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Strange Days: Cryptozoology

 

Sighting a Sea Serpent

RAF navigator believes he saw one of the last of the large dinosaurs

Artwork of two Elasmosaurus marine reptiles swimming underwater. Chris Butler / Science Photo Library

Kent-based cryptozoological researcher Neil Arnold recently passed on to me, with kind permission from its source to publish it here, a remarkable, previously undocumented sea serpent sighting from the late 1950s. Neil’s source was a correspond­ent called Nick (whose email address I have on file), and one of the eyewitnesses in question was his father. Nick is anxious that the sighting be preserved, so here is his account of it:

“I am 39 years old with three children and my father is now 72. He was one of the last people to have been conscripted to national service, serving as navigator on RAF Shackleton aircraft in 1957, flying missions over Europe and much of South America. The official job of the Shackleton was as a spotting aircraft, and both pilot and crew were highly trained in this respect; their job was to search for submarines and relay the positions back to base. One of the tell-tale signs they used to look for [from] high above was a dark shape underwater, which could often be a shark or whale or other creature, but occasionally they would get lucky and find a submarine near to the surface. On one occasion, having seen such a dark shape near the surface, they flew down to investi­gate, and as they flew by this shape, every crew member on board saw the same thing – the neck and head of a large sea creature protruding from the surface. The nearest thing they could think of at the time was a plesiosaur. They were all in agreement but of course the pilot on the way home forbade them absolutely from talking about it; if they had done so they would all have been immed­iately grounded and accused of being drunk on duty.

“So anyway, my father decided to research what the creature might have been, and found that it was almost definitely an ‘elasmosaurus’ [long-necked plesio­saur], as the one thing that was very obvious was the huge length of the animal’s neck. My father was forced to conclude, and of course he’d read all about the cœlacanth, that there were indeed much larger ‘extinct’ creatures out there, unknown to science. He told me of the incident when I reached adulthood. Twenty years on, he still will swear to his grave that this is what they all saw on the flight…

“The year was 1957, the location was ‘about 500 miles [800km] north of the Canary Islands, in open sea’. The RAF Squadron was 228 Squadron, flying out of St Eval in Cornwall. (This air base has since been closed, but I believe remnants of the site remain.) I don’t know who the other crewmembers were and I have been thinking about making an official enquiry to the RAF archives. However, what I hope is important is the location (vague, sorry), species and date. I am more than aware that most scientists consider the poss­ibility of any large dinosaur [sic] still alive as astronomic­ally small, and my father himself also thinks now with sadness that he might have seen one of the last ones; his own reasoning is that at this point, not so long after the war, there really was not much shipping around; indeed, the area where they had the sighting was entirely devoid of shipping and maybe this was the reason the creature had considered it safe to surface, far from the throb of ships’ propellers.”

One zoologist who read Nick’s account suggested that perhaps they had seen a tentacle from a giant squid rise above the water surface, but Nick’s father emphatic­ally discounted any such poss­ibility. If by any chance any other Shackle­ton crewmember who saw this creature is reading this item and would like to contact FT, we’d love to hear from you!

Nick, via Neil Arnold, 28 Nov 2008.

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