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Tuesday, 5 July 2011


In several instances of looking up different internet references under one heading, the different sites frequently have small changes in wording to convey pretty much the same exact basic information told over and over again. In this case, the following is a composite of several sites which are all small changes from one another:

There is said to be a creature living in the Altamaha river . The South Georgia coast is characterised by tiny islands, canals, waterways, deep rivers, and lots of inter-crossing creeks and streams. The Tama , indigenous natives to the area, told stories about the animal. According to Jim Miles in Weird Georgia, "Centuries ago, the Tama Indians first told tales of a huge water serpent that hissed and bellowed." The creature is called Altamaha-ha, also known as Altie.
The Altamaha-ha is said to inhabit the Altamaha River and the surrounding waterways and marshes. It takes its name from the River and the extra "-ha" at the end is a Native-Language suffix, not to be mistaken as indicating a joke, BTW. This creature has been once allegedly seen stranded on the banks of the river and trying to free itself franticly, and has also been observed cavorting on the surface. Some have said it approached them in a menacing way and even attacked a boat. It has been described as having a horizontal tail, like that of a porpoise, which moves up-and-down. Its size is commonly said to be around 20 feet (6-7 meters) long, but there have been some smaller creatures seen which are presumed to be youngsters and about 6 feet (2 meters )long, and some sightings say the creature is much larger, up to 40 or 50 feet long and six feet wide. The size of the head and thickness of the neck seems consistently about the same, with a head 2-3 feet long and a neck thickness of 1-2 feet reported at both cica-20-foot and circa-40-foot extremes in size. In appearance the creature is said to possess features resembling an alligator, an eel, a manatee and a dolphin. It is said to have large, protruding eyes and a pronounced alligator-like snout armed with large shining conical teeth. It has a serrated ridge along the back, like a series of small dorsal fins or sawteeth next to each other, and a true dorsal fin which is rather low and set far back. It is very elongated. It is said to be metal grey on top and pearly white on the bottom. There are supposed to be 350 sightings recorded.
In the 1920s, timbermen who rode the river reported sighting a creature , they described as a large snakelike water monster. They were recorded as using the Native term, Altamaha-ha.
In 1935, a group of hunters spotted what they called a "giant snake" swim through the river.
A Boy Scout troop from the 1940s reported sighting such a creature
In the 1950’s two officials from the Reidsville State Prison reported seeing a strange creature.
Then there is this from 1969:
On a night in July 1969 , Donny Manning and his brother embarked on his boat on the Altamaha River at Clark’s Bluff. The lights on the house boat allowed them to see for some distance. Fishing for catfish, Donny decided to use an old trick he had learned as a kid which was oatmeal and soda mixed on a three pronged hook. They were fishing in a little depression outside the rough water when something took the hook. It did not act like a regular catfish after a catch. Most catfish would take the hook, run and stop, and turn; instead it ran with the hook. Every once in a while it would come out of the water where they could see it. They say it measured about ten to twelve feet long and at first they thought it resembled a sturgeon, but after a few more jumps, they could tell it wasn’t. Donny claims it had a snout almost like an alligator, or, he thought, of a duck-billed platypus. He says it had a horizontal tail, instead of a fish like vertical one, and it also had a spiny kind of bony triangular ridge along the top of its body. The dorsal fin that was down, but he could see it on the back. The teeth were shining in the light were sharp pointed. The Creature was gun-metal gray on the top and oyster white-yellow on the bottom. It didn’t move along side to side like a snake either, but it moved up and down like a dolphin.” Mr. Manning says he has lived on the water all his life and has seen all kinds of creatures, but this was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. He also claims he was using a salt water rig with a 40 lb. test line and the creature snapped it like it was nothing. Mr. Manning estimates from the way it felt on the line and the way that it snapped it that it was at least 75 lbs.
During the summer of 1980 Andy Greene and Barry Prescott reportedly saw Altamaha-ha stranded on a mud bank near Cathead Creek. The creature lay halfway in the water, thrashing and trying to free itself from the bank. They described it as a dark coloured, with a rough skin and that it moved like nothing they had ever seen before. The creature was very large, three to four feet thick (1 meter) and twenty feet long( 6/7 meters). They observed the creature for ten minutes, before it freed itself, submerged, and disappeared.
In December of 1980 Larry Gwin spotted what he thought was Altamaha-ha in Smith Lake, located up the Altamaha River, while eel fishing. He described the creature has a fifteen to twenty foot long and snake-like, with two brown humps that protruded from the water. It disappeared and did not resurface. The creature was spotted several more times in the early 1980s, particularly near Two-Way Fish camp. One eyewitness, Ralph Dewitt, a crab fisherman of fourteen years, described Altamaha-ha as "the world's biggest eel".

