Sea Monster Stories II - Captain Voss and the Sea Serpent

by Rich Mallon-Day - 9/29/2017 7:23:01 PM

Here's another Sea Monster story that I've come across during my historical research into the Cape Hatteras dolphin net fishery of the 1890's. This one is not as lurid as the last story but is a fun read nonetheless. This is from The Philadelphia Inquirer July 16, 1896.


Captain Voss Has a Most Exciting Experience During His Voyage.


It Was Three Hundred Feet Long, Had Luxuriant Whiskers and Placidly Fed on Porpoises While Being Chased.

The sea serpent is coming up from Southern waters, traveling slowly along the Atlantic coast, occasionally raising his head to correct any deviation in his course or to make mental note of his advance toward a cooler clime. At least, such is the statement vouched for by Captain Voss, of the Belgian steamer Sagamore, which arrived yesterday from St. Jago, Cuba.

"When we were off Cape Hatteras, Monday afternoon," said Captain Voss yesterday, "the lookout saw a floating object, that looked like a long, black line, far to windward. Thinking it might be a black painted spar or other wreckage, I levelled the glass on the object, and at first sight was so astonished that the glass nearly dropped from my hand. That it was no mast or floating spar I became speedily convinced, because, instead of being rigidly straight, it was full of curves which seemed to adapt themselves to the rolling motion of the waves. Never having seen the so-called sea serpent and being skeptical of the existence of such things, I had my curiosity whet ted to learn more of this strange specimen and consequently had the course of the ship altered so as to bear down upon it.


"We were going at a good eleven-knot gait, and as nearly as I could judge the serpent was making between ten and eleven knots per hour and heading almost in the same direction as we were going. At the distance we were apart I calculated that night would shut in before the Sagamore could overtake the monster and this calculation was made on the assumption that his snakeship was then swimming at about the top of his speed. Word was passed down to the engineer not to spare the coal, and inside of fifteen minutes we were gaining rapidly upon him."

"Everybody on deck was straining his eyes to see if we were gaining enough on the monster to enable us to get a close view before darkness set in. "All the old opera and spy glasses, that had been idle for months, were gotten out and the supply, though limited, added to the excitement. For a time, to the intense satisfaction of all, the serpent seemed to show signs of fatigue and instead of going straight ahead began to circle around, as if uncertain of his bearings. All sorts of plans were suggested for his capture.


"We were still about two miles to the leeward of the monster, but every moment was shortening the distance. The serpent after circling around several times dissappeared from view only to rise again at a point further to the eastward. Just then I discovered a lot of black-looking objects which I took to be porpoises and concluded that the serpent had suddenly run into a school of those fish and had stopped to feed upon them.

"Just then the sea serpent reached its gigantic head about ten feet above the surface and displayed the most fierce and horribly ugly, looking features I ever beheld. The creature, in thus raising its head, gave us the first view of its actual size, which, as near as I can judge, was about as large as a flour barrel, with a neck tapering down to about half that diameter. In length it appeared to be about three hundred feet.


"The serpent seemed to have an almost human look, and its face closely resembled that of an ape. The great jaws were bearded by a heavy growth of what might have been hair, but really looked like a mass of sea weed or black tangled ropes, as thick as one's little finger. The black beard, or mane, must have been over ten feet long, for it still hung in the water as the strange creature swam twice in a great circle about the place. No more porpoises could be seen, and, doubtless well fed, if not tired, the serpent stretched himself out and lay floating on the water, apparently fast asleep. We were getting pretty close and we were all worked up to the highest pitch of excitement. To .run down such a monster without warning seemed cruel, and to give him fair notice of our approach and a chance to test his speed, three sharp blasts were blown on the whistle, when, to our sore disappointment, after lifting its head a few feet only, it dived and was lost from view. Although for an hour a sharp look-out was kept up, nothing further was seen of the sea serpent."