Gloucester Sea Serpent

posted: 08/13/12
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Gloucester Sea Serpent
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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.

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