Thursday, August 21, 2008

Manatees - Coming to Western Britain!

One thing I have discovered is that whatever the Beast seen in Pembroke Dock is Manatees will be returning to the UK soon.

The National Wildlife Conservation Park is to be built on the outskirts of Bristol on a 136 acre site and is scheduled to open in 2012. It will feature a total of 12 exhibit areas, some of them inside or under cover, one reportd exhibit is "the Central American Swamp where visitors will walk through lush vegetation and around pools to catch a glimpse of the manatee, a spectacular aquatic mammal never before seen in a UK zoo." Other areas include Congo Tropical Forest, Sumatra Rainforest, and Indian Ocean Coral Reef and it hoped to have bonobos, okapis, Sumatran tigers, giraffes, zebra, orang-utans, Livingstone's fruit bats, gibbons, bears, wolves, cheetahs, black rhino and black tip reef sharks amongst other exotic animals. "In the Sumatra Rainforest exhibit (open in 2012) visitors will be able to step across a chasm caused by a seismic shift, listen to a troop of gibbons calling to each other as they swing through the trees, get close to Sumatran tigers via a transparent tiger tunnel and visit the exhibit's ranger station, built in the style of a Sumatran stilted longhouse, to find out about the Park's conservation project in Sumatra via video links." Another of these areas is British Ancient Woodland which will recreate a lost habitat of ancient Britain boasting once-native species such as brown bears, lynxes and wolves. "This exhibit is set within the Park's existing ancient woodland - home to native trees such as oak, birch, ash and beech as well as flowering plants such as bluebells, snowdrops, orchids, wild garlic, foxgloves and ferns. Visitors will be able to walk along a screened boardwalk in the woods to see these woodland animals at close quarters. At a later phase lynx and wolverine will be added to the exhibit."That sounds of interest.

[Note - looking more closely at the website although news reports in March 2008 mentioned a Manatee exhibit there is nothing on the site. Have the manatee been cancelled?]

Besides this I am increasingly inclined to think the Pembroke beast can hardly be a Manatee as I indicated before and is more likely to be a seal. Besides the fact it is too far to swim and too cold for Manatees in British waters there is another point as the reported creature is amphibious it can hardly be a manatee they spend their lives in the water.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Milford Monster - Hunted by Sonar

It seems that famed Fortean Lionel Fanthorpe personally investigated the Milford Monster in 2003 when it was sighted and talked to 4 witnesses for the BBC and is convinced of their veracity. Fanthorpe said:

In 2003, my wife Patricia and I participated in a BBC TV documentary after something large and mysterious appeared in the sea near Pembroke Dock in Wales. We interviewed several reliable eyewitnesses, and then went looking for the beast with skipper Alun Lewis aboard his Cleddau King – an ideal boat for the job, equipped with the latest electronic gear. But whatever had been seen in the dock had fled before we got there.
A search was undertaken using a fishing vessel equipped with high tech radar and sonar capability but no trace of the monster was found.

Fanthorpe raises an intriguing point given the naval activity in the area it could be some kind of bizarre secret sub.

Full details in his book Unsolved Mysteries of the Sea By Lionel Fanthorpe, Patricia Fanthorpe (2004) 47-51. Apparently Richard Freeman the CFZ's zoologist and monster hunter extraordinary also went to look for the beast as well. I am waiting to get more details from him. This makes the case all the more interesting!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Expedition Map is now online

I have now plotted all the sightings and the mystery deepens. See how close the Manatee is to where the 2003 Monster was seen.

It is about 500m from Connaught Way to Hobbs Point.

If you scroll the map to the SW you will also see the aprox location of 1782 "merman" sighting.

View Larger Map

Welsh Manatee Expedition 2008

Later this week I am heading to Pembroke Dock on a Manatee Hunt. Plus I will discover more about the mysterious Milford Monster - a sea serpent seen in 2003. And will see if any more info on the bizarre beast - the 1782 Castlemartin "merman" can be found. Keep watching this blog for updates.

I have talked to Debbie James the reporter who broke the story and she said the story has aroused a lot of interest and they are doing a follow up and the woman who saw the manatee, Carol Morgan, is convinced of her identification. This sounds definitely worth investigating.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Pembrokeshire Merman in 1782 and the 2008 "Manatee"?

