Catalina from A to Z: Unusual underwater sightings

Hello, and welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge! This year my theme is Catalina from A to Z, featuring posts about the Southern California island of Catalina. With a focus on the island’s romantic side, I’ll be sharing info about where to go, what to see and do, plus a few sneak peeks from my novel in progress, Wife For A Weekend, which is set on the island!

As mentioned in my glass-bottom boat and mermaids posts, certain types of mythical creatures have allegedly been sighted off the coast of Catalina, and continue to appear in various forms throughout the island’s architecture.

But what about more unusual underwater life? What about… sea monsters?

According to Catalina A to Z:

“In the depths between Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands, there supposedly swims a sea monster that dozens of people throughout the twentieth century have seen. The often-cited lengthy report on the always briefly glimpsed leviathan was printed in the June 1934 edition of Esquire under the byline of Ralph Bandini. ‘A great barrel shaped Thing,’ Bandini wrote, ‘tapering toward the top and surmounted by a reptilian head strangely resembling those of the huge, prehistoric creatures whose reproductions stand in various museums.'”

Catalina A to Z, p. 122

Bandini was apparently a member of Avalon’s Tuna Club, as well as a respected sport fisherman and author of Veiled Horizon: Stories of Big Game Fish of the Sea, so his description seems to have been taken rather seriously.

In addition to Bandini’s account, sightings of the sea monster were reported by others in 1920, 1927 and 1941. But is there truly a monster in the waters, or is there a more scientific explanation of what these fishermen saw?

Closing out the “Sea Monster Legend” entry, the book’s authors note that in October 2013 a dead eighteen-foot oarfish was found near Toyon Bay, which may fit the description of the monster. As they conclude, “Deepwater oarfish typically surface when they are sick or dying and have fueled tales of sea serpents worldwide.” (p. 123)

Another oarfish (this one measuring fifteen feet) washed ashore in June 2015, which seems to confirm the idea that dead or dying oarfish are seen relatively frequently in the waters and could be mistaken for monsters.

I find it interesting that a sea monster might be reported in the waters surrounding the island, but that this creature never garnered a name or nickname. Given the island’s interest in sea life, like the sea lion Old Ben (who has his own commemorative statue), I’d think that any new and exciting species might prompt legend-spinners to come up with a name for the beast. If Loch Ness can claim “Nessie,” and Lake Tahoe claims “Tessie,” then perhaps the Catalina monster is… “Cessie”? Short for Cecilia? (By the way, it’s also interesting to me that everyone assumes sea monsters are female, whereas land monsters like Bigfoot are male. But I guess that’s a discussion for another day!)

Eager to learn more about Catalina?

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