Sightings of the "Altamaha-Ha"
or river creature of Darien, GA.
For those who are unacquainted with the south Georgia coast, and of McIntosh County in particular, let me describe the area which is frequented by the Altamaha-ha. First, it is not a coastline of beaches directly on the ocean, by no means, but is made up of many islands and acres of marshes with brown water creeks and rivers meandering through - dividing the sounds from the mainland proper. Within the mainland, there are old rice fields of extinct plantations, and some of these are still contain miles of dikes, canals and resulting ponds. These were all built by slaves of the period for rice culture. The creeks and rivers dividing these marshes and rice fields are where these sightings have occurred.
First sightings which have been recorded date from 1969, continuing up to the present time.
1969 or Ď70 - Donny Manning - Time: July, at night. High tide. He and his brother were fishing from his fatherís houseboat on the Altamaha river at Clarkís Bluff. The lights were on the houseboat, so they could see fairly well for some distance. They were fishing for catfish and had caught several, when he decided to try an old trick they had used when he was a kid - oatmeal and red man soda pressed out on a three pronged hook. They were fishing in a little depression in the river outside the rough water. Something took the hook, and instead of the typical catfish run and stop and turn, etc. It ran and ran with it, coming out of the water where he could see it. It was 10-12 feet long, and at first he thought it was a sturgeon, but could soon tell it wasnít. Itís had a snout, almost like that of an alligator, or, he says, he thought of a duck-billed platypus. It had a horizontal tail, instead of a fish-like vertical one, and had a spiny kind of bony triangular ridge along the top of its body, and a dorsal fin that was down, but he could see it on its back. The teeth were shining in the light and they were sharp pointed teeth. It was gun-metal gray on top and oyster white-yellow on bottom. It didnít move along side to side like a snake, but up and down vertical motion - like a porpoise. Mr. Manning has lived on water all his life and seen all kinds of creatures but this was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. He was using a salt-water rig and a 40 lb test line and it snapped it like kite cord. Mr. Manning estimates from the way it felt and snapped the line that it was at least 75 lbs.
Summer, 1980: Barry Prescott and Andy Greene driving north on hwy 95, about 3-4 p.m. It was lower than 1/2 tide. At a dead end place near Jr. Poppell's house, last opportunity to look at Cathead Creek before you hit hwy 251, about 100 yards away from them, there is a soft mud bank at the mouth of this dead end. There the creature lay, stranded on the mud bank, unable to extricate itself. Estimates about 20 percent of the body lay upon the bank, about 80 percent in water, trying to get off. Frantic, violent splashing and thrashing, throwing up water. (They both agreed the creature was in a panic) At times there were lulls in the thrashing when they could get a better look. Dark color - black or brown - with a skin which was not smooth, but sort of warty - a pebbled texture. However, he states it must be admitted that with the mud and sand thrown up out of the water below, this creature could have spattered itself with it, so that the skin simply looked warty, when it wasn't really. The impression was that it had some sort of appendages, gills, or something below in the water that it was throwing up water and thrashing with. Its movement was powerful and undulating, rather than back and forth swimming movement of marine life with which he is familiar. It was 3 - 4 ft. thick, about 30-40 ft. long. Could see, perhaps, about 20 ft. of the whole. No loops, or humps except for a section in the back, which would look like a triangle in cross section. They watched this thing about 10 minutes, during which they compared notes to its color, form, etc. When it seemed the situation was not changing, nor could they get any more information (they were tired, and coming home from work), they decided to leave. Before they actually drove off, however, the thing finally freed itself and sank into the water without a churning, or any disturbance of the water. It was perfectly still, as though it had never been. It was located about 5 -10 feet away from a channel into which it undoubtedly swam.
Dec. 1980, Dec. 1980, Larry Gwin of Brunswick reported that while he and his partner Steve Wilson were eel fishing in Smith Lake up the Altamaha, they saw a snakelike creature, 15-20 ft long, which was "as big around as a man's body with two brownish humps about five feet apart. They said "It dove in a big swirl of water and was not seen again, but boiled up a swell that was like a wake of a racing boat."