Building on our earlier post
Manatee maids in Wales looks like there is a history of strange sightings going on the area. In Mrs. Morgan's Tour to Milford Haven in the Year 1791, there is a detailed account of a "merman" observed by Henry Reynolds in 1782 in this area. This sighting was outside Milford Haven on the southern promontory which creates it somewhere near Linney Head, only 7 miles away from the 2008 Manatee sighting in Pembroke Dock . The original report read as follows and makes fascinating reading:

A Tour to Milford Haven, in the Year 1791
By Mary Morgan (London, 1795) pages 302-6

Letter 43
Mrs Morgan To Mrs. G .
Haverfordwest, Sept. 22. 1791

IF you delight in the marvellous, I shall now present you with a tale that is truly so; and yet, from the simple and circumstantial manner in which it was told by the person who believed he saw what is here related, one would almost be tempted to think there was something more than imagination in it. However, I will make no comments upon the matter, but give it you, exactly as I copied it from a paper lent me by a young lady, who was educated under the celebrated Mrs, Moore,[Hannah Moore] and who has acquired a taste for productions of the pen, and likewife for whatever may be deemed curious. Mr. M[organ] enquired of the gentleman who took down the relation from the man's own mouth, a physician of the first respectability, what credit might be given to it. He said, the man was of that integrity of character, and of such simplicity also, that it seemed difficult to believe he should be either able or willing to fabricate this wonderful tale. Farther the doctor was silent, and so am I.

Henry Reynolds, of Pennyhold [Pen-y-hold], in the parish of Castlemartin, in the county of Pembroke, a simple farmer, and esteemed by all who knew him to be a truth-telling man, declares the following most extraordinary story to be an abfolute fact, and is willing, in order to satisfy such as will not take his bare word for it, to swear to the truth of the same. He says, he went one morning to the cliffs, that bound his own lands, and form a bay near Linny-stack. From the eastern end of the same, he saw, as he thought, a person bathing very near the western end, but appearing from almost the middle up, above water. He, knowing the water to be deep in that place, was much surprized at it, and went along the cliffs, quite to the western end, to see what it was. As he got towards it, it appeared to him like a person sitting in a tub. At last he got within ten or twelve yards of it, and found it then to be a creature much resembling a youth of sixteen or eighteen years of age, with a very white skin, sitting in an erect posture, having, from somewhat about the middle, its body quite above the water; and directly under the water there was a large brown substance, on which it seemed to float. The wind being perfectly calm, and the water quite clear, he could see distinctly, when the creature moved, that this- substance was part of it. From the bottom there went down a tail much resembling that of a large conger eel. Its tail in deep water was straight downwards, but in shallow water it would turn it on one side. The tail was continually moving in a circular manner. The form of its body and arms was entirely human, but its arms and hands seemed rather short and thick in proportion to its body. The form of the head, and all the features of the face, were human also ; but the nose rose high between its eyes, was pretty long, and seemed to terminate very sharp. Its head was white like its body, without hair ; but from its forehead there arose a brownish substance of three or four fingers breadth, which turned up over its head, and went down over its back, and reached quite into the water. This substance did not at all resemble hair, but was thin, flat, and compact, not much unlike a ribbon. It did not adhere to the back part of its head, or neck, or back ; for the creature lifted it up from its neck, and washed under it. It washed frequently under its arms, and about its body.

It swam about the bay, and particularly round a little rock, which Reynolds was within ten or twelve yards of. He said about an hour looking at it. It was so near him that he could perceive its motion through the water was very rapid; and that, when it turned, it put one hand into the water, and moved itself round very quickly. It never dipped under the water all the time he was looking at it. It looked attentively at him, and the cliffs and seemed to take great notice of the birds flying over its head. Its looks were wild and fierce ; but it made no noise, nor did it grin, or any way distort its face. When he left it, it was above an hundred yards from him; and when he returned with some others to look at it, it was gone. This account was taken down by Doctor George P - - - at Prickers-ton, from the man's own mouth, in presence of many people, about the latter end of December 1782.

Chambers Book of Days 1869 repeats this account in its entry for November 24th while discussing Mermaids in the UK and suggests:

We hear nothing further of this merman or merboy; but on looking at the roundabout evidence of the story, we find it to he thus A paper containing the account was lent to Mrs. Morgan; the paper had been written by a young lady, pupil of Mrs. Moore, from an oral account given to her by that lady; Mrs. Moore had heard it from Dr. George Phillips; and he had heard it from Henry Reynolds himself from all of which statements we may infer that there were abundant means for converting some peculiar kind of fish into a merman without imputing intentional dishonesty to any one.
The account is far more reliable than suggested here as Mr Morgan checked back with the Doctor. The account written by Mrs Morgan is an exact copy of what Renyolds said. It looks like Renyolds saw something odd and whatever it was or one of its relatives came back over 200 years later.

