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Friday, 9 August 2013

Osborne SS Whale-Eater?

 Jay Cooney was looking at photos of the HMS Osborne Sea Serpent sighting and he thought it could indicate the presence of a large Marine Saurian type Sea Serpent. Because of the suggestion, it is best to review the case once more:

In June 1877 the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty received official reports from the Royal Yacht Osborne, forwarded by Commander Pearson, regarding the sighting of an unidentified marine creature seen on the second day of that month off Cape Vito, Sicily.

Commander Pearson’s report read: -
I myself saw the fish through a telescope, but at too great a distance (about 400 yards) to be able to give a detailed description; but I distinctly saw the seal-shaped head, of immense size, large flappers, and part of a huge body.” 
Lieutenant Douglas Forsyth’s report, written at sea on June 4th is as follows, 
At 5 p.m. on the 2nd inst., while passing Cape St. Vito, north coast of Sicily, I observed a large, black-looking object on the starboard quarter, distant about two cables [a cable is 240 yards]; and on examining it with a telescope, I found it to be a huge monster, having a head about fifteen to twenty feet in length. The breadth I could not observe. The head was round, and full at the crown. The animal was slowly swimming in a south-easterly direction, propelling itself by means of two large flappers or fins, somewhat in the manner of a seal. I also saw a portion of the body of the animal, and that part was certainly not under forty-five or fifty feet in length.” 
 Another officer, Lieutenant Haynes, reported
On the evening of June 2, the sea being perfectly smooth, my attention was first called by seeing a ridge of fins above the surface of the water, extending about thirty feet, and varying from five to six feet in height. On inspecting it by means of a telescope, at about one and a half cables' distance, I distinctly saw a head, two flappers, and about thirty feet of an animal's shoulder. The head, as nearly as I could judge, was about six feet thick, the neck narrower, about four to five feet, the shoulder about fifteen feet across, and the flappers each about fifteen feet in length. The movements of the flappers were those of a turtle, and the animal resembled a huge seal, the resemblance being strongest about the back of the head. I could not see the length of the head, but from its crown or top to just below the shoulder (where it became immersed) I should reckon about fifty feet. The tail end I did not see, it being under water unless the ridge of fins to which my attention was first attracted, and which had disappeared by the time   I got a telescope, was really the continuation of the shoulder to the end of the body. The animal's head was not always above water, but was thrown upwards, remaining above for a few seconds at a time, and then disappearing. There was an entire absence of ‘blowing’ or ‘spouting’.” 
Mr. Moore, engineer of the Osborne, writes, 
When looking over the starboard quarter of the ship, my attention was called by observing an uneven ridge of what appeared to me to  be the fins of a fish above the surface of the water, about a cable's length distance from the ship. They varied in height, as near as I can judge, from seven to eight feet above water, and extended about forty feet along the surface. Not having a telescope with me, I regret I am unable to give a further description.” 
(if the fins were 6-8 feet high out of the water then they are certainly staged out over well more than 40 feet by that scale. It is more likely a hundred feet or more given the spacing of the fins)

Jay had noticed that one of the officers had seen an animal with the face of an alligator while the other officers described something they compared to a very large seal or turtle. Jay thought the ridge of pointed fins could be on the back of a large Marine Saurian This would then be comparable to the creature seen by the schooner Eagle off of Virginia, which had a head over 10 feet long and a total length of 75 feet. These proportions are in the range of the larger Marine Saurian, Dr, Shucker's Leviathan. The eagle creature was also reported to have a row of pointed projections on the back, possibly  a row of fins as in the illustration for the Osborne creature. "Pristichampsus" (Tim Morris) has put his artistic interpretation of the Eagle creature on Deviantart and it is reprinted below
Since there is a pretty definite  tradition of a whale-eater around Ireland that chases Humpback whales until they "Fly" out of the water in an attempt to escape (The story of the Gorramolooch and the Bo-Dre-More) it is just possible we have a different encounter of the same type as witnessed around Sicily instead. The fins may belong on the back of the Whale-eater as Jay guesses, but they could also belong to some innocent bystander basking sharks, or some opportunistic predatory sharks foillowing along after the Whale-eater in hopes of scavenging from a meal left by the larger creature.
I still feel the "Turtlelike" creature with the 15 foot flippers is a humpback whale, but from the description given, there could very well have been at least two creatures or sets of creatures.


  1. The ridges of fins observed by MR.Moore could also have been a rare school of sunfish, which means those are nutrient-rich waters and thus able to tolerate the presence of such large and voracious creature that Jay Coonay correctly guessed as being Shuker's Leviathan.

  2. I do want to make it clear that I think the most likely explanation is that they saw a pod of humpback whales (with the "ridge of fins" being the whales bubble-feeding). However, I do still consider that it may have been a large Marine Saurian with the "ridge of fins" being either a ridge on its back or dermal scales.

  3. With all of this speculation I think I need to reiterate:

    1) The ridge of fins includes several individual triangular fins estimated variously as being anywhere between 5 and 8 feet out of the water, average 6 feet tall. That is as large as some of the triangular fins now being cited as C. megalodon sightings. In this case the original publisher of the reports thought they were a few basking sharks swimming close together. Dinsdale thought instead they might be smaller predatory sharks. Even if the size of the fins is exaggerated to double their real size, the fins are two to four feet tall, estimated to be at least as large as a basking shark's back fin.

    2) The creature with 15 foot long pectoral fins was definitely a humpbacked whale. Saying the other animals were also humpbacks (Bubble-feeding) relates the animals together and says there was only one kind of animal present. This answer has the value of being parsimonious but is a little forced. The alternative version has it that the creature with 15 foot long flippers was a somehow mistaken basking shark is almost certainly wrong.

    3. Going by the descriptions given, a whole string of descriptive details are given in "Monster"views that cannot be reconciled easily with either of the two illustrated views. Several of these features (such as an alligator-like face) suggest the presence of a large Marine Saurian (ie, a whale-eater)
    We do not know, for example, if Lieutenant Haynes and Lieutenant Forsyth are both describing the same creature or if they had different views of different creatures.


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