In 1925, two miles north of Santa Cruz, Calif., a creature washed ashore unlike any seen before. Dubbed the "Moore's Beach Monster" — after Charles Moore, the fellow that discovered him — this beast has been described as stinky, with elephant-like legs, a whalelike tale and a head like a duck. Suffice it to say, the Moore's Beach Monster was quite a sight.
While descriptions of the beast vary from person to person, the esteemed E.L. Wallace, who had twice served as president of the Natural History Society of British Columbia, offered a very intriguing report of what he saw upon examining the sea creature. After review, he put the kibosh on the theory of it being a whale, based on the short length of the creature's tail, and suggested it to be a type of plesiosaur that was, perhaps, encased in ice that recently thawed.
Some believe the Moore's Beach Monster may be the same as the San Clemente sea monster, witnessed by a number of people in the early 1920s. While the real history of the Moore's Beach Monster may never be known, it's safe to say it would have been a pretty scary thing to see when it was alive and kicking — or swimming, as the case may be.
Sea Serpent and the HMS Daedalus
It's hard to dispute a sea serpent sighting when the captain of a ship and several members of his crew all claim to have witnessed it. That's just what happened in August 1848, when the HMS Daedalus, a member of the Royal Navy's fleet, was sailing to St. Helena in the South Atlantic. The ship's captain, Captain McQuhae, as well as several members of his crew, claimed a sea beast approximately 60 feet in length passed by their vessel with 4 feet of its head raised out of the water. It passed so close to the ship that the captain suggested that had it been an acquaintance of his, he would have recognized him.
It remained in sight of the crew for 20 minutes and one member of the HMS Daedalus noted it looked more reptilian than serpentine. The sighting became rather famous and remains the only instance of an encounter with this particular water monster. It was reported in the Times of London and today remains a mystery.
While not a particularly scary serpent, this creature deserves a spot on this list based solely on its size and potential to do some serious damage.
Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay Sea Serpent
Similar in description to the Gloucester Sea Serpent of the early 1800s, the giant serpent of the Chesapeake Bay has had many witnesses over the years and even has a page dedicated to it on Maryland's Department of Natural Resources Web site. In 1936, one of the earliest mentions of Chessie was made when the crew of a military helicopter flying over the Bush River claimed seeing an unknown reptilian beast in the waters below. It wasn't until the early 1980s, however, that these reports started to garner some real attention.
Thanks to cameras, Chessie's existence became more of a reality as visual evidence of sightings started to file in. In 1982, one family videotaped their sighting from their Kent Island home, which the Smithsonian then held a mini-symposium on. They concluded that the video, along with a previously unreleased image by a local woman, proved that something was alive within the Chesapeake Bay. What it was, though, they could not determine.
Witnesses compare Chessie to an anaconda or a python — serpentine, snakelike and dark in color. It's said to be 30 feet in length and about as thick as a telephone pole. Some say there is more than just one living in the waters of the Chesapeake. While there haven't been any reports of nefarious behavior on the part of Chessie, a 30-foot slithering sea creature is not something many of us would welcome encountering.
Over the years, reported sightings have subsided, but the curiosity remains.
The "Great Sea Serpent"
Off the coast of Greenland in 1734, missionary Hans Egede reported seeing a serpent so big, its head reached as high as a ship's masthead. It spouted water like a whale, had skin like a reptile, and was as wide as a ship, but four times its length. Its face he described as having a snout and when it traveled from the ship, it plunged backward instead of advancing forward as many fish and sea creatures do.
The illustration of this beast is said to be one of the earliest pictures based on a credible and reliable source.
The Gloucester Sea Serpent of 1817
In August 1817, reports of a 60- to 70-foot-long sea beast reached a fever pitch in Gloucester, Mass., after numerous witnesses claimed seeing a huge serpent moving rapidly through the harbor. This was not the first time — nor the last time — the people of Massachusetts would report such a sight. Serpent sightings were noted as early as the 1630s, but none were taken as seriously as those in 1817. The creature was said to have a turtle-like head adorned with a spear or horn and a body as wide as a barrel. The reports gained so much momentum that the Linnaean Society of New England assembled a team to collect evidence, and Gen. David Humphreys (a former member of George Washington's staff) traveled to the scene to collect eyewitness accounts.