Quite a few years ago - two sightings. Two men, this eyewitness wishes to remain anonymous - The first sighting in winter or cool weather, because they were out hog hunting, late evening a little before dark. They were in a boat Minnow creek or Hammersmith creek Altamaha River, about 3 miles above Two-Way Fish camp, McIntosh County side. They were sitting there, quiet, waiting for the dogs to come back. When they first saw it surface they were startled and wondered what was that? It was about 200 yards away from them, and surfaced 2 or 3 times, going over submerged or partially submerged logs. It was about 20 feet long, and as big around as a good-sized manís body, about 12-15" in diameter. The head part was snake like, but they didnít really get a good look at it, since they were so startled by it, and trying to figure out what it was. The body reminded him of a helicopter without wings, etc. - just the tapered body of it. Seemed to be smooth, didnít notice any gills, appendages, fins, etc. Nor could he describe the tail. Its color, the best he can remember was greenish-brown. The eyewitness has hunted alligators in the past, and knows it was not an alligator.
The second sighting by these same men was near the same time, still cool weather, about the same time of evening, same general area. They were out hog hunting again. The creature was about 20-50 ft from the bank. When asked if it looked like an eel, eyewitness said no eel could be that big.
Date ____? - Hugh Mulligan who writes the syndicated column, Mulligan's Stew, interviewed Harvey Blackman of Brunswick who several years ago, reported the following incident at Two-Way Fish Camp. "Blackman, who has been fishing the river for 20 years, was standing on a floating dock which suddenly was rocked by a great wave. He saw a monstrous something, 15-20 ft long.... big around as a man's body". The thing had a stick-looking body, was grayish-brown and when it raised its head up out of the water, it looked like a snake head.
about 1981: Eyewitness requests anonymity: Two sightings by same eyewitness, first one on this date. He and a friend were fishing from a small boat, in a creek off the Altamaha, just south of Two-Way fish camp, Glynn County side of river. It was a windy, cold day, but the sun was shining. From the river, they entered the little creek and saw it lying on the mud bank. It was 10-12 feet long, 20" diameter, almost the color of the mud - a gray-brown color. When they first saw it, the first thing that came to mind was an alligator - lying on the mud like that - but as they approached they could see it wasnít an alligator. They looked at each other, and his friend said, "You know what that is, donít you? It's that "thing." (Newspapers had reported previous sightings). The creature slid off the mud and down into the water and swam past them. It turned and looked back at them as it went, and they were wondering if it was going to come at the boat, and were concerned, since they didnít have anything to defend themselves with. When it was in the water, they could see it had 2 or 3 humps, which they had not noticed when it was on the mud, and it undulated as it swam. It didnít hold its head up out of the water the way this man has seen in Loch Ness monster illustrations. They didnít see any fins behind the head while it was on the mud, or any appendages. Although it was long, it was thick and could not be compared to a snake. The second sighting occurred several years later. He and his wife were fishing on the rice field dikes at Champney River. The creature they saw was what they believed was a "baby one". It was "odd", and the eyewitness, (as with all of the eyewitnesses I have interviewed) had difficulty describing it, having nothing similar to compare it to. It was only about 26" long, and two humps rose along its back. There were reddish fins behind the head. They tried in vain to get it to take baited hooks, trying shrimp and worms, but although the creature "kind of bumped at the shrimp", it would not take the bait. They were able to watch this one for about 10 minutes. He stayed right up to the bank all that time, and they were "sure wishing for a camera".
sometime between 1979 and 1985 (before the Champney river bridge replaced with new bridge) : Kathy Howard Strickland. Time of year not remembered, but marsh was brown, so not during height of summer. Mid-tide, she thinks, since part of mud bank exposed, but not low tide. Good distance away, less than a city block. Location: Champney River, west of bridge. Driving (alone) in car, returning from Brunswick going north to Darien. Other traffic, but not heavy. Saw the creature on her left. It was partially surfaced, just idling along, no wake. It was in the deep current part of the river. Just east of where the river starts to curve northward. Head was up, turning slightly. It had a small head on long neck about 6 feet high, two distinct humps along back. The color of an eel, dark, brown/black/greenish. Smooth skin, like a catfish has. Its sleek dark skin enabled her to see that it had strong shoulder-type muscles where the neck met the body at the waterline. It was (the word comes to her mind) "prehistoric" looking, an odd creature to see in this day and time. Yet, very natural looking in appearance, certainly not anything man-made - nor was it a fish or something floating - like a log. It was peering around, its body facing the bridge. Very large, at least 20 feet long, (submerged parts make it hard to judge). At least 4 feet across. No tail, fins or other protuberances showing. She doesnít know why she didnít stop - wondered, "Good Lord, what is that?" and was trying to pay attention to the road. Still wishes she had brought a camera. Sighting lasted only long enough to cross over the bridge or until trees obstructed the view.