The description sounds much like a manatee to some degree with its light grey colour and snub nose. But what about the weird sounding stuff going down its back from near its nose?? At first I thought perhaps this is a description of a bearded seal, an Arctic species which can have white fur. More likely to be this than a Manatee perhaps considering the climate, as Manatees a very sensitive to cold, and that such seals are regularly seen in the UK today. As it seems he sighted the beast in December that rules out a Manatee save for the mysterious Steller's Sea Cow
which was found in the far north Berring sea thousands of miles away from the UK. It was already probably extinct at this point thanks to sailors.

British Marine Life Study Society - "Bearded Seals are a non-migratory Arctic species that feed on molluscs including clams. There has now been at least a dozen records from the Shetland Isles and one record of this seal off Ireland and one off Hartlepool in north-east England"

Bearded Seal seen in Scotland

In fact the society report one this year:

3 March - May 2008 onwards

A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, was spotted at Loch na Keal on the Isle of Mull, a large island in the Inner Hebrides, western Scotland. The healthy seal had hauled itself up on to some dry rocks when it was first seen. Subsequently, it has been unpredictable in its movements. The Bearded Seal was first seen by David Woodhouse (Mull Wildlife Expeditions) on 3 March 2008.

But there is another possibility. The hooded seal another Arctic species in which males have a bizarre inflatable 'hood' on their heads, close to the nose. Reynolds says of the thing on the seal's head "but from its forehead there arose a brownish substance of three or four fingers breadth, which turned up over its head, and went down over its back, and reached quite into the water. This substance did not at all resemble hair, but was thin, flat, and compact, not much unlike a ribbon."

Could this be a description of a hooded seal?? It certainly sounds very odd indeed. Unlss it was bits of seaweed.

Once again the British Marine Life Study Society reveals an interesting fact:

29 July 2001
A Hooded Seal, Cystophora cristata, was washed on a Little Haven beach,
Pembrokeshire, south west Wales and found a home at the Seal Hospital at Milford Haven. The seal was healthy apart from a small cut on one flipper. The Hooded Seal is an Arctic species and even discoveries off the coast of Scotland, including the Orkney and Shetland Isles are rare. It moults around Greenland and the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland).
Report by Tony Pearce (via UK Wildlife)"

Seeing they have been in seen in Pembrokeshire before could the 2008 report by Carol Morgan be of a hooded seal rather than a Manatee? It seems more likely.

Interesting to note that a Walrus is not impossible in the southern British Isles as well. British Marine Life Study Society again:
April 1999 - A Walrus, Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus was seen hauled out on rocks in County Mayo, Ireland for six hours. Lying within 100 metres of the busy coastal road and spotted as a "rock that moved", the resting walrus finally disappeared at dusk. There have been several walrus sightings at sea off County Donegal in recent winters, and a couple of walruses were reported to have been seen by surfers in Killala Bay in December. A dead walrus was found in County Kerry in January 1995.
The Walrus is an Arctic species and is rarely seen even off Scotland and the Shetland Isles.
Talking of old mermaid sightings if we look at the logbook of Henry Hudson on 15 June, 1608 near the Novaya Zemlya islands we can make a interesting comparison to the Welsh reports.

This morning one of our companie looking over boord saw a mermaid, and called up some of the companie to see her, one come up, and by that time shee was close to the ship’s side, looking earnestly upon the men: a little after, a Sea came and overturned her: From Navill upwards, her back and breasts were like a woman’s her body as big as one of us; her skin very white; and long haire hanging downe they saw her tayle, which was like the tayle of a porposse and speckled like a Macrel.

The Novaya Zemlya islands are off the north coast of Russia in the Arctic ocean, too cold for a sea cow. So could this sighting be a Walrus or Bearded seal then? Note its colour as well.

One noted mermaid was seen a number of times in Newark Bay in Deerness, Orkney in the 1890s. One account said:

It is about six to seven feet in length, has a little black head, with neck, a snow-white body and two arms, and in swimming it just appears like a human being. At times it will appear to be siding on a sunken rock, and will wave and work its hands.

So it seems to me these older accounts are of arctic mammals not Manatees considering where they are seen too cold for Manatee. The fact they are considerably larger than common seals and a different colour and appearance would lead to a different identification. That is unless there is a secret species of Northern Manatee similar to the Stella Sea Cow which could endure cold or something even weirder. Or they are real mermaids!