Shortly after the occurrence, the Linnaean Society of New England published a report stating that the sighting was evidence of a new type of animal, which they dubbed Scoliophis Atlanticus. Unfortunately for the society, though, Scoliophis Atlanticus was often parodied more than appreciated. There were some who took more kindly to the society's pamphlet and to the belief that such a monster trolled the great seas. In April 1859, more evidence of the serpent's existence became available when a creature that fit the description of the Gloucester sea serpent allegedly attacked the British sailing vessel Banner while at sea
Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster, or "Nessie" as it's come to be called, is no stranger to aquatic lore. The creature is said to inhabit a deep lake in Inverness, Scotland, and claims of its existence have filled newspapers, airwaves and the Internet since the 1930s.
Arguably, Nessie has become the most famous of all serpentine beasts since it was first spotted loping across the road toward the loch in 1933 by a couple driving in the area. There are, however, earlier reports of Nessie sightings. Some of the accounts date back to the sixth century, when Nessie was said to be a murderous beast that was later calmed by St. Columba (a monk who converted most of Scotland to Christianity). But no report or legend has as much credibility as the sightings that began in the early 1930s.
Skeptics claim Nessie is a myth. Scientists suggest "she" is a prime example of mistaken identity. Legitimate or legend, Nessie will forever be known as the queen of the Loch Ness.
Olaus Magnus' Norwegian Serpent
In Olaus Magnus' 1555 work History of the Northern Peoples, he describes a Norwegian serpent so bold that it would come out from its underwater cave on bright summer nights to feast on calves, lambs and pigs. This beast was said to be 200 feet long and 20 feet wide and was believed to live outside Bergen.
Most disturbing, however, was this beast's flame-red eyes and penchant for eating people. The vicious creature would attack ships and feast on its people as it lifted itself straight up from the water toward the sky.
Mythology from around the world has its fair share of serpents and sea monsters — and Norse mythology is no exception. The serpent Jörmungandr is said to be the middle child of Loki and Angrboða, who is taken by Odin — the chief god in Norse paganism — and hurled into the ocean. Jörmungandr then grew so big he was able to encircle the earth with his body.
His claim to fame, though, isn't his ability to wrap himself around the planet, but his beef with the god Thor. In one tale, Thor refuses to heed the warnings of the giant Hymir and sets out to fish in deep waters. After casting his line, Thor hooks Jörmungandr and reels him in. Upon raising the serpent from the water, Thor prepares to bludgeon him with a hammer, but is thwarted by Hymir who cuts the line, releasing Jörmungandr back into the sea.
Thor and Jörmungandr are said to have met again, for the last time, in Ragnarök. Here, Jörmungandr leaps from the sea to poison the sky, but he is killed by Thor. Shortly thereafter, Thor falls dead after being affected by Jörmungandr's poison.
While there's no hard evidence that Jörmungandr trolled the seas, perhaps it'd be wise not to question the existence of a serpent said to be able to encircle the planet with his body for fear of retribution.
Chien Tang River Monster
With its long coast and numerous rivers, China is no stranger to tales of giant sea creatures and powerful, deadly serpentine beasts. Legend has it that one of these was a wicked, chameleon-like behemoth that lurked beneath the waters of the Chien Tang River. Called Kiau by the locals, this monster was said to be ferocious and able to camouflage itself during attacks, making it nearly impossible for those under attack to fight back.
One of the most famous attacks thought to be carried out by Kiau dates back to the year 488 C.E. A government official had been sailing the Chien Tang when he was met by 300-foot-long serpent that was black in color. The story goes that Kiau continued to terrorize the river for another 600-plus years, until meeting its demise at the hands of a local hero who leapt into the river and spent several days in battle with the beast before emerging triumphant.
Thought to be the scariest, most feared sea beast ever to inhabit our planet's waters, the Kraken was said to be more than a mile long. The monster was so terrifying that it would make even the toughest skipper shake in his knickers. Tales of these creatures describe them as having giant tentacles that would envelope and capsize ships. As the ships would sink to their demise, the beast was said to eat those on board or let them drown in the ship's wake.
Dating back to 12th-century Norway, the legendary Kraken is said to be the only sea monster to have roots in reality. With its many arms and bulbous eyes, it's now believed the giant squid may be to blame for all the high seas hubbub. Either way, it's a wonder anyone took to the ocean blue while this legend was at its height.