High Strangeness: Our Haunted Seas
High Strangeness: Our Haunted Seas
By Scott Corrales
Hardship will drive people to do the unthinkable, and in the early 21st century, some examples of the human drive to flee from hardship are to be found in the endless South to North migration of the oppressed, both in the New and Old Worlds. In August 2004, a newspaper report filed by Joaquín Asención of the El Vocero newspaper highlighted the harrowing, nightmarish experience of nearly forty castaways who had chanced the caprice of the ocean waves for a better chance at a life in neighboring Puerto Rico. A total of eighty-two “boat people” – men, women and children - departed in a rickety boat from the Dominican Republic for what should have been a very short crossing of the unpredictable Mona Passage to a secret landing site somewhere in western Puerto Rico.
But the ocean had a cruel fate in store for the refugees: their precariously outfitted craft, improperly stocked with food and water, was swept out into the Atlantic for a twelve-day odyssey that not even the bravest Hollywood director would try to capture on film. Hunger and thirst raged among the passengers, causing many to jump into the sea to drink in as much salt water as possible before dying; some survivors later reported acts of cannibalism had taken place in the drifting vessel, but the most astonishing – and terrifying- event was yet in store.
One survivor told the journalist reporting the story that while the refugees fought for survival among the wind, waves and merciless sun, a "monster" with vast wings appeared before them. Overcome by dread, passengers huddled together to read from a New Testament that had been found in the vessel, but as they read from the holy book, its pages inexplicably vanished their hands.
Only thirty-seven out of the eighty passengers survived the ordeal, eventually being found by fishermen from the Dominican town of Nagua.
What was the strange winged monster? A Mothman-type creature? A supernatural entity emerged from the roiling sea to mock the passengers, or indeed to try their faith? There can be no doubt that spending almost two weeks at sea without food and water can lead to hallucinations, especially when witnessing hellish conditions among one’s fellows, but such tricks of the mind would more than likely summon thoughts of food, safety and shelter, not stygian specters. Would a collective hallucination also include the disappearance of pages from a religious text? A question best left to mental health experts. It is known that certain elemental figures tend to adopt physical manifestations, and conditions and situations that have plagued humanity from the start – war, disease, insanity – may have elementals that embody these odious scourges. Could we speculate that the despairing castaways were witnesses to a manifestation of the elemental of hunger?
It is also true that certain waters appear to be “haunted”: the so-called Horse Latitudes of the Atlantic Ocean were named thus after ghosts of horses supposedly dumped overboard by early mariners when ships were becalmed and water ran short; Vincent Gaddis’s classic Invisible Horizons (NY: Ace, 1965) mentions a rather dreadful apparition known as “Ladylips”, the jawless phantom of a French sea captain, that haunts the waters of the Pacific Ocean and has reportedly been seen by over 500 sailors aboard American and British vessels. Nor should we ever forget the exorcisms performed by the late Reverend Donald Omand over certain bodies of water in Norway (the ominous-sounding Fjord of the Trolls) and the Arctic Ocean that were prone to manifestations of sea serpents and caused mariners to perform irrational acts. And speaking of sea monsters…
An Argentinean Sea Serpent
Guillermo R. Giménez, a contributing editor to the INEXPLICATA journal, is one of Argentina’s most dynamic researchers – an author, indefatigable traveler and meticulous analyst of matters paranormal – who has the great fortune to live in one of his country’s loveliest locations, the seaside resort of Necochea, a paradise for the beachcomber and the marine sportsman alike. Since 1994, he reports, the littoral of Necochea and Quequén has been visited by sort of creature best described as a “sea serpent” – dubbed Joselito -- that was initially reported by Carlos Miño, master of the Paco Ventura, a commercial fishing vessel out of Quequén. The sighting took place between March 18 some six miles out at sea. According to Giménez, the crew radioed their base at Mar del Plata that at 13:00 hours on that day they had seen the monster: “[measuring] some 10 to 12 meters long from head to back, which was all that could be seen…the remainder [of the creature] remained submerged.” This marine nightmare was only a scant 10 meters away from the Paco Ventura when the sighting occurred, while the crew was dragging its nets. Further sightings occurred, reported by commercial and recreational fishermen, but just as many preferred to keep their sightings to themselves.
Carlos Miño, the Ventura’s owner, told Necochea’s Ecos Diarios newspaper that at no time did he feel his ship or crew were at danger. “It appears to be a peaceful specimen. At no time did it threaten us, and I could go as far as to say that it ignored us…I was the first one to see it, although I had no idea what it could be. It called my attention because this dark thing appeared on the water and seagulls suddenly surrounded it. I headed for the ship’s bow, intrigued. After a while it submerged, and then remained floating, which allowed me to take a better look.”
“Part of its back,” continues Miño’s description, had [something like] serrated or staggered fins.” He described these appendages as being similar to “the dinosaurs they show us in books or magazines.” The creature’s head was described as white and rounded, like that of a duck. “I was unable to calculate its full size since I didn’t see the whole animal. It gave the impression of being much larger than what was visible, but I couldn’t calculate it.”