Sketch by eyewitness Kathy Howard Strickland
P. 2, The Darien News, Feb. 3, 1983: "After two years of lying low, Altamaha-ha was sighted". This sighting reported Jan 16, 1983, Wednesday morning, 8:15 a.m. Tim Sanders, who worked as a car salesman at Darien Motor co., was traveling to work from Brunswick. Crossing the Champney River Bridge, looked east and spotted what he thought to be porpoises playing near the river bank about 100 yards away. Tim parked the car on the side of the road and watched. He soon realized that there was just one animal in the water - not a porpoise, but it rose from the water like a porpoise. The creature began swimming across the river. Tim estimated the creature to be about 20-25 ft long. As the creature swam at its leisure, his long body would crest the water with 6 - 7 ft between the humps. His body described by Tim as being about the size of the torso of a man, the color only "dark". Regarding the creature's head, Tim said he saw "what I thought was a snout". After the creature swam across the river, it went into a little cove. Tim drove over the bridge and walked down the Butler Island diked roadway to check for it but it was not around. "The thing that threw me, is I've never seen a fish that big", Tim said. It could have been a sturgeon, "but sturgeons never looked or swum like that", he said.
About 1985, Summer - A sighting by Isaac Bacon of Darien, "close enough where he could have hit it with a boat paddle". Location: Dence Creek, a branch of the Altamaha River, on the Glynn county side. Tide: Low. He and his brother and sister were out in a boat fishing. They noticed something dark laying on the mud, and after awhile Isaac said, "That looks like an alligator", but his brother, looking at the object, said, "No, that just an old tire". But after awhile they saw it move. It blew water out of its nostrils, which made bubbles. Then it entered the water and went upcreek a way and started scraping/eating fiddler crabs off the pier there. They watched it as it splashed about in the shallows, the assumption being that he was scaring fish up in the shallows to feed on them. Later, it came up to the boat and "scared his sister real bad". They were afraid it was trying to get in the boat. Description: 12-14 feet long, dark like mud, maybe a little darker. Protuberance-like "scales" like an alligator has. It was "wide and deep" - big around as a manís body. No gills, fins, appendages that he could see. They never saw the tail portion, for it was always in the water. When asked if the head was "snake-like" he said it was longer than a typically formed snakeís head, more like an alligatorís head, with eyes that protruded like an alligatorís. No projections on the sides of the head that he saw. Mr. Bacon says his brother saw it at Champney, behind where the game wardenís camp is, and that it had a double hump. His brother is now deceased.
About 1985-86: Second hand story from Wayne Davis, who has operated the boat hoist at Two-Way Fish Camp on Altamaha River: Mr. Davis has never seen the creature, but talked to someone who he was told had seen it once. He walked over to this man, and asked him what he had seen, and the fellow said he didnít like to talk about it, but when urged said that he and a friend had been at Champney river, west of Hwy 17 bridge, and they had tied their boat up, the bow tied to a piling and the stern to a low branch leaning out over the water. The tide had been going out and was fairly low. They saw something across the river at the Darien side which was making a big wake. He called his friendís attention to it, "What is that?" he said. "It looks like a hog" (wild hogs abound in this area), but it seemed too big and was coming straight at the boat, whatever it was. They were scrambling to get the ropes untied, and it was difficult because the tide having dropped, the rope tied to the tree limb was taut and hard to untie. They managed to get the boat turned out of the thingís way, and it swam through right where the boat had been. It "looked like a big snake", was 20-25 ft. long, cylindrical all the way down its body and parts of it showed above the water like humps.
