Friday, July 09, 2010

Sea Monsters in the Hudson!

Cecil the seasick sea serpent, from Beany + Cecil.

While doing research for the Bella Terra Northwest Lighthouses map, I happened across a 19th century New York Times article about a sea serpent off the coast of Oregon. Whereupon I searched the Times online archives for "sea serpent" and found a treasure trove. Apparently summer brought sea serpent sightings from around the globe, which the Times often covered with tongue firmly in cheek. In 1904 correspondent F. Carruthers Gould wrote, "It used to be called the Silly Season because of the perennial appearance at this time of the sea serpent..." (So Obama's talk of the "silly season" was nothing new!)

Some nearby sightings:
August 31, 1886, Wednesday

RONDOUT, N.Y., Aug. 30.—Fifteen minutes before the steamboat Daniel Drew caught fire on Sunday afternoon a sea serpent was seen in the Hudson River between Coddington’s Dock and Kingston Point by a number of Rondout boatmen and boys who were in swimming. Capt. R. Brush, of the schooner Mary Ann, also saw it. All hands unite in saying that its head was raised about 6 feet out of the water, and it was of the shape and general appearance of the well known anaconda or water boa of the Amazon, but much larger, being about 2 feet in diameter on a line with the eyes. The throat is described as being dirty white, while the back appeared to be mottled with light and dark brown. From a point about 6 feet back of the eyes a fin appeared which extended the entire length of its body, or rather that portion of the body visible, which was about 55 feet. Half a mile below Coddington’s Dock Capt. Brush said the serpent lashed the water with its tail. The serpent was also seen by persons on the Dutchess County shore. The parties say it was not seaweed they saw, and that they were all “perfectly sober.”

September 11, 1886, Wednesday
NEWBURG, N.Y., Sept. 10.--R.H. Randolph, of Rhinebeck, in a communication to a local newspaper says: "For the past week the New-York and country newspapers have been circulating the story of the 'Hudson River serpent' that was seen in the river at various points between Catskill and Poughkeepsie. I was one of the eye witnesses of that serpent. While the steamer Daniel Drew was burning, a gentleman and myself were sitting on the bank of the river at Rhine Cliff. We saw a long black log floating down with the ebb tide. The log was apparently about 30 feet long, with a number of knots projecting that gave it the appearance of a row of fins. A root about 5 or 6 feet long at the end of the log would occasionally roll up with the swell and might to a person of strong imagination look like a head or neck. I made the remark at the time that if it was only a little later in the evening that would be taken for a genuine sea serpent. This is what was seen on Aug. 29 by a number who claimed that they saw the sea serpent.”

January 1, 1887, Wednesday
TIVOLI, N.Y., Dec. 31.--The Captain of the schooner Many Ann, from down East, was the first person who saw the sea serpent near Kingston. Point last Summer. It has remained, however, for a man named Brown, who lives out back of Saugerties, to see the serpent in the Hudson in Winter. Brown reached Tivoli today en route for points South. Like pretty much everybody else who has seen the serpent Brown was “perfectly sober.” He said that at the commencement of the heavy snowstorm yesterday morning he walked a considerable distance up the Hudson for the purpose of setting his nets in the ice. Brown found a great crack in the ice. He kept tramping on. Suddenly, according to Brown, he felt a sensation as though the ice were being lifted up beneath him. He says he saw the ice roll, as it were, in waves, and then split in two, making a similar crack to the one he had jumped over a short distance to the southward. Brown says that before the waving of the ice had ceased a strange-looking animal, with two eyes nearly as big as saucers and of the color of terra cotta, glared at him fiercely. The head of the beast remained above the ice for several seconds, and Brown says he had an excellent opportunity of seeing it. Brown thinks it is the sea serpent that was seen off Kingston Point and elsewhere along shore last Summer, and that the billowy motion he describes in the ice was caused by the serpent lashing its tail. Brown is the first man on record in these parts who has seen the serpent after Dec. 1. Meanwhile every crack found in the ice on the frozen Hudson is being eagerly watched by untiring small boys, boatmen who have nothing else to do except to chew tobacco and “swap lies” at corner groceries, and perhaps one or two of the wise Washington scientists who gave their views so gravely to the public and who fought so bitterly among themselves over the matter, when the serpent was seen at Kingston Point.

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