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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Soay Beast

Today the CFZ blog ran a couple of illustrations on the Soay beast, evidently featured in Glen Vaudrey's new book, Since we have discussed the matter here before I thought I'd run the illustrations here also

Fantastic version as run in newspapers

Original Witness' sketches
Off the Isle of Soay in 1959, two Scotsmen were to see a creature in the sea that they had never encountered before. Tex Geddes and James Gavin were fishing for mackerel together in fine weather, and had already seen killer whales and basking sharks when Gavin noticed another black shape in the water some distance away.

Geddes described the encounter:

"When the object appeared to be steaming towards us, we both stood up for a better view. I can't remember exactly how close it was when I heard the breathing, but I could certainly hear it before I could definitely have said that the object was alive. It was not making much speed, maybe 3 or 4 knots. I am afraid we both started in amazement as the object came towards us, for this beast steaming slowly in our direction was like some hellish monster of prehistoric times.

The head was definitely reptilian, about 2 1/2 feet high with large protruding eyes. There were no visible nasal organs but a large red gash of a mouth which seemed to cut the head in half and which appeared to have distinct lips. There was at least 2ft of clear water behind the neck. I would say we saw 8-10ft of back on the water line.

The head appeared rather blunt and darker than the rest of the body which seemed to be scaly and the top of its back was surmounted by an immense sawtoothed ridge. It seemed to breathe through its mouth , which opened and shut with great regularity, and once when it turned towards us I could see into its cavernous red maw. I saw no teeth."

To  these two men - neither of whom was a stranger to the seas or their wildlife - the beast was beyond their knowledge. Bernard Heuvelmans makes this sighting out to be one of the defining examples of his category Father of All The Turtles but later he suggests it could have been a small Merhorse (Because of the spiny crest on the back) Tim Dinsdale remarked that several of the described features also turned up in Loch Ness Monster reports, including the wide mouth regularly opening and closing with a loud breathing noise and showing a distinctly red interior.

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