the implication was that the carcass represented a gigantic sea creature with “arms 75 to 100 feet in length and about 18 inches in diameter at the base – a total spread of 200 feet”. 31
In 1986, further scientific analysis supported this conclusion, stating that the creature had most likely been an octopus “not referable to any known species”. 32
Yet, in 1995 and 2004, the identity of the monstrous remains was once again challenged. This time, scientific data suggested that the creature had not been an octopus, squid or the head of a sperm whale. Rather, it was now described as simply being a big blob of whale blubber. 33
With so many different scientific interpretations, the identity of the St. Augustine Monster remains unresolved. Was it merely whale blubber, misidentified by 19th century academics? Or, was it the remains of a yet-to-be-discovered species of giant octopus – a creature capable of remaining hidden, lurking in blue holes and underwater caverns, invisible to even the most modern of scientific technologies?
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