May 26, 1988: "Eel-like sea creature makes appearance again" by Kathleen Russell - Ralph DeWitt, 14 yr veteran crab fisherman, ""I've seen manatees, sturgeon, tarpon, turtles, porpoise and logs, but I have never seen anything like this" said the fisherman who is known in these parts to be an honest and direct man and who has been on the water at least 200 times a year for the last 14 years." On May 13, around 1 p.m. DeWitt was checking his crab traps in Doboy Sound and was heading into the Carneghan River, as he does every day. The tide was still easing out, he said, as he steered into the mouth of the Carneghan River, near the mudflat on the left of the entrance to the river, he saw what seemed to be the top of a dock piling. He wondered if the object might be trash wrapped around a crab buoy. "I thought I would run over and see what it was", as he approached in the boat and was about 40 ft from the object, this thing dipped into the water. Then the blackish-brown cylindrical body of 12-18 inches in diameter arched up out of the water and followed the dive of the head into the water. DeWitt estimated the length to be 18-20 ft long. "With that, I backed off and asked myself, "Did I see what I saw", DeWitt said. He left the spot and went into the Carneghan River about 500 yards to work a couple of traps. He kept looking back to see if the sea creature would surface while he sifted through the crab catch. Just about 10 minutes later, he saw the creature's head surface again. DeWitt slowly motored back toward the creature, but stayed on the far side of the river, then crossed the river and eased around from the back side. When he was just about two boat lengths away, some 40-50 ft., the eel shaped head, "leisurely" dipped into the water followed by the roll of the sleek-looking body out of the water and diving into the depths of the Carneghan. With that, DeWitt said he left the area. "Everything about it says it is the largest eel known to mankind", DeWitt said. "Its tail looks like an eel's tail. Its like nothing I've ever seen before". He described the head as shaped like an eel's also, except that it was much larger. "I kind of wish he hadn't shown himself to me" DeWitt lamented.
May, 1988: Frank Culpepper, owner of Two Way Fish Camp - related a sighting which took place some years ago - three men reported seeing the big snake-looking creature that day, he said, but all have died since. Culpepper said he was inside the building at the dock when the incident occurred. One of the men ran inside and told him to get a rifle. Culpepper ran out with the rifle, but the creature never surfaced again. "All I saw was the wake the creature left",. Culpepper said. "I have heard tales about seeing stuff on the river, and have thought about that incident at the camp a thousand times, but never got to see the monster, whatever it was", Culpepper added. The only time he ever witnessed an unusual occurrence was while he was fishing upriver for white perch. He said something slapped the side of the boat. He looked and spotted a long, brownish creature which he would not have been able to reach around. It seemed the creature was trying to climb into the boat. "It scared me so badly, I cranked the boat and went back to the camp. It looked like a big snake", Culpepper said.
May, 1988 - Mrs. Carlene Temple: When riding in the car driven by her husband, across the Butler Island bridge going north toward Darien. Traffic was stalled up ahead, so at first, they were going slow. Low tide. She saw it lying just at the waters edge on the mud at a kind of corner there, she said. It was part in water, part on mud. Not sure of size but BIG - very large, very long. Much too big to be an alligator, and it didn't look anything like an alligator. Was dark, blackish, but hard to tell from the mud which must have been on it, etc. It was lying perpendicular to the hwy. She saw it's head (this is the first report from someone who could identify a head on the creature), and it's eyes, and what looked like a horn on each side of it's head. It "scared her so bad", she didn't want to go back for another look and was afraid to cross that bridge for some time afterward.
Date: 1990 - Maurice Mixson - sometime in the fall of the year, he thinks October, about 10:00 a.m. location: Carneghan River, Doboy sound. approximately 400 yards away, so sighting could not be more detailed. Water fairly shallow, about half tide. Witness and a friend saw the creature. Witness was familiar with the waterways around McIntosh, though he did not live there then. The thing was about 30 - 40 feet long, and surfaced rather like a submarine, floated on top for awhile, then disappeared. When asked the color of the animal he said, "it was dark, that's all we could tell".
1993 - L. Lowe - in his own words: "I can remember this event quite good as it happened only four years ago. I had come into the intracoastal waterway from the Altamaha River and headed north. I was running a thirty foot Thompson craft with a 455 Oldsmobile engine for power. I was running about ten or twelve knots. I had gone along for maybe ten minutes when I saw an odd sight that caught my full attention. I pulled the throttle back and pulled into neutral. On the east side of the river, a hump had risen out of the water and slowly went back down. In a few seconds, it rose again in the same spot about one-half the height. This activity was maybe 100 yards from me. The hump was about two feet above the water line and maybe the same across. It came straight up with no forward motion. The rise up was slow and then slow back down. It was a near perfect one-half circle. The hump was solid and not the donut look. The color was a dark shade, maybe dark green or dark brown. I watched for about ten minutes but did not see it again. As I watched, I saw a lot of small fish breaking on the surface, maybe pogy or mullet. I have been in the rivers for most of my life and seen otter, porpoises, gators, and sea cows. All these can come from under the surface and rise into the air for some height. That day, I saw something different, just what it was I do not know, but I have often wondered about it."