Amid all the commotion over the Necochea sea serpent, a man named Luis Menna recalled that a year earlier, another man had reported seeing two such sea serpents while camped out near Médano Blanco. He reportedly heard “strange sounds or noises” coming from the shallow waters near the coast.
Further corroboration for Carlos Miño’s sighting came from María S. Monterrosa and Osvaldo Gutiérrez, a pair of housekeepers who were looking after summer homes in the vicinity of Bahía de los Vientos. Only a two weeks earlier, they had witnessed a strange marine creature some 15 meters from the coast. “We have seen whales, baby whales, sea lions, penguins and other species, but we had never seen an animal with these characteristics. It had a large head, a serrated back and large eyes. At least three or four meters of the creature’s back could be seen on the surface.”
Could these creatures have emerged from very deep oceanic waters as a result of naval exercises, oil drilling on the Argentinean continental shelf or other man-made activity? Or did they simply come to shallower waters to spawn? One wonders if sightings of such large sea creatures in antiquity were the source of the Babylonian myth of Tiamat, the evil “dragon” that is the source of all sea monsters. Certainly they could embody the Biblical notions of Rahab or Leviathan, as conveyed in the Psalms: "This great and wide sea, in which are innumerable teeming things, living things both small and great. There the ships sail about; there is the Leviathan which you have made to play there." (Ps 104:25-26). Antedating the Scriptures by centuries we find inscriptions and amulets designed to ward off these unwelcome marine presences, such as this one: “Seven are they…In the Ocean Deep, Seven are they…Neither male nor female are they…The Evil Ones of Ea, throne bearers of the gods are they…” (Thompson, Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia).
Mysterious Golfo de San Jorge
The fact remains that Argentina’s coastal waters have witnessed many strange activity, but the country’s Golfo de San Jorge can safely claim precedence among them all. Not only was it notorious in the 1960’s for a number of USO (unidentified submarine object) reports, but also it’s inordinately high UFO activity led many experts to seriously consider that a “UFOport” existed either underwater or somewhere on land.
An event that occurred in July 1975 and reported by Guillermo Roncorconi a few years alter is a perfect example of this strange activity. In this instance it involved the Patagonian town of Caleta Olivia, which despite its small size is one of the major population centers of the region and serves as a support community for the Argentinean oil industry
On July 15, a group of friends on a fishing trip left Caleta Olivia to enjoy an evening’s fishing, being rewarded by a spectacular catch. It was a clear, windless and cloudless evening presided by a waxing moon that cast its light onto the gulf’s waters. The sportsmen returned to port after midnight, and around 1:30 in the morning, one of the friends noticed what appeared to be a glowing form underwater at a distance from the pier – all of the witnesses later agreed that the form was luminous, elongated and greenish-yellow in color, apparently only a few meters under the surface. They believed at first that object was motionless, but later saw that it was moving slowly under water. They estimated it to be some 10 meters long and 4 meters at its thickest, tapering toward the ends. The mysterious light kept moving without ever breaking the surface and eventually lost itself in the distance.
The sighting could have ended at that, had it not been for the enormous amount of dead fish that washed ashore the next morning and over the course of the following days. Even more enigmatic were the sudden deaths of seabirds – gulls and albatrosses – in the vicinity.
Blame was quickly placed on the oil pipeline belonging to Yacimientos Petroleos Fiscales (YPF), Argentina’s major petroleum producer, but no oil spill was ever detected and subsequent investigations eliminated the possibility that the bird and fish deaths were somehow oil related. Commercial fishermen complained about having to go many miles out to sea for their daily catches, due to the near total absence of fish in coastal waters.
Was the slow-moving light reported by the four sportsmen who had just enjoyed a fine evening of fishing some kind of damaged or leaking unidentified submarine object, making its way back to its base in the depths of the ocean for repairs? The concept that a vehicle from another, more advanced civilization, whether alien, interdimensional or terrestrial, would leak radiation like a damaged nuclear submarine can be hard to swallow, but how else to account for the enigmatic deaths of not only fish, but seabirds?
Our planet Earth could have just as easily been called Water, and perhaps more fairly, as any satellite image of our world proves the prevalence of water over soil, or of the god Poseidon over Ceres, to wax mythological. From the shallow green of coastal waters where sailboats and motorboats play to the cobalt blue plowed by freighters, ocean liners and warships, humanity’s fascination for the hydrosphere is as unending as it is irresistible.
Aside from the natural dangers that this liquid medium holds for air breathers, mariners and landlubbers alike have hinted at other perils that cannot be escaped in a lifeboat or by wearing a bright orange preserver. Myth? Rumor? Poorly explained natural phenomena? Enlightened minds would have us believe that there is nothing in the heavens or on earth that can escape the cold light of science, but the sea’s mysteries are not so easily put aside…