Posts Tagged ‘sea serpents’

I’m sure some of you have seen the incredible images of a genuine sea monster found in Southern California earlier this week. A snorkeler encountered the 18-foot-long carcass of a Giant Oarfish and brought it ashore. Fifteen or sixteen other people had to help get it out of the water. Here’s an image from Sky News HD.


According to this article in the L.A. Times, oarfish are known to inhabit the sea off California, but are thought to stick to much deeper waters. They can grow up to 15 meters or 45 feet long. That’s as big as some whales!

You know what’s funny about this? If a fantasy writer were to create a 45-foot-long fish in a magical world, we would be considered ridiculous. Too silly even for fantasy. And yet, this thing exists in the real world.

Nature sure is amazing.

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I’d like to close this thread on sea monsters with a giant of early television: Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent. Cecil starred, together with his best buddy, a boy named Beany, in the seminal puppet fantasy, Time For Beany, a.k.a. Beany and Cecil.

Beany and Cecil were created by Bob Clampett after he left the Warner Brothers animation studio. Indeed, the show shares many attributes of Warner Brothers cartoons: broad characterization, slapstick humor, and rampant cartoon violence. At the same time, the shows were full of sly asides and political comment directed at adult viewers. This mélange was actually quite common in the era when there were only three channels and the whole family watched TV together. Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Flintstones used much the same approach.

Time For Beany began airing in 1949. In the initial incarnation, Cecil was a hand puppet, so you only saw his head. Voices were provided by masters such as Daws Butler and Stan Freberg. In 1959, the show became one of the first animated cartoons on TV. The black and white show became color in 1962 and lasted in that form until 1964. It then went into syndication, which is how I came to be watching it during the ’70s.

Cecil, himself, was a big green sea serpent. (Duh…) Why they called him sea-sick, I’m not sure. He endured lots of cartoon violence, but I don’t remember him ever getting sea-sick.

Cecil was devoted to Beany, although not very bright — it was all too easy for bad guys to trick him. Beany was the little blond boy with the propeller hat. In some episodes, he actually flew! These two traveled the sea with Uncle Horatio and his crew, aboard the Leakin’ Lena. Ostensibly, they were searching for treasure.

In their adventures, they often came up against Dishonest John, who was trying to get the treasures first. Dishonest John had that famous laugh, “nya-ah-ah!” His motto was “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” The villain often kidnapped Beany in hopes of forcing Horatio to turn over the loot. It never quite worked out that way.

Though long gone from TV, the show’s influence continues to be felt. Dishonest John’s motto became a rock song. Villains in all media still laugh with a version of “nya-ah-ah!” Cecil’s image is said to have inspired Larry Niven to create his Puppet Masters. And there’s more… Not a bad legacy for a hand puppet and a kid in a silly hat!

By modern standards, these shows are crude but spirited. If you like your funnies old-style, with lots of slap in the schtick, you could do worse than scrounging up some Beany and Cecil. Episodes are widely available on the Internet.

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Last time, I mentioned Scylla, a sea creature of Greek myth. This may seem like it’s all very long ago and far away, but did you know there were a string of sea serpent sightings right here in the U.S.?

That’s right! Over centuries, ship’s captains and residents reported sighting a sea monster near Cape Ann and Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts. The earliest known report dates to 1638; the most recent was in 1962. In some cases, English settlers wanted to attack the creature, but Native Americans pleaded with them not to make it angry.

The most active period for the Gloucester Serpent was in 1817, when more than 100 people reported seeing it over a month’s time. Every one of them described it as a sea serpent. Some said it had a horse’s head with a great horn projecting out. Others said it was a turtle’s head with huge eyes and a horn. The creature was said to be between 80 and 100 feet long. Its scaly body was jointed all the way down, so it could turn back upon itself at any point. Some witnesses said it could coil itself up like a cable. Others compared it to a row of floats on a net, or a set of casks.

What was it? Nobody knew! Bear in mind, Gloucester was a center of the fishing industry. The people of the town certainly should have been able to identify what they were looking at. This time, people did try to kill it, but their musket balls had no effect.

Nevertheless this visitation created enormous interest. Newspapers did many articles, and the New England Linnaean Society (a natural history organization) appointed a committee to gather facts about the sea serpent. They proposed a scientific name, Scoliophis Atlanticus. Without a specimen for study, little more could be done.

Still, the Gloucester Serpent remains one of the best documented cryptid events in North American history.

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