Jan. 14, 1993, The Darien News, p. 3, (part of account also taken from personal interview) sighting by Scotty Rogers - took place Friday, Dec. 18, 10:45 a.m. He was heading North across the Champney River Bridge, looked to the west and saw the water boiling like there was a school of fish". Then, a big thing looking like a tractor-trailor inner tube standing on end started coming out of the water and looked like it came at least 8 ft out of the water. Then another part of it surfaced and looked to be about 30 ft. long out in the water. One part (that he thought was the body) was broad and "big as the size of a car". He never saw what he could identify as a head. It was a brownish gray color, the color of an eel. It stayed out of the water while I crossed the bridge. I looked for another car to be crossing the bridge in hopes that I was not the only one to see it. But, unfortunately, no one was in sight." In all his 6 yrs of fishing experience, "I have never seen anything like this before". This sighting is the third to have occurred near the Champney River Bridge. The Crofts, who then owned Two -Way Fish Camp, where the reporter was interviewing Mr. Rogers, related information from their knowledge of and stories told to them about Altamaha-ha. Rogers said the creature's body had stayed extended out of the water during his crossing of the bridge. He said the creature was positioned in the middle of the river just where the river begins to bend. Upon studying a tide chart, Bill Croft calculated that the appearance occurred about 1/2 hour before low water. He reminded that the center of the river in that area is a sandbar and there are two channels which run along the river banks. The large portion of Altamaha-Ha which seemed to stay suspended in the water was probably because he was in very shallow water. Chip Croft then related a sighting in the Champney River, two fishermen had told him about - one of the men was a minister. Seems these fishermen were tied up to one of the old power poles by the old bridge fishing. They saw a large snake-looking creature across the river which headed toward them in a vacillating fashion. Chip said the men were rather concerned as the creature looked like it was coming right toward them. It did swim right by the boat, flaunting about the same color description and length as other accounts. Then the creature swam to the river bank, crawled up the bank and slithered into the brush. The preacher has never publicly related his story for fear of the possible innuendos made on his reputation."
August, 1995 - Second sighting by Mr. Barry Prescott: He was bringing someone by boat, back from Hird's Island. Sighting occurred at north end of Hird's Island in Carnighan River where it joins Ridge River, at a point nearly opposite the north end of Hird's Island. He was looking north over the shoulder of his passenger, who was facing him and did not see it, since he was looking in the opposite direction. Undulating form, It had 3 distinct humps. All of it could not be seen all at once, of course. While it was undulating through the water, he could see parts of it, like 1 1/2 humps at a time showing on the surface of the water, about 2-4 ft showing at a time above the surface of the water. It was about 30 ft long. Couldn't see the underside. It looked black.
(addition - date 7-27-97: When asked it if could be compared to a snake, Mr. Prescott responded that it was thicker than one one think of a snake. When asked about the appearance of the tail, or end of the creature, he said he did not recall seeing the tail, assuming it and the head were in the water, making an attempt to get off. Said the creatureís efforts produced a "plume" of water and mud, coming up from where that part of it was in the water, trying to extricate itself. Also, that when they first saw it, he thought he remembered it seemed to be brownish and the movements of it were more gentle, and that, as its thrashing became more violent, the color of it became more gray - from the mud that was thrown up onto it from its attempts to escape.)
July 6, 1997 - Jim and Mary Marshall - (copied from written account by Jim Marshall) "On Sunday, July 6, 1997, Mary and I were drifting with the outgoing tide enjoying the quiet morning south of Dallas Bluff. The wind freshened from the southwest and took us wide of the channel and around the curve. We were 50 yards off the marsh when I noticed a disturbance at the north edge of the channel, such as I have not previously experienced. Alligator? no. Manatee? no, Otter? no. A smallish head carried low with three definite humps of body undulating in an effortless rhythm slipped upstream and around the curve. The thing was gray-brown and smooth, 10-12 feet in length, 10-12 inches in diameter. Any further attempts to describe the fleeting encounter would be folly as the mind tends to enhance the memory. We drifted in stunned silence. Altamaha-ha? Sapelo ho ho?
