On beaches from Alaska to Long Island and Bermuda to Tasmania, strange creatures have been washing ashore. Not the usual Horseshoe Crabs and sea shells; these are different. Monstrous, hairy, lacking eyes—headless, in fact—and smelling something awful, these are cut from vastly different cloth. So you just might want to be careful booking your next vacation.
The specimen pictured above and just below—long dead from the look and smell of it—was photographed on a Philippines beach not long after a 6.7 magnitude killer earthquake recently struck the islands.
It's safe to say we can rule out Horseshoe Crab.
Like title characters in a bad horror movie, these marine creatures defy ready identification. They've frightened observers and confounded scientists. Only a mother could love them. While some have even been given names, someone coined a term to describe the lot of them: Globsters.
Some people believe Globsters are nothing more than cartilaginous tissue, say, from a shark ... or adipose tissue from a Whale. Or maybe not. Unlike the Loch Ness Monster, we know they exist, we just don't know what they are. Or were.
Globsters are not a new phenomenon. Back in the early 1800s,.the Stronsay Beast was discovered on a beach in the Orkney Islands after a storm ... all 55' of it ... not including its missing tail. Variously identified as the possible remains of an unusually large Basking Shark or a sea serpent, it was ultimately Christened with the scientific name Halsydrus pontoppidani (Pontoppidan's sea-snake) by a Scottish anatomist who might have been seeking some recognition himself.
Artist's rendering of the Stronsay Beast. An early Keith Haring, from the looks of it.
And this is your basic Basking Shark. See the resemblance? (Neither do I.)
It was followed by the St. Augustine Monster (1896), Tasmanian Globster (1960), New Zealand Globster (1968), Gambo (1983), Chilean Blob (2003), and a great many others that were never even given a name much less a decent burial.
Tassie, the Tasmanian Blob ... photographed from its good side.
Not all mysterious sea creatures wash ashore. In 1977, the crew of a Japanese fishing trawler captured the remains of a monstrous beast in their net and called it the Zuiyo Maru, after the name of the ship. When pulled from the sea it resembled a prehistoric Plesiosaur, an ocean-going sea serpent believed long extinct. But what do scientists know? After nicknaming their saltwater Godzilla "Nessie", the Captain took pictures and collected samples of its various body parts (hmmm), then unceremoniously dumped what was left of Nessie back where they found it.
Japanese and Swedish scientists disagree on whether Nessie was either a Plesiosaur or just another of those Basking Sharks so favored by Plesiosaur deniers.
Nessie posing for the camera. Seriously, does this look like a Basking Shark to you?.
Not to be outdone in the Globster department, residents of Auckland, New Zealand, came upon a mystery creature of their own. This biggie washed ashore on Muriwai Beach, almost completely covered with mussels.
This is not Michael Phelps' medal collection. Those are mussels—a lot of them.
Then, just when you think you've seen everything, the ocean goes and tosses another Globster smack onto your favorite beach. Like this curious specimen, that washed ashore, also in New Zealand. Yes, that's some set of choppers.
New Zealand Tourism takes another hit.
America has had its own share of mystery marine creatures wash up on various beaches, but few register higher on the gruesome scale than this hairless example. In 2008, beachgoers on Long Island jumped out of their flip-flops and skedaddled when they saw it. Dubbed the Montauk Monster, some claimed it was formerly a raccoon that spent too much time surfing. Others discounted that theory pointing out that a raccoon's legs are significantly shorter and there was no surfboard. No one has yet suggested that this could be another Basking Shark. Yeah, those legs.
If it's not a Basking Shark, maybe it's a Plesiosaur?
As recently as 2012, the residents of Folly Beach, SC, just south of Charleston, woke up to discover something had visited their fine beach overnight and decided to stick around. Surprised beachgoers may have spent the remainder of their vacation at area museums. A local veterinarian stepped in to reduce the fear factor by claiming this Globster was merely the remains of a harmless sturgeon—one of the oldest bony fishes in existence. Supposedly, the scaly body was a dead giveaway.
Rates for oceanfront rooms at Folly Beach have only now recovered.
This was identified as a sturgeon. Does this mean we're running out of Basking Sharks?
So far all these Globsters and Globster wannabes, have been found dead, cold, lifeless, in a partial state of decay, and completely lacking in personality. But there is at least one exception and it's a beaut.
I give you Trunko, sighted in 1924 off the coast of South Africa—alive, no less! Not just alive but battling mightily for its life against two Killer Whales. Our boy Trunko put up one helluva fight, using its tail to beat off its attackers. Witnesses said the struggle lasted more than three hours with Trunko leaping 20' out of the water. Sadly, Trunko came up the loser. When it washed up on the beach, witnesses described a creature covered in snowy white fur, with a lobster-like tail, no visible face or bone structure, and totally devoid of blood. I am quoting here. It also had an "elephantine trunk"—thus Trunko.
Killer Whales 1, Trunko 0.
Although Trunko lay rotting on the beach for about 10 days, no scientist ever bothered to examine the carcass. Despite photographs and eyewitness accounts, science know-it-alls pooh poohed the accuracy of the witnesses' descriptions, attributing it to their "naivety about the appearance of rotting animal carcasses." (Hey, count me in that group.)
The opinion of these rotting animal carcass experts: Trunko was nothing more than a mass of collagen or adipose tissue, most likely from a Whale.
What? Not a Basking Shark? You gotta be kidding.