Sea Monsters and Megalodons Among Us

The fisherman came into the little bar on the beach near Cabo San Lucas and sat at the corner table next to me and my friends. We were drunk, though it wasn't yet noon (and I was not yet a convert to the Mormon Church), and we shot tequila with lime and dessert beers to sip. The fisherman began talking to us and as we drank with him, I asked an unusual question: alguna vez has visto un monter mar? In my terrible, broken Spanish, that was "have you ever seen a sea monster?"

His eyes went wide and he made a whistling sound through his teeth. My Spanish, as well as the fact that I was thoroughly drunk, did not enable me to keep up with the story he told us afterward, but what I could make out and what was told to me afterward by my friends indicated that yes, he had definitely seen a sea monster and fully believed that massive creatures thought extinct still existed in the ocean.

Do sea monsters actually exist? Since the days when men went out on the water in boats made of little more than sticks tied together with vine, sea monster stories and sightings have been mankind's constant companion. And why are we so fascinated with creatures of the deep?

When I was twelve years old, my cousin Shane and I went surfing in the Bay Area about an hour south from San Francisco. The waves were terrible and we switched to wake-boarding instead because there wasn't even enough force to make surfing worthwhile.

I was about twenty feet from shore and I fell. The water was cold. The type of cold that makes a man feel not like a man. I glanced around for my cousin when I felt something hit me in the ribs. It was just a tap, not much more, but I certainly felt it. I looked over to see a massive fish, what I now think to be a tuna, partially eaten. Enormous bites were taken out of it and its dead eyes were looking up at me. I found out then that I scream like a twelve year old girl when a half-eaten tuna hits me in the ribs.

It wasn't so much the tuna but what had done that to the tuna that frightened me. I pictured a massive shark or giant squid, but there are much more terrifying things in the sea.

During World War II, an American sub picked up a sound with a corresponding blip on their sonar. The origin of the sound had to be massive, larger than any known biological entity in the ocean. Even a blue whale. The sound registered at such an intensity, that it was determined that no known source, man-made or natural, could have produced that sound.


In 1997, United States Navy equipment picked up an unnatural sound that could not be identified as well. It was ultra low frequency and to this day we cannot identify the origin. It's quite possibly the same type of sound picked up by the sub in World War II. It's simply been named "Bloop" and you can listen to it here.

Sea monster tales have been with us since the beginning. The ancient Greeks wrote accounts of the Hydra, a multi-headed beast that dwells in the underworld. Modern day scholars believe the tale of the hydra to simply be giant squid, tales of which sailors would have brought back to the cities to the amusement of the inhabitants. But even modern day scholars traveling the world find account after account of modern day sea monsters. Take this account by Australian fisherman recorded by naturalist David Stead:

In the year 1918 I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the "outside" crayfish men at Port Stephens, when, for several days, they refused to go to sea to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island. The men had been at work on the fishing grounds---which lie in deep water---when an immense shark of almost unbelievable proportions put in an appearance, lifting pot after pot containing many crayfishes, and taking, as the men said, "pots, mooring lines and all". These crayfish pots, it should be mentioned, were about 3 feet 6 inches [1.06 m] in diameter and frequently contained from two to three dozen good-sized crayfish each weighing several pounds. The men were all unanimous that this shark was something the like of which they had never dreamed of. In company with the local Fisheries Inspector I questioned many of the men very closely and they all agreed as to the gigantic stature of the beast. But the lengths they gave were, on the whole, absurd. I mention them, however, as a indication of the state of mind which this unusual giant had thrown them into. And bear in mind that these were men who were used to the sea and all sorts of weather, and all sorts of sharks as well. One of the crew said the shark was "three hundred feet [90 m] long at least"! Others said it was as long as the wharf on which we stood---about 115 feet [35 m]! They affirmed that the water "boiled" over a large space when the fish swam past. They were all familiar with whales, which they had often seen passing at sea, but this was a vast shark. They had seen its terrible head which was "at least as long as the roof on the wharf shed at Nelson's Bay." Impossible, of course! But these were prosaic and rather stolid men, not given to 'fish stories' nor even to talking about their catches. Further, they knew that the person they were talking to (myself) had heard all the fish stories years before! One of the things that impressed me was that they all agreed as to the ghostly whitish color of the vast fish. The local Fisheries Inspector of the time, Mr Paton, agreed with me that it must have been something really gigantic to put these experienced men into such a state of fear and panic.

What's reported here is a megalodon shark, a prehistoric species that is thought to have gone extinct 1.4 million years ago. Is it possible these massive predators still live in the sea?  A species of giant shark surviving deep in the sea undetected by man seems far fetched since the most obvious question is: where are the bodies? Well sharks leave little behind when they decompose. Normally, nothing more than a vertebrae and teeth since their bodies are made of cartilage. Evidence from corpses would be difficult to come by. Also, lets not forget that the megamouth shark, once thought a myth, was discovered to be an actual species of shark. A large species for that matter, and completely undetected by man until recently when they were discovered off the coast of Hawaii.

The megalodon is a fascinating case study however, as some people believe that a megalodon tooth was dredged up from the sea in the 19th century. When the tooth was dated much later, it was determined to be about 10,000 years old. If a shark can exist 10,000 years ago, so the proponents say, it can exist today. The shark would be the size of a ship and lurking far off away from land, looking for any meal that could sustain its girth. With teeth up to a foot in length, it would be the most efficient and monstrous predator that has ever lived.

Next time you go out on the ocean, try not to picture that.

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1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this story, thank you, and was expecting you to 'dredge up' the Loch Ness Monster. I cannot help but wonder what you would have to say about that.


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