Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Sea Monster of the Chesapeake

For nearly twenty years, newspapers of Maryland and Virginia have been documenting reports of a huge, snake-like animal allegedly seen in the Chesapeake. The mysterious beast, nicknamed "Chessie" by locals, has been described as serpentine, about twenty-five to forty feet in length, eight to ten inches in diameter, and possessing an elliptical or football-shaped head. Reportedly, the creature is a uniformly dark color, having no fins or bodily appendages.
Let's take a closer look...

So what is Chessie? Some believe it is a prehistoric creature, however, this is unlikely. If it were a prehistoric reptilian creature, the Bay would not be an ideal habitat. The Chesapeake is very shallow and cold, in fact, in winter it can freeze over in places. A cold blooded prehistoric animal would not be able to survive.

Others have leaned towards the idea that Chessie isn't an unknown animal at all. In 1994, a manatee was captured and tagged in the Chesapeake Bay. It was taken back to its native Florida home and released. The following year the manatee swam into the Bay again. In fact, it swam clear up to Rhode Island before turning and heading south again. Year after year this same manatee makes his journey. Could it be Chessie the monster and Chessie the manatee (as it has been named) are one in the same? I find that scenario as unlikely as the prehistoric animal theory.

For several years reported sightings of the alleged animal remained unsubstantiated until May 31, 1982. On that date around 7:30 PM, Maryland resident Robert Frew videotaped a long, dark, serpent-like creature swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, about 100 feet off the bulkhead of his Kent Island home.
Frew, and his wife, spotted the creature in shallow, clear water about 200 feet from their house. Frey videotaped the monster as it moved towards a group of swimmers. It dove beneath the swimmers and reappeared on the other side of them. The creature the Frew's saw was about 30-35 feet long, 1 foot in diameter, and dark brown with a humped back.

On August 20, 1982, the Frew videotape received an audience with Dr. George Zug and other scientists at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History. After thoroughly examining the tape the scientists, although intrigued by what it apparently depicted, were unable to reach many conclusions about the "animate" object shown. They believed the video tape t show a living animal but as to any other information the Smithsonian could draw no further conclusions. The videotape's quality was simply not good enough to allow such a determination.

As a result of the publicity concerning the Smithsonian's viewing, researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University offered to perform computer image enhancement of the Frew Tape in an effort to extract from it more information about the mystery animal. The computer work initially conducted isolated an impressive, unmistakable, serpentine shape from the surrounding waters. Unfortunately, soon after the enhancement techniques began the internal funding that the Applied Physics Laboratory allowed for the Frew videotape work ran out. Further enhancements on the Frew tape have been suspended pending the availability of some outside source of funding. Since 1983 the videotape has remained in limbo.

Wild hun? No one knows what Chessie is. Nevertheless, compelling detailed reports from credible, reliable witnesses suggest the possibility of an unknown animal. Although the number of Chessie reports varies from year to year, they persist all the same. Chessie is still seen in the Bay. Most sightings occur in May through September most likely because that is when the Bay is overrun with boaters and swimmers. The areas where Chessie has been sighted most often are Love Point at Kent Island, the mouth of the Potomac, and the eastern Bay. You gotta love a real sea monster story! Just another indication that we live in a really weird world!

I’m Average Joe

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