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Sea monster at Alder Point


Lobster fisherman Wallace Cartwright of Alder Point, Cape Breton County, claims he saw a "sea monster" recently and the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History believes him.

"We had just hauled into the cove south of the light (house) in Point Aconi, in the direction of my traps," Mr. Cartwright said Tuesday.

"Then I thought I saw a big log in the water. I turned to my buddy and said, 'Geez, that would be a dandy thing to run into.' It was a pretty big stick.

"Then I saw a head on it, like a sea turtle, and it came about a foot up out of the water."

He said the creature's snake-like body was about eight metres long, smooth and brownish. When it saw the boat approaching, it quickly submerged, surfacing again two minutes later about 60 metres away.

At first Mr. Cartwright was wary of getting close to the creature.

"God knows, that thing might have been able to jump out of the water, and I'm sure it could have swallowed you whole, I'm sure," he said.

Before resuming fishing, though, they followed the creature for about 45 minutes as it submerged and surfaced five or six times, headed for deeper water.

"I've been a lobster fisherman for 30 years, and I know what a bunch of seals or eels on the surface look like. This was one distinct animal," said Mr. Cartwright. "One I've never seen before."

The curator of zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax thinks Mr. Cartwright's sea serpent was actually an oarfish, which is found in cold, deep waters north of Great Britain.

"There aren't too many eight-metre-long fish in the world, it could only be one of a few known things. That's if it's a known species at all," said Andrew Hebda.

"We have some specimens here at the museum taken from waters off Labrador and the Scotian Shelf, and we have no idea what they are."

But he said from the description Mr. Cartwright gave him, the creature is probably an oarfish, or ribbonfish. It likely followed a cold ocean current to Cape Breton.

Few oarfish have ever been caught; most specimens seen are washed up on beaches. So encounters with live specimens are rare.

Oarfish are said to be the longest of all fish. Their ribbon-like bodies usually grow to eight metres, but specimens up to 17 metres long have been reported.

Mr. Cartwright's helper, who didn't want to be named, tells of a similar sighting near Alder Point some 60 years ago.

Mr. Hebda said there have been over 31 sightings of "sea monsters" in or off Nova Scotia over the last 140 years. Usually described as multi-humped serpents, most are basking sharks, he said.

"There have been reports from Lake Ainslie, and Aspy Bay. Cranberry Lake has some monsters in it too," he said. "There have also been recent sightings of oarfish-like creatures off Antigonish and P.E.I."


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