T.O., who wishes to remain unidentified at present, is a local fisherman who is out on the water most days of the year. He has seen the creatures four times - since each were different sizes, he believes they were all different creatures of the same species. Dates seen unknown at this time. Has not seen it lately (last year or two). All sightings (from a boat) appeared in fresh/brackish waterways. Twice near Broughton Island when it was raining heavily, Once near a rock pile at the mouth of South River where it joins into the Intracoastal Waterway, and once near Hirdís Island. The first time he saw it he was with his father who was frightened and was going to shoot it, but T. stopped him. Twice it was a smaller version - about 18-20 feet long, the other two times it was larger, about 20-30 feet. The head was small in proportion to the thick body. He said the comparison (used by others) of the body to a big truck tire was accurate. Humps or arches of the body showed beneath the water in some sightings. One day it was raining heavily and he and three others who were with him saw it off Broughton Island over a sand bar, and because of the lightness of the bar beneath and the water being shallow, he could see more of it. The length of its upper back came to a ridge, as though if cross-sectioned, it would appear as a roughly triangular or pear shaped section. The skin was toad-like ( warty or mottled) and it was more brown than black. The four of them who saw it this time agreed it would be best not to say anything about it. In none of the sightings did it ever show any great fear or panic. In one sighting, it looked directly at them, submerged straight down without leaving a ripple on the surface of the water, then reappeared, looked at them again, then re-submerged. In all sightings, it either appeared and reappeared in this way or undulated through the water away from them. The eyes were always very noticeable, but in all sightings of the creatures, the mouth was closed so that he did not observe teeth.
Sighting of June, 2002:
Note from A. R. Davis: This came to me email, and I am confident it is valid. I asked questions of this eyewitness and he responded in a second email as shown.
Ms.Davis, > For the purpose of this report, I wish to remain anonymous. I am a > commercial sea captain. I am required to be drug free and am tested without > notice at any time. Also, the use of alcohol while on duty is strictly > forbidden and if detected would result in immediate dismissal and the loss > of my captains license. I have not reported this for some time but feel so > motivated at this time. > > It was June 2002. I was towing a large sailboat from Two Way fish camp to > Brunswick landing marina. It was a large catamaran sailboat approx. 45ft. in > length. It was early morning as we were proceeding out of the South Altamaha > River. There was a dead calm on the river as we approached marker 216-A > where the So. Altamaha enters the ICW. I had a young mate aboard employed for the summer. There were a man and a woman aboard the sailboat. > > Suddenly and without warning something large broke the surface immediately > in front of the towboat. It was broaching the surface similar to the way a > dolphin does; head then body then tail. I knew at once it was unlike > anything I had ever seen. It was about the size around as a large beach > ball. It was dark brown almost black, maybe spotted with darker spots. It > was long. I remember thinking, when I will ever see the end of the thing? > It's hard to say but I would guess it was about 20 ft. in length. I cant be > sure because I was seeing only that portion broaching the surface as it was > moving from right to left just before the bow of the tow boat. It then > submerged completely as does a dolphin. > > I was in disbelief, like did I really see what I thought I saw??? > > To validate the whole thing I looked ahead of where it submerged thinking > maybe it would re-surface for another breath of air. Sure enough here it > came up again, just as before!! It was then I knew I had witnessed something > very strange and unusual. > > I looked back to see if my deck hand had been watching. He had not but was > securing the tow rope. I looked back at the sailboat under tow to see if > perhaps they had seen it. They had not and were kicked back talking to each > other on the bridge. > > Well, it had just been me. I felt somehow blessed to have seen what I saw. I > chose to say nothing until now accept to my wife and closest friends. > > Its really out there. > > Ms. Davis,
I will try to answer your questions. I do not recall about the rainfall issue. There was an eerie calm on the river--something a little uncommon. Come to think of it, it was probably right at dead high tide.
There was no reaction from the creature but rather seemed rather unconcerned. I did not see the head or tail, only the body, but it was really close, maybe 15 feet away. I canít be sure if it had a hump or not but that might explain why I did not see the head or tail. Maybe it was the hump I was viewing. At the time however, it looked like a huge snake going through the water as a dolphin does when he comes up to get air. My impression was that it was an air-breathing mammal as it seemed to come up, get air, go down, then come up again. I say that it seemed to do that but I did not see or hear evidence of blowing or snorting.
Regarding its body size, I would estimate the body circumference to be 6 to 7 feet. I did not see underneath the body, just the body itself. It appeared smooth without scales, dark in color--perhaps brown with darker spots.
Thatís about it but let me say that as a licensed captain having logged several thousand hours on the waters --I have never seen anything like or resembling this creature, either offshore or inshore.
