Futility Closet book ad

Hit and Run

On Dec. 30, 1947, the United States Hydrograph Office received the following wireless message from the Grace Line steamer Santa Clara, which was bound for Cartagena:

LAT. 34.34 N. LONG 74.07 W., 1700 GCT — STRUCK MARINE MONSTER EITHER KILLING IT OR WOUNDING IT. ESTIMATED LENGTH 45 FEET WITH EEL-LIKE HEAD AND BODY APPROXIMATELY 3 FEET IN DIAMETER. LAST SEEN THRASHING ABOUT IN LARGE BLOODY AREA ASTERN. SIGHTED BY CHIEF OFFICER WILLIAM HUMPHREY AND JOHN AXELSON, THIRD OFFICER.

The master of the ship, J. Fordan, published a detailed account, which was carried widely by the Associated Press:

Suddenly, John Axelson, the third mate, saw a snake-like head rear out of the sea about 30 feet off the starboard bow of the vessel. His exclamation of amazement directed the attention of the two other mates to the sea monster, and the three watched it unbelievingly as it came abeam of the bridge where they stood, and it was then left astern.

The creature’s head appeared to be about two and one-half feet across, 2 feet thick, and 5 feet long. The cylindrically shaped body was about 3 feet thick and the neck about one and a half feet in diameter. As the monster came abeam of the bridge, it was observed that the water around the monster, over an area of 30 or 40 square feet, was stained red. The visible part of the body was about 35 feet long. It was assumed that the color of the water was due to the creature’s blood and that the stem of the ship had cut the monster in two.

From the time the monster was first sighted until it disappeared in the distance astern, it was thrashing about as though in agony. The monster’s skin was dark brown, slick and smooth. There were no fins, hair, or protuberances on the head or neck or any visible parts of the body.

Possibly the creature was a monstrous oarfish; we’ll never know for certain.