The Great New England Sea Serpent: An Account of Unknown Creatures Sighted by Many Respectable Persons Between 1638 and the Present Day (Anglais) Broché – 1 novembre 2003
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She does try to explain some inconsistencies among sightings, such as attributing differences in the descriptions of the serpents to sexual dimorphism, i.e., differences in physical characteristics according to sex. (She does not mention that in nature changing physical characteristics function to attract mates during mating season, as in many species of birds. Also, different species of the same genus can look very different. A fox does not look like a wolf, yet they are both species of the genus canine.)
I wanted to read this book after reading Henry David Thoreaus' book Cape Cod, in which he tells of reports of a sea serpent seen off that coast. The descriptions reminded me of a sighting told to me. When I was living on Cape Cod between the years 1975-1977, an older co-worker matter-of-factly told me that he, his wife, and another couple had watched a sea serpent from his home in Provincetown the previous day. Through a telescope they watched it swimming on the surface of the water, apparently skimming krill from the surface. Its head was shaped like a horse's head. On its forehead was a yellow patch, underneath the chin was a red mass, like a cockscomb. A band of white was along its mouth, he said, like the baleen of a whale. I asked him if it was like the figurehead of a Viking dragon ship. He thought for a second and said, “Yeah.” He said that a fishing boat circled the anaimal. Occasionally it would raise its head out of the water, showing it was not a snake. A woman in the office who overheard us matter-of-factly said that someone she knew had also seen it once before. Another man said someone he knew had seen it recently while sailing on the bay side of the Cape. He said everyone in boats nearby "got out of there."
The man from Provincetown also told me a story of a woman who took a picture of a strange fish that had washed up on the beach. She brought the photo to a Woods Hole oceanographic scientist who took one look at it and said, "There's no such thing." Whether or not this story is true, it shows the scepticism in being taken seriously by scientific authorities. I remember there was a news report in the late 1960's of a sea serpent sighting off Cape Cod by the captain of the fishing boat Friendship. The news didn't exactly send marine scientists rushing out to investigate.
There probably have been more sightings in addition to the the ones in O'Neill's extensive list, but people don't report them because they know the public won't believe them. Locals accept the sea serpent as a fact and leave it at that. Besides, a verified sighting would attract mobs of tourists, news helicopters, tour boats, and drones, in towns and beaches that are already overcrowded in the summer tourist season.
Eventually a sea serpent will be seen and videorecorded by a large group of people, leaving no doubt about their existence. The realization that a mythical creature does exist will have a profound effect on the human psyche.
Especially people that are not normally prone to exaggeration. If you are fascinated by cryptozoology you will enjoy this book.
Why should this be so? As J.P. O'Neill ably documents in this volume, there are plenty of sober sightings by reliable individuals. What many of them report does not seem unreasonable. O'Neill has made a point of reproducing the original stories in most cases, often with little commentary.
She focuses on the reports that have come from the Gulf of Maine, which runs essentially from Massachusetts up to Nova Scotia. These include the ones in the area of Cape Ann and Gloucester, which made national news, particularly in 1817.
The book is straight-forward, respectful, and not sensational. It is, in a sense, very New England. It says that "this is what it is" and brooks no nonsense about it.
O'Neill's research (and that of others, whom she graciously and properly acknowledges) goes far beyond the observations of hardworking fisherfolk and land-dwellers. She does an excellent job in setting the scene, and showing us the people and the politics that were involved. As with many of the best books on these topics, it is ultimately not about "his Snakeship", but about our reactions to him.
The quibble factor here is so low it's not even worth bringing up. Even the lack of an index is ameliorated by the sightings table. The book is an excellent read, even for people not generally interested in these things. For people who want to see wild speculations or extensive analysis, it may not be enough. However, the vast majority will enjoy this well-written accounting of what has been called "the Great Mystery".
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