Member of The Crypto Crew:

Please Also Visit our Sister Blog, Frontiers of Anthropology:

And the new group for trying out fictional projects (Includes Cryptofiction Projects):

And Kyle Germann's Blog

And Jay's Blog, Bizarre Zoology

Monday, 18 July 2011

"Chessie" (The Manatee) Returns

"Chessie" is distinguished by several field marks, notably including prominent scars on his back. Some of the sightings supposedly of the same manatee further north failed to show the same markings and were later declared NOT to be "Chessie."

"Chessie" at home in Florida

Famous Manatee Sighted in Chesapeake Bay After Long Absence


Gainesville, Fla. – A manatee spotted this week in Calvert County, Maryland is the same one that first made waves 17 years ago when he appeared in Chesapeake Bay just before the onset of winter and later had to be rescued.

Named "Chessie," the manatee's identity was verified by U.S. Geological Survey biologist Cathy Beck, who used photos taken July 12 and matched them with Chessie's photographic record in a USGS manatee database. Chessie;s tell-tale markings include a long, gray scar on his left side.

USGS scientists regularly document manatee sightings to analyze life histories of individuals as part of an ongoing effort to estimate adult survival rates of the endangered Florida manatee. Yet, biologists were surprised to find it was Chessie, a well-known manatee who has not been seen for about 10 years. The last time USGS researchers confirmed a sighting of Chessie was after he swam through Great Bridge Locks in Virginia on August 30, 2001.

By then, Chessie was already well known. After being found in the Kent Narrows area of the Chesapeake Bay in the fall of 1994, researchers became concerned about how he would fare in the oncoming winter. Manatees suffer negative health effects when they endure water temperatures below 68 degrees for any length of time. With water temperatures dropping in the bay, the Marine Animal Rescue Program at the National Aquarium worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Seaworld Orlando, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to rescue Chessie. He was cared for at the aquarium for several days before being successfully flown back to Florida and released.

The current sighting is not driving any plans to rescue Chessie, as the water is still warm and manatees typically work their way back down the eastern seaboard to Florida on their own when cooler weather sets in.

Scientists are not sure whether Chessie visits the Chesapeake Bay every year. After Chessie's 1994 rescue, USGS tagged him and found that he did migrate back to Chesapeake Bay the following spring. Much of what scientists know about manatee migration comes from studies that use radio and satellite tags to reveal key facts about manatees' habitat needs, such as how they use seagrasses and winter refuges.

In general, scientists believe manatee migration from Florida to the Chesapeake Bay may not be unusual, and in fact Chessie was named after [pre-existing]legendary sightings of a "sea monster" in the Chesapeake Bay throughout the twentieth century.

Chessie was spotted and identified this year due to the help of two bystanders who took pictures of him and contacted Jennifer Dittmar, the National Aquarium's Coordinator for the Northeast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Dittmar forwarded Beck photos of the manatees head and back.

The manatee "Chessie" is obviously NOT the same as the tubular twenty-foor-long, horizontally-undulating sea creature frequently seen and sometimes filmed in Chesapeake Bay. It is as if a common seal which got into Loch Ness and stayed for half a year and got called by the name "Nessie" for it.

Come to think of it, THAT has happened, too!
Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. Aren't those common seals from Dr Williamson's paper on Dick Raynor's site?

  2. Could be, but the copies I put up here came to me when I was doing research on this blog posting, by way of a different site. I got them on a Google photo search. You never can tell with the internet!

    The photos were labelled "Nessie the seal" and the caption said that this seal was resident at Loch Ness for several years, when it would be ioccasionaly sighted and sometimes mistaken for "the Monster"-I had been aware of this situation for some years separately.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  3. Attribution Trouble:
    Hi again Dale,
    A correspondent tells me that Gordon Williamson's photo of a common seal has appeared on your blog without correct attribution. As far as I know my web page below is the only internet source for the paper. Dr Williamson was a great friend of mine and I had the pleasure of helping him out with some eel research as well as photographic work in the production of his papers.

    The paper first appeared in Sci. Rep. Whales Res. Inst. 39 / 1988 and Gordon personally gave me permission to put it on my website.

    I would appreciate it if you could add a link to the source page (below) for those wishing to read the paper and credit him with the photograph.

    You might also add that it is a common seal not a grey, it did not repeatedly visit the loch but visited once and stayed for seven months, and was not called Nessie by anyone ! Apart from that, your description is spot on :-)

    Best Wishes, Dick

    Certainly. I received the photo without the correct attribution or else you would have had it right already. As a matter of fact, it was a scientist with an interest in such matters that had provided the information that I was using on the blog and did not give the proper credit. I should have known, that fellow was already not speaking to me from our last quibbling--and I'm sure you would recognise the name if I should name the fellow!

    If you don't mind I think I shall include your message and this answer as appended to the blog.
    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  4. BTW, I did specifically also recieve the information that the resident seal at Loch Nesswas called Nessie. I do not live around Loch Ness and I have no way of verifying such claims.
    However, as far as I can tell, the allegation goes that the seal was being called "Nessie" , probably not by anybody that had a right to say so, and so because of that I decided to leave that part in there until I hear more definitely about it.

    (If I get an email from somebody that says "the seal was called Nessie" then at least one person-the one that sent me the email-has called it Nessie. in order to say "Nobody ever called it Nessie" it cannot have happened even that once)

    Best Wishes, Dale D.


This blog does NOT allow anonymous comments. All comments are moderated to filter out abusive and vulgar language and any posts indulging in abusive and insulting language shall be deleted without any further discussion.