News from 1923: Baltic encounters a marine monster

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Mark Baber

The New York Times, 17 January 1923

Master Says Object, Resembling a Sea Elephant, Was Twenty Feet Long
When the White Star liner Baltic arrived yesterday twenty-four hours
late from Liverpool and Queenstown, Captain John Roberts, R. N. R., D.
S. O., C. B. E., the master, reported having sighted in mid-ocean a
strange marine monster. He and his officers who saw it from the bridge,
say it may have been a sea elephant.

According to Second Officer H. Grienrod and Fourth Officer G. D. R.
Eales, who were on the bridge at 9