Skeptical Monster Hunting

Dinah Voyles Pulver, the environment writer at the Daytona Beach News Journal has a good overview of the debunking of "sea monster" beachings at Tasmania, Bermuda, Nantucket and Chile. All were cetaceans, of course. She also lumps in the nearby 1896 St. Augustine beaching, as a whale too, but my emails with Roy Mackal tell me there may a surprise on the horizon about that one, in a new analysis being conducted. Could it be a giant octopus, after all?

Also highlighted by Pulver is the work of cryptozoologist "Charles Paxton, a researcher with the wildlife population assessment department at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, [who] published an analysis of witness accounts of an encounter with a ‘sea serpent’ off the coast of Greenland in 1734. The sailors told of the animal spouting water and falling on its back into the sea. Paxton and his colleagues concluded the sailors probably saw a humpback whale, a North Atlantic right whale or an Atlantic gray whale, possibly without its fluke or a male in a state of arousal. Other scientists say it is possible someone in the 1700s could have mistaken a prominent part of a male whale’s anatomy for a sea serpent. Scientists describe whale penises as ‘snake-like’ and ‘quite long,’ for example, 6 feet or more on a right whale."

Charles Paxton, one of our own, it is worth noting, applies an open-minded cryptozoological and zoological sense of the world to the cases he investigates. Truth be told, not all the results that cryptozoology produces end up supporting some of the legendary sightings in the way that the general public would think that we "should." Cryptozoologists are good critical thinkers.