Wednesday 26 August 2020

An Orkney Sea Serpent


In 1905 an article appeared in the local paper:

The sea serpent in Orkney
Seen by two fishermen - off the "douch"
From The Orcadian, November 11, 1905
The sea serpent has again made its appearance, and at present it is enjoying itself in the boisterous waters of the String, with a tendency to sun itself near Shapinsay, quite close to the .rocks under Balfour Castle.Last Saturday two fishermen were working their creels off the "Douch" when the monster suddenly raised itself out of the water at the side of their boat.
The visit was so sudden and unexpected that the men cannot give a very particular description of the monster. Of one thing they are certain, however, and that is that the serpent had an awe-inspiring appearance, and was quite different from anything they had ever seen before.The body is described as massive as that of horse, covered with a scaly surface, and spotted. It was the eyes of the monster, however, that attracted most attention. These are said to have been as large as a bowl, and had a most fascinating attraction for the beholder.After gazing at the occupants of the boat for a second or two the uncanny visitant, gradually sank out of view, much to the relief of the fishermen. The same men, when fishing near the same place on Wednesday last, had another glimpse of the sea serpent..
It is needless to add that the reported visit of the far-famed monster to Shapinsay has caused somewhat of a sensation, and arguments are rife and strong as to what it can be.The more superstitiously inclined lean to the belief it is the sea serpent; but more level-headed people are of opinion that it is nothing more than an extra large seal, attracted to the vicinity by large numbers of sillocks which are at present swarming around Elwick Bay.
Who knows? Some day a more than ordinarily plucky fisherman may succeed in laying a drop of salt on the tail of the real sea serpent. Maybe a Shapinsay man. There are no more plucky men in Orkney.
It would be dismissed by most as mistaken identity and so forth if it were not for many other sightings reported over the years.

In August 1919, five men fishing off Brims, in Hoy, encountered another  creature.. The boat, carrying the men, was  between the headlands of Brimsness and Torness, when the long-necked monster appeared .It  was described as having a neck "as thick as an elephant's foreleg". On top of the neck was a head that, "very much smaller in proportion".
Speaking to The Orcadian newspaper at the time, one man reported :
"The neck I should say stuck about five to six feet, possibly more, out of the water. My friends thought it (the creature) would weigh two or three tons, some thinking four to six, If the neck stretched say to eight feet the neck and body would be eighteen to twenty feet long."
(Some speculated that a colony of monsters were living in caves beneath the islands after this sighting)

Mr John R. Brown, a lightkeeper on the Pentland Skerries, sighted another massive sea creature in August 1937. Mr Brown stressed his sighting was definitely not a killer whale.
A few weeks before this  Pentland Skerries sighting, workmen on the Fair Isle reported seeing a large creature  approach them. Alarmed for the safety of a colleague in the water, the  men were about to signal or him to return when the creature "sheared off" to deeper water. It remained some distance from the shore, where the witnesses observed it swimming for most of the afternoon.

That same month, the author of The Orcadian’s nature notes, James Marwick, reported an another  sighting from Rousay.
“It was in the sea about 200 yards off the shore, straight opposite Nethermill, Sourin. Two friends, along with my brother, saw it also. My brother, a friend and I first had a good look with the spyglass at it. All we could see was a big head, with long ears and very long neck. We were not satisfied with that so my brother and I launched a boat and went off to get a better look.
“As we came near, it turned round, head-on towards us about 12 or 14 feet away.“This is what we saw: A big round head with small black eyes, big drooping ears, long tapered neck and a very heavy-looking thick body, altogether about nine or ten feet long; slate grey in colour and smooth-skinned like a porpoise.”

I came across this but was unable to find confirmation:
    Many years later, a diver reported descending to investigate a sunken German ship, only to realise he was standing on the back of a large sea monster that had made its home in the wreck.
     Divers flock to Orkney for the Scapa Flow wrecks 

The fishermen and the nature reporter would know what walruses, dolphins, killer whales ,seals etc looked like so would not mistake the creature for them. So what was visiting the waters around  the Orkney Islands with  a long neck?

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