It is interesting to note that there is also the legend of the ‘Ceffyl Dwr’ or water horse in Pembroke as in the rest of Wales similar to the Scottish Kelpie. I have hunted for this beast myself in the Gower in places it was once seen without success. This special horse would appear to unwary travellers who would be tempted to mount it, only to be carried into the sea and drowned. Could this legend be based on distant accounts of Manatees or unusual arctic seals which do look a bit horsey? Legends of Waterhorses are also found inland in rivers and lakes. Fossil records of Manatees have been found in Europe anyway.

Manatees swimming

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

UK Crocodile rescue stories

Exclusive: Rescued alligator ditches English partner for fellow Scot
Glasgow Daily Record, UK 13th aug

TWO alligators rescued in Scotland have fallen for each other - after one of them ditched his "English" partner.

Crocs named Jimmy Choo and Alice have become inseparable at a sanctuary in Spain.

And their keepers hope the pair, recovered from Edinburgh and Galashiels, Selkirkshire, may even produce some offspring.

Jimmy had been close to a caiman rescued in London before Alice arrived at Crocodile Park in Torremolinos.

Doreen Graham, of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: "The two Scots are great pals and, with luck, they might mate."

Jimmy was sent to Crocodile Park after Anthony Quinn, 37, tried to sell him to undercover animal detectives in an Edinburgh car park.

Quinn admitted keeping it in a Leith flat without a licence. He was fined s200 and banned from keeping animals for five years.

Alice was seized by inspectors in Galashiels last month.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Manatee maids in Wales - Connected to Milford Monster?

A bunch of strange of watery beasts have popped up in Wales in the last few weeks.
Manatee spotted off coast of Wales
WalesOnline, United Kingdom - 10 Aug 2008
Marine experts last night said it could be a first for the UK – and comes after a 7ft Blue Marlin was washed up on a Pembrokeshire beach this week.
The original report was on the Western Telegraph (Wed Aug 6th, page13) but is reproduced here.

Marine experts say the possible sighting of a manatee in Pembrokeshire waters is further evidence of climate change. The creature was spotted by Carol Morgan who has a bird’s eye view of Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock, from her home at 5 Connaught Way.

She was preparing her lunchbox early one morning when she saw an unusual shape in the water. At first she thought it was a very large plastic container covered in green algae. But when it moved she reached for a telescope to get a closer look.

“I caught sight of its face and it looked like a pot-bellied pig,” said Carol, who works at Pembroke Leisure Centre.

“It then pulled itself onto the slipway and seemed to be foraging for something. After a short while it sauntered into the water and that was the last I saw of it.”
She only became aware of the actual size of the creature when she saw a couple walking a dog on the slipway a few moments later.

“It was several times larger than that dog, more like the size of a small cow,” said Carol.

Manatees, or sea cows as they are also known, are largely restricted to tropical waters with the nearest populations to the UK found off west Africa and the Caribbean. Pembrokeshire-based marine biologist, Francis Bunker, says it is possible that the manatee was carried here on the Gulf Stream currents. “We do after all get tropical sea beans and the occasional coconut washed up as well as sea turtles from the Caribbean, so why not a manatee? If it is a manatee I think it could be a first for UK waters.”

To his knowledge there are none in captivity in the UK which could have escaped.
Bathers need have no worries about venturing in the sea, as manatees are strictly herbivorous, feeding mainly on seagrasses.

Interesting it was seen off Hobbs Point given the name's connection with goblin like creatures as
Loren Coleman points out Hobgoblin at Hobbs Point at Cryptomundo.

Manatee's grow up to 15 feet long and weigh 3500 pounds and are found in West Africa as well as the Southern United States, South America and across Southern Asia. There is a long-standing cryptozoological theory that Manatee are believed to have inspired some of the stories of Mermaids. In 1493, when Columbus's ships were taking on fresh water at the island known as Hispaniola, he recorded in his journal that his men "saw three sirenas (mermaids) who rose very high from the sea, but they were not as beautiful as they are painted." It is generally agreed that the creatures that Columbus and many other similar reports saw were manatees. There are a lot of Welsh legends concerning mermaids all round the Welsh coast which in Welsh are called Morgens or Plant Rhys Ddwfn. If the Welsh legends were inspired by any creature it would be a seal one would think. Some Welsh mermaid stories mention magic sealskin caps which give mermaids their powers and there is some similarity to the Gaelic tradition of the Selkie. A number of the Welsh stories concern fishermen marrying mermaids they catch at sea who later abandon their husbands, after he insults or beats them to return to the sea, their husbands being cursed by them. Or fishermen being tricked into the water and drowning the usual sort of tale.

So one presumes this beast in Pembroke Dock is either a Manatee a long way from home or perhaps more likely a misidentified seal - but there is another local candidate.


