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The Santa Cruz Sea Serpent

One of the strangest creatures ever coughed up by the Pacific Ocean beached itself on a rocky shore two miles northwest of this coastal town back in 1925.

Reports of the time didn’t agree on the size of the dead, foul-smelling beast. It was given as anywhere from 30 to 50 feet long. Luckily, a photographer was on the site, and took clear pictures for posterity.

The photos show a creature with a duck-billed head, a long, slender neck, and a body trunk that tapers off into a finlike appendage. Close-up pictures reveal what looks like an elephant’s leg on the animal’s neck; one witness said that it had several pairs of these legs on its body, complete with ivory toenails! To the observer, the beast resembles nothing so much as a plesiosaurus: a finned aquatic dinosaur that supposedly died out 65 million years ago.

And that’s just what naturalist E.L. Wallace, who inspected the carcass, pronounced it. Wallace said the animal was toothless, weak-boned, and probably a vegetarian swamp-dweller. He theorized that it had been preserved in glacial ice, which drifted south and gradually melted. The carcass was cast adrift, and it eventually washed up on the outskirts of Santa Cruz.

Finally, an “official” scientific examination was made. The verdict was that the monster wasn’t a dinosaur, but a species of North Pacific beaked whale so rare that it possessed only a Latin name, Berardus bairdi. The whale was unknown outside of British Columbian waters.

This didn’t quite close the book on the case. Numerous witnesses still maintained that the beast wasn’t a whale, or even a known sea creature. To this day, the Santa Cruz Sea Monster remains a contentious issue among people fascinated by “sea serpents” and the possibility of surviving dinosaurs.


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