Seafood Surprise

“We have had a visit from a monster turtle fish,” wrote a Miss S. Lovell, rather complacently, to Land and Water in 1891. Lovell was a schoolteacher on Queensland’s Great Sandy Island, and she was quite certain of what she saw:

It let me stand for half an hour within five feet of it. When tired of my looking at it, it put its large neck and head into the water and swept round seaward, raising its huge dome-shaped body about five feet out of the water, and put its twelve feet of fish-like tail over the dry shore, elevating it at an angle. Then, giving its tail a half twist, it shot off like a flash of lightning, and I saw its tail in the air about a quarter of a mile off, where the steamers anchor.

Indeed, when an editor expressed some doubt at this, Miss Lovell took offense: “You speak of the impossible length of its tail. I beg to state this is a most astounding statement from people who have never seen this monster, half fish, half tortoise. The tail was over the dry shore for half an hour, so close to me, that five footsteps would have enabled me to put my hand upon it.”

The editor eventually gave up, but W. Savile-Kent took a fuller account from her and published it in his Great Barrier Reef of Australia two years later; she also gave him a document certifying that seven other people had seen the thing within a few days of her encounter. It hasn’t come back.