In 2003 a sea serpent was seen once in Pembroke Dock close by the location of the Manatee sighting within the famous natural harbour which is also called Milford Haven, which is huge 10 miles by 2 miles. I wondered if the two sightings were connected but the description of the creature sounds very different. The Milford monster was described as massive and serpentine. But I believe it has been suggested that misidentification of Manatees may be involved in some some sea-serpent sightings as well as in Mermaid sightings. Here is an extract from the 2003 report.

Reward out for `Milford Monster' spotted by pub's lunch customers ...

Mar 13 2003 The Western Mail - The National Newspaper Of Wales

The lunchtime customers at the small waterfront pub had never seen anything like it. They were enjoying a quiet drink when suddenly they saw a mysterious serpent-like creature in the water outside
It was dark and snake-like and roughly the length of four to five cars.

If it was Nessie she was a long way from home, as the mysterious creature of the deep was spotted in the Milford Haven waterway, just yards away from the busy Irish ferry terminal.

Now the sighting has become the talk of Pembroke Dock and the pub's landlord is offering a £150 reward to anyone who can catch the monster alive. David Crewe of the historic Ship-wright pub, said, "There was definitely something out there.

"It could be anything. I just want to find out what it is."

The mysterious creature was spotted first by barmaid Lesley John in the deep channel of the waterway, close to where Irish ferry boats turn around before heading for Pembroke Dock ferry terminal.

"I was pulling a pint for one of the lads and I was watching the ferry, you know how it leaves a white trail as it goes?"

"Then I saw what looked like a big black fin. I carried on pulling the pint and it was still there. I said to the lads `What the hell is that?' "

The customers went outside to investigate and also saw something strange.

"From a distance it appeared to have a snake-like head," said Peter Thomas. "And you could see a commotion in the water, a lot of splashing, about 10 metres away.

"It was a rather odd thing. I do a lot of boating on the waterway and I have never seen anything like that. It was something really strange. But you can only say what you saw."

Milford Haven was also a key area in the massive number of UFO reports in the Welsh Triangle incidents of the 70s. One theory claimed there was a secret alien underwater base off the Pembrokeshire coast. So it could be an Alien Manatee :) Meanwhile another few unusual fishy guests came along recently in the area.
Magnificent marlin washed up in Pembs
Aug 7th - A giant fish washed up on a Pembrokeshire beach yesterday (Wednesday)is thought to be the first of its species ever seen in British waters.
Weighing in at around 450 pounds and over seven feet long, the magnificent Blue Marlin was found in the surf on Saundersfoot's Glen Beach on Wednesday by commercial fisherman Gavin Davies.

"I saw something in the water the previous evening, but it wasn't until I was walking the dog at 5.30am that I realised it was a marlin," said Gavin. "It was an amazing specimen." He and fellow fishermen Neil Lewis, Mel Matthews, Neil Thomas and Ruru Norbury pulled the marlin onto the beach with a Land Rover, before lifting it on the vehicle and contacting South Wales Sea Fisheries officer Mark Hamblin to verify their fishy find.

"I was gobsmacked," admitted Mark. "I would have loved to have caught that with a rod and line!"

The marlin, usually found offshore in deep blue tropical or temperate waters, is known to migrate towards the Atlantic, but apparently never as far afield as the UK.
"We are wondering if it could have been attacked by dolphins out at sea, and just drifted in," said Gavin, who fishes for Neil Thomas on board the Evan George.

"We're currently seeing dolphins by the hundred when we are out in Carmarthen Bay, and they are known to be extremely aggressive to other fish."

Less rare but still intersting is another fish found in Wals this summer:

"3rd July 2008 A Broad-billed Swordfish, Xiphias gladius, was discovered washed up dead on Barry Island beach, Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. It was carefully examined by Dr Peter Howlett, (Curator of Lower Vertebrates, National Museum, Wales) who confirmed the identification and found it to be a young specimen 2.24 metres long and between 60 and 80 kg in weight. It had been dead only a few days, but it had been scavenged by other creatures and it was not possible to determine the cause of its death. "

It has been a strange year for welsh weirdness with the Swansea croc, the UFO wave and the Ghost slug being covered widely too.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Giant eels in the lake

Obviously no new sightings of the croc so I have not been updating this blog though I have been down to look around since but no sign of the elusive bast. I still think it existed but like the many other sightings in Cannock or Devon the creature responsible is now dead and missing. Unless it was misidentified.

I did meet someone with more curious info on Pluck Lake that their father who was a fisherman had fished in Pluck Lake and seen some unusually large eels there. Pluck lake gets wilder by the minute. I don't think this can explain the sighting though. The man who saw it was just too close.