You may post my account of the sighting on your web page--I think people should know.
We confess - the Altamaha-ha cannot be claimed by McIntosh County, Georgia alone. Creatures, who by their description sound like the same ones seen here in this county's waterways have also been sighted in the Jacksonville, Florida area and, we are told, in St. Augustine's waterways. William E. Marden, staff writer for The Florida Times-Union, recorded some of the sightings in their February 19, 1989 issue. The article quoted John Bomgardner, foreman of a crew working for the Jacksonville Public Works Dept. as saying that on December 15, 1975, between noon and 1 p.m. he and his crew had been taking a lunch break on the bulkhead at the end of LaSalle Street in the San Marco area when he heard something like a snort that drew their attention. "We looked out and it was a good 50 feet out, maybe 100 feet. It was like a snake, a big thick snake, a good foot in thickness, going up and down". Whatever it was, he said, "It came up and snorted and I could see the spray come off its nose. It hung there for a second and down it went again. It stayed up just enough to where you could see it good. When it came up and snorted, I was so close I could see the spray. He just looked around, took a breath and the rest of his (body) went down. It (its head) looked like a big football, real dark. It was so dark that if it had eyes, we couldn't see them."
Another article in the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, of Jan. 17, 1993 a most interesting piece written by Joe Julavits, Outdoors editor, records the sighting of Danny Mercer and Tim Rainey on December 28 in the evening. Julavits explained there is a deep spot, about a 35 ft hole in the intracoastal waterway underneath the Atlantic Boulevard Bridge. Danny Mercer described the creature as being maybe 12 feet long, weighing perhaps 200 lbs. Mercer, who had been fishing most of his 28 years, had never seen anything like it. "It looked like it was something ancient" he said. "It didn't look real." Mercer and Tim Rainey were fishing for drum that night under the bridge as they often did. They caught spots and yellowtails for bait, then lowered the baits into the hole just off the east bank of the waterway. A good fish bent Mercer's rod and put up a fight that lasted about 40 minutes. Mercer worked the fish to the surface and saw it was a drum that he estimated would go 20-25 lbs. From his perch next to an old dock, Mercer had to walk the fish to the bank. As he pulled it through the water, something didn't feel right. "Suddenly the fish started struggling harder," Mercer said. "I looked back and his tail was gone. Then this snake or something came up and grabbed him. It looked like a big, old eel, about 12 feet long. It had to be 2 feet around, I know his head was more than 12 inches wide. It had smooth, black skin like a porpoise or freshwater catfish." The creature began pulling Mercer's 60 LB test line off his heavy-duty reel and headed for the waterway channel, "almost effortlessly parting the heavy line and stripping the gears in the reel. "It was big, BIG", Rainey said, who watched the episode along with another fisherman under the bridge. "It wasn't an alligator. If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed it. This ain't no fishing story. This is for real." For the next 8 nights, Mercer returned to the hole under the bridge, working days, fishing nights. He replaced his rod and damaged reel with big-game tackle, a 12/0 reel spooled with 140 LB test steel line. "I don't know if a pole's going to bring him in", Mercer said. "If he breaks that (140 LB line) I don't want to have anything to do with him anyhow." Rainey and Mercer say it wasn't a gator, shark, big otter or porpoise they saw. The only thing they can liken it to is a grotesque version of a moray eel, usually found only around offshore reefs. Rainey said it reminded him of the huge eel in the Peter Benchley move, The Deep.
So concludes our excerpts from Mr. Julavits' article. We would like to appeal to any of the aforementioned eyewitnesses or to any others who have seen such a creature, to please get in touch with us.
E. Randall Floyd, author of that excellent book, "Great Southern Mysteries" (August House, Inc., pub., P.O. Box 3223, Little Rock, Ark. 72203) recently wrote an article which was picked up by the Augusta Chronicle, among other newspapers. Mr. Floyd, a journalism teacher at Augusta College, quotes sightings which have occurred upriver from our locale of Darien, Ga. in Appling, Tattnall and Wayne counties where the Altamaha becomes freshwater, not brackish. Randall states that there was a legend of a giant water monster handed down by the Tama Indians of the area and that early settlers wrote about encounters, describing it as a giant snake which hissed and bellowed when frightened. Read this very interesting article yourself at: http://www.augustachronicle.com/stories/031598/fea_floydcol.shtml
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©1996 - 1999 Ann R. Davis