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Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Emu (not only one) Sea Serpent Carcass Case

The Suwarrow Island Sea Serpent Carcass

When the English trading steamer Emu was at Suwarrow Island (a Pacific sea island near Samoa) on her way to Sydney, Australia, they were told by natives that a huge "devil fish" had been beached. Mr. A. H. Bell, of the Emu, told of their search for the carcass, and of its horrible odor. "We secured as much of it as we could, and we have now on board the first sea serpent ever brought to Australia or anywhere else," Bell announced modestly. The Emu arrived in Sydney with a part of the creature.
The monster was covered with hair and was brownish. According to the captain, the head was like that of a horse. He estimated the weight to be seventy tons and guessed that the creature was 60 ft. long. The skull alone was three feet long. The English Mechanic, (No. 69, April 7, 1899, p. 17) noted that, "there was evidence of two tusks at the extremity of the lower jaw, and the natives said the monster had flappers like a seal when it was originally washed ashore." A scientist at the Australian Museum determined that the monster was actually a badly decomposed beaked whale. This would account for the two "tusks." A decomposed beaked whale is a monstrous thing, and resembles no earthly animal.
The following is from a microfilm of a newspaper account of the find, unfortunately not very legible in part. The originating site prints a copy.

[Bv Elootrie Telegraph.]
SYDNEY. February 22 1899.
At last a sea serpent has been actually discovered and brought within range of scientific examination. The officers of the island steamer Emu have gained the credit for achieving this notable result. The vessel reached Sydney to-night-. Captain Oliver called at Suwerro on his way back, and the natives casually stated that a. big devil-devil from the sea came ashore two months before. The officers of the Emu went along (he beach, where they saw the gigantic monster. The stench was horrible, but the extraordinary appearance of the monster determined them to bring the remains to Sydney, thus securing the first sea serpent. The two heads, two backbones, and part of the ribs were all gathered. It is intended to present the skeleton to the Sydney Museum. Captain Oliver's account of the monster is that it has one body, but a double spine. It has two distinct heads; and a hide of a brownish colour covered with hair. The heads are somewhat like horses' heads. The length of the monster is fully 60 ft, and its approximate weight is seventy .tons. The visitors to the Emu to-day say the stench from the hold was [horrible]SYDNEY. February 23. The announcement of the discovery of the sea serpent has caused a great deal of interest Only a small portion of the skeleton was brought over to Sydney. It is intended OQ the next trip of the Emu to recover the whole of the bones. 
 So it seems that a number of smaller beaked whales ran aground on Suwarrow Island in possibly late 1898, a mass stranding, and the natives reported it as if it had been one animal. The Captain estimated the biomass as having been seventy tons in life, which would have been  several beaked whales together, the biggest male among them probably 35-40 feet long with a 3 foot long skull, and probably weighing 15 tons. Usually the small pod of close-knit whales together is interpreted as a "Many-Finned" Sea-Serpent and sightings of the group of whales in the water probably aided in giving the natives the impression there was only one large "Devil-Devil"

Poonah "Many-Finned Sea-Serpent"
The genuinely bizarre feature is that not only were the natives STILL convinced it was only one animal after it washed ashore, they were able to keep the Captain and crew of the Emu convinced of that as well, even when they began to collect multiple skulls and spinal columns. The advanced state of decay (which produced the "Coconut hair" appearance from frayed skin and muscle fibers) probably made that somehow easier to swallow. The kind of beaked whale was only recognized as a species shortly before and therefore the Captain was almost correct in his guess it was an unknown animal. But the idea that several smaller whale carcasses together made up one monster carcass is a fundamental error in judgement that seems difficult to credit.


Scale Drawing of the Beaked Whale, from Wikipedia

Small pod of these whales in life.

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