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Saturday, 5 March 2011

Atlantic Sea Elephants Again

I just received word back from Karl Shuker last night and he concurs with me: he never heard of a Gambian sea elephant before, either, and he thinks that somewhere along the line, somebody got Gambo confused with Trunko.

However, there are reports of what sound like possible elephant seals in the North Atlantic and recorded under the category of 'sea serpents.'

On August 5th 1885 and South of the Azores in the middle of the North Atlantic, on a line with Gibralter, the Emblem encountered an unusual sea serpent. Captain Roberts published an account, which is excerpted below:

As the vessel approached the object was discovered to be a large monster with a serpent's head which, with 10 to 12 feet of its body, was raised above the surface of the water as if the animal was leisurely surveying his surroundings. When the Emblem approached within a few yards of the monster, he dived his head under the water, allowing, however, his body to float on the surface. Judging from the length of his vessel, Captain Roberts estimates the length of the serpent at about 60 feet, while his girth is equal to that of a large pork barrel. His back was barred, pink and white, but his belly was all white.

Oudemans classifies this report as a hoax because of the colouration. Heuvelmans does not, but neither does he assign it a definite sea-serpent category. One of the few types of sea creatures that might look pink at the height of summer would be an elephant seal because their outer layer of fur peels off. The dimensions are also similar to an elephant seal in the visable parts and Captain Roberts plainly estimated it had a long tail that it did not actually have, and doubled the length because of that. So if there is anything to the report at all, I would say that was a North Atlantic Elephant Seal, and furthermore say that what little information we have about them is that they seem to be sighted around the Azores and Cape Verde Islands if they are the same as occasional sea cows as reported there. Sea cows reported around St Helena in the South Atlantic seem to be elephant seals also.

Source: Heuvelmans, Bernard, In The Wake of the Sea-Serpents,1968, p.289
Shuker, Karl, information on St. Helena "Sea Cows" & Private Communication.

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