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New Chesapeake Manatee Seen

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 21st, 2009

Chesapeake Bay residents, authorities, and visitors may be seeing a new tourist from the South in their area soon, a manatee.

The newly reported endangered marine mammal was spotted over the weekend of July 18-19, 2009, by Officer Marcus Rodriguez of the Havre de Grace Police Department in the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.


A manatee swims near a pier in the upper portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Courtesy of Officer Marcus Rodriguez/The Capital.

The sighting, made Saturday in waters off of Havre de Grace, Md., was confirmed by photos, said Jennifer Dittmar of the National Aquarium, who talked to the Washington Post.

Dittmar, the aquarium’s coordinator for the marine animal rescue program, said the photographs also made it possible to identify the manatee by name: Ilya. Unique scarring on the mammal’s tail made it possible to say he is Ilya, whose documentation dates to 1994.

“That makes this a pretty unique case,” Dittmar said last night.

All of Ilya’s documented history, through 2006, has been in the Miami area, the blog said.

On Saturday afternoon, however, Ilya was spotted swimming among the boats of a Havre de Grace marina. Officer Marcus Rodriguez reported that he “meandered around” for a time, nibbled on some sea grasses and then “just left.”

Ilya was the first confirmed manatee sighting in the bay this year, Dittmar said.

Last year it was reported that two were sighted in a bay tributary near Baltimore, Maryland, noted the Washington Post.

Among the best known of wandering manatees was one that visited the bay several times in the mid-1990s. He was dubbed Chessie, which the Washington Post incorrectly says was “in recognition of his seeming resemblance to the sea monster of Chesapeake lore.”

Actually, the manatee Chessie seems to have been named for its location only, and it was the rare reporter and certainly no cryptozoologists who made any comparisons with the reports of Chessie, the Sea Serpent seen in the region.

Although sightings of “Chessie the cryptid” may go back as long as 70 years ago, the modern era of the cryptozoological Chessie dates to 1978, when a retired CIA employee, Donald Kyker, and his neighbors, the Smoots, saw Chessie about 75 yards off shore. They said it was 30 feet long, sleek, dark gray creature swimming about 7-8 miles per hour. Then in 1982, Robert and Karen Frew allegedly videotaped Chessie near Kent Island.

Meanwhile, confusingly, the media named Chessie, a male West Indian manatee, after it became the most famous out-of-place manatee. It was named due to the Chesapeake Bay where he was “rescued” in the summer of 1994.

Chessie was said to have swum “far beyond the usual range of manatees in the southeastern United States,” according to government reports.

Captured and returned by U.S. Coast Guard plane to Florida, Chessie the manatee was subsequently radio tagged and tracked by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project. He gained new fame in the summer of 1995 by swimming past the mid-Atlantic States, through New York City, all the way to Rhode Island, farther than any manatee had been known to venture. He was sighted in Virginia in 1996 and 2001.

In 2006 and other years since 1994, other manatees have been found farther north than at one time was considered “normal.” You may recall reading of out-of-place manatees here in the Hudson River, New York, and in Tennessee.

So, could manatees actually have a range that is farther north than acknowledged? Is the manatee range expanding? Have past “lake monster” and “sea serpent” sightings been the result of “out-of-place” manatees?

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


4 Responses to “New Chesapeake Manatee Seen”

  1. CryptoInformant 2.0 responds:

    Well, one possible theory as to why they’re being seen farther north than we would typically expect is, of course, Global Warming – we have experienced a general warming trend over the past fifty years, so it doesn’t surprise me that some animals are moving farther north than may be natural. Of course, that isn’t necessarily the case – these areas may be part of their natural range, and we simply failed to notice them there before, or misidentified the sightings we did have.

  2. cryptidsrus responds:

    Something is happening in our atmosphere and weather that is causing this—on that, I agree with you, Cryptoinformant 2.0.
    I guess I’m happy we can definitely say this is a MANATEE—not a MERMAID. :)

  3. flame821 responds:

    I think it is a combination of enlarging their normal habitat, more people paying attention (having cameras to snap photos as proof and telly shows to be able to say ‘this is what ‘x’ animal looks like and where you would find them). And human pressure on their ‘normal’ habitats through development and pollution.

    As for manatees in particular being the basis behind lake monsters…no. To be honest I am still hard pressed to see how anyone could mistake them for mermaids. Granted months at sea, poor diet, dehydration and liberal alcohol consumption HAD to be a requirement for that sort of sighting.

    To me they look more like a log or rock, certainly not serpentine or dino-like. Perhaps another out of place animal is responsible for lake monster sightings, but a manatee is pretty unlikely IMHO.

  4. PhotoExpert responds:

    Well, I have not seen that particular manatee. However, if it is located near the Havre de Grace Marina, that means that it is in the Susquehanna River. That river feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. So that is very interesting indeed.

    I have not seen any manatees but I did witness a seal in the southern Chesapeake last year. That was pretty cool! Seals are known to venture into the Chesapeake, but that is a rarity. It was the last thing I expected to see while fishing with my buddies. Two of us saw it, twice at that. The other two fisherman questioned our sighting. I am glad I am not the only one that witnessed it. And although we were being doubted by our other two friends, two days later, on a fishing internet sight, other fisherman had seen the seal too! And it was one of the doubters that sent me the link to the site. LOL

    As for the 1982 tape: That tape was analized by experts. And the results were that it was not an inanimate object but a living creature. Although they could not identify what creature it was, at least it was not boat wake or a log. Some local scientists theorized it was an anaconda or some other unknown serpent-like creature. They theorized that since Baltimore is a port with cargo ships coming and going, somehow the snake hitched a ride on a ship and jumped ship when the cargo ship docked. Others explained that it could have been a giant eel.

    I have seen the video and I can not tell you what it is. I can tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t boat wake or otters or manatees or seal. It is some kind of creature. But what it is, I do not know!



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