Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 29th, 2008
One thing leads to another. Looking into the new mystery photo postcard has taken me to more of the backstory that involves a Sea Serpent hunt exactly 100 years ago.
In 1908, a Little River couple on an outing on Biscayne Bay reported seeing a sea serpent with a 30-foot-long body and a long, slender neck.
An intrepid and well-known fisherman, Capt. Charles Thompson, set off after the sea monster. Thompson was certainly the man for the job: He had fished with four U.S. presidents and powerful industrialists such as John Jacob Astor and William Vanderbilt. Even the Miami Metropolis latched onto the hunt. “The people may rest assured,” the Metropolis wrote on July 24, 1908. “If there is anything that swims of extraordinary dimensions, playing peek-a-boo with Captain Charley Thompson up around Little River within the next few days, its name will be ‘mud.’” Thompson never snagged the serpent, but four years later he did hook a 30,000-pound whale shark that he toured around the country until the stench got so bad he was forced to destroy what was left of the carcass.Source
In The Wake of the Sea-Serpents by Bernard Heuvelmans, neither in its text nor via its detailed listing of sightings, mentions this Biscayne Bay sighting of 1908.
Such an absence is not to convey that the 1908 account is new to researchers, but it may be. I look forward to Gary Mangiacopra’s forthcoming comprehensive review of Atlantic Sea Serpent sightings by Coachwhip Publications for more details, perhaps, on this encounter.
For the record, Thompson’s caught fish was quite well-known during its time:
The largest Keys fish story took place in 1912 just off of Knight’s Key. Captain Charles Thompson of Miami harpooned a 38-foot-long whale shark that reportedly took about 39 hours, five harpoons and more than 100 bullets to subdue. The 26,594-pound whale shark was towed to Miami, preserved, stuffed and exhibited on a railroad flat car. The sign on the flat car read “weight 30,000 lbs. Length 45 ft.” All went well until it was accidentally destroyed by fire in 1922.Source
Also worthy of noting is that when this whale shark was taken, it was recorded as the second discovery of this fish in these waters. The famed American ichthyologist and cetologist Dr. Eugene Willis Gudger wrote a paper on Thompson’s whale shark.
Science 22 August 1913:
Vol. 38. no. 973, p. 270
E. W. Gudger
“A Second Capture of the Whale Shark, Rhinedon typus, in Florida Waters.”
which was cited in
Science 48, 622
Chas. L. Poor (1918)
Science 27 August 1920:
Vol. 52. no. 1339, pp. 191 – 192
E. W. Gudger
“A Third Capture on the Florida Coast of the Whale Shark, Rhinedon typus.”
TornadoBob found a postcard on eBay that appears to show the same whale shark. Below is that postcard. Here is what it says about it (excuse the all caps in the description): “RPPC POSTCARD SAYS WEIGHT 30,000 LBS LENGTH 45 FT. COPYRIGHTED BY (CAPT) CHAS. THOMPSON 1913 PHOTO BY HANDGO MIAMI FLORIDA (SHOWS MAN SITTING IN MOUTH OF FISH THE IMAGE IS SHARP AND CLEAR MY CHEAP DIGITAL IMAGE IS NOT) POSTMARKED 1914 ”
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