One of the most recent reports was from 2002 when a man who was pulling a boat up the river near Brunswick reported seeing something over twenty feet in length and six feet wide break the water. The man reported that the animal seemed to emerge from the water to get air and then submerge again beneath the depths.
The story is popular in the McIntosh and Glynn County areas, which both border the Altamaha River. The local newspaper , The Darien News has covered the story several times .

* Wikipedia -
* Cryptozoology A-Z by Loren Coleman
*Augusta Chronicle:

The reconstruction is a bizzare intermediate between a Plesiosaur and a Tullymonstrum, but the Longneck reports are easiest to skim off the top at up to 40 feet long, 6 feet thick with a head 2-3 feet long and a neck 1-2 feet thick: it shows 2-3 humps at the surface, garnished with a sawtoothedridge down the center. Except for the size of the head and neck, these are all easily determinative features of the type. The forefins and tail might be close to what is depicted in the reconstruction, but the proportions of the neck, body and tail would not be.

[Dale's Scale Pasteup Illustrating the common Giant eel and Plesiosaur-shaped creatures described in Freshwater "Monster" reports]

The overall shape of the reconstructed creature seems to be based on a manatee but depicted as much thinner: the jagged back could be based on sightings of alligators. Some of the descriptions specifically allege Giant eels at about 10-20 feet long (Normal-sized eels are also in the river), and presumably the same statements about the head and neck measurements are meant to apply to them also. Of the whole series of reports the Giant eel ones are the least certain, but there is no really good reason to leave them out.

But the basic type of creature that stands out from the majority of reports is a type of Alligator gar, the 1969 sighting by the Mannings being the best one of the series. Unfortunately, the witnesses only got short intermittent views of a twisting and jumping creature and so they were confused about which way was up, and consequently which plane it was undulating in. But the rest of the description matches rather well. Personally I would not compare a creature with all those jagged sharp teeth to a duckbilled platypus under any circumstances, I would have stuck with the alligator headed description.

Memphre AKA Chaousarou (Lakes Memphremagog and Champlain)

"Alligator Gar Fish", Public-Domain Image

The Alligator gar Water Monsters include several historical reports from around Lake Champlain, a creature described by Samuel deChamplain as Chaosarou or gars but twice the size of the commoner ones of five feet long (Longnose gars), hence about ten feet long. That would match an Alligator gar. Around Texas, there are perhaps some errant reports in the Rio grande and other areas, and there are some introduced alien fish reports of Alligator gars including around Hong Kong, where they were introduced by sports fishermen. But the Altama-ha popultion seems to be a relic population of the Atlantic Seaboard from Florida up to the (recolonized reservior) Lake Norman in North Carolina.

I had formerly written a blog about the monster of Lake Nicaragua being an Alligator gar, on the regular CFZ blog. This now seems to be a related but different species (Also sometimes found in the Caribbean Sea)

Lake Norman is an artificial lake (reservior) but it has a thriving population of outrageously large fishes according to the site on the other end of the link. Along with Alligator gars, there also seem to be catfishes of unusually large size in the lake.

Lake Norman Monstrous Gar

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Some years ago I came across a photo of a bull shark that had been caught in Lake Nicaragua and used as a plate in the book A Natural History of Sharks. The shark had teeth marks on its tail and the more I looked at the photo, the more I realized that the pattern of the teeth in the bite mark were unusual. They were set wrongly to be either a caiman or a crocodile on the one hand, or another shark on the other. I went back to get a copy of the photo later but later editions cropped off the unsightly bite mark from the photo. A native is holding up th shark in the photo which gives an exact scale.

The bull shark is known to be a man-eater, and in this case some unknown animal was chasing it and nipping at its tail while it ran away. It seems that the creature, whatever it was, did not get a good enough grip on the shark's tail so the shark got away, only to be caught later by the fisherman.

I did find reference for a porosus croc fighting with a bull shark but this is the wrong hemisphere for those crocs and the toothrow is different, being wider and more divergent in the back and with a peculiar notch in the front, and some of the marks seem to indicate a double toothrow.

Now alligator gars have been found occasionally in the Gulf of Mexico and in Lake Nicaragua, according to the Wikipedia entry, and it seems that although they are usually freshwater fishes they can also tolerate brackish or salt waters. The alligator gar is the second-largest fish known to live in North America, and ten-foot-long specimens are on record, while rumor has it that they can reach 18 or 20 feet long.

They have vicious mouths with a double row of sharp teeth and at times they can be damn near unkillable (they are ganoid fishes and their scales are much tougher than ordinary fish scales, and it is said that sometimes bullets and axheads aimed at them only glance away making sparks)

And so I propose that Old Nic, the monster of Lake Nicaragua, is a large and surly type of alligator gar instead of being a plesiosaur or anything else. The encounter inspired me to make the mockup of the incident which I include below:

[There is a postscript to this: "Retrieverman" said it could not be an Alligator Gar and we had a rather heated exchange about it at the time, but the reference was wrong anyway. It turns out that the gar that lives in Lake Nicaragua-and sometimes in the Gulf of Mexico as well, is a different species but still a known species, very similar to the Alligator gar. And so I'm afraid I must apologise for not knowing that part myself)

Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. The main Altama-Ha reconstruction drawing is at the top and is signed by the artist. Many of the sites reproduce it: the colour versions following it are from Monstropedia. I do not know the artist's reasoning for creating the reconstruction this way but my initial impression is that the artist wanted to create the image of a "Dinosaur" but used Ted Holiday's tiny fossil worm candidate Tullimonstrum as the guide to the overall body conformation. And that overall conveys the body plan of a manatee but slimmer, hence my addition of the manatee diagram-a standard drawing from a pictoral illustration source on the web. The alligator gar map is an official US Government release but I have modified it to include the outlying forms with lettering, especially the Altamaha-Ha part. The Lake Norman photo is from the Lake Norman website and is one of the better photos from that location. The sketch showing the location and shape of the bite on the shark from Lake Nicaragua is mine, from the 1960s. I have access to a version of the same photo from a later edition but the bite mark has been cropped off in that edition. The pasteups are mine and the last mock-up uses a mounted trophy an alligator gar and a plastic toy bull shark, both taken from internet photo searches on yahoo.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  2. Great report on the Altamaha-ha, my favorite all-time cryptid. But since you used illustrations by Rick Spears and from our book, TALES OF THE CRYPTIDS, can you please mention the book in your credits?


    Kelly Milner Halls

  3. Thank you for giving me the name of the source, I had no idea: when you get these things off the internet they come as they are, with whatever credit is supplied for them on whatever site you get them from.

    That being said, I DID make it clear I was using YOUR reconstructions for a reason and the reason is that your composite reconstruction puzzles me. It looks like the front end of one thing and the rear end of something else thrown together (as I mention on the blog) So just why did your composite come out looking that way, what were your reasons for doing it that way? Because you did a couple of peculiar things in there and I'd really like to know why. I'd like to know how you read the reports and came up with that design, and what your rationale was.

  4. Personnally I would opt for the river cetacean hypothesis to account for Altamaha-ha. There is a Youtube video featuring it having a bluish-grey color and a large pectoral fin popping out the water. The Baiji and the Indus river dolphin are quite similar to it both in color and the crocodile-like head.
    Besides dolphins cavort and are know to beach accidentaly themselves when hunting for fish. As for the ridged back, Jeremy Wade took a photo of what he thinks to be a malformed pink dolphin :

  5. Offhand I'd say that the biggest problem to ANY identification of the Altamaha-Ha as an independant type of Cryptid is in demonstrating that it is an independant type of Cryptid. It otherwise sounds very much like the Lake Norman Monster and other in the area, and these others also sound very much like alligator gars (as mentioned in the article)

    And I should mention that I have subsequently discussed the reconstruction with Rick Spears on Facebook. I told him it was a good piece of work and no reflection on him as an artist, but the actual reports of the Altamaha-Ha do not add up that way. In particular I could see no justification for the "Brontosaurus" face on the reconstruction.

  6. i see no justification in analyzing it part by part. try to describe a brontosaurus to us without using analogies to common animals we all already know. people saw what they saw.

  7. About the continued assertion "People just say they saw" the creature as the reconstruction shows it -- I renounce that idea, I see no evidence of it, and I call you out on it. Just who, where and when did people say they saw the Altamaha-ha looking anything at all like the reconstruction done of it. I assure you I have gone through all the reports very carefully myself and they say no such a thing. Sometimes it sounds as if somebody is reporting the head of an alligator or the tail of a manatee. Those reports are not typical. On other occasions people say they saw a plain snake, and on most occasions a sort of a peculiar fish., I don't believe you: show your sources. I have indicated in the article the truth of the reports as best I see it and I do not, repeat NOT, find any evidence whatsoever indicating any need for constructing a new and distinctive type of a cryptid on the basis of such evidence as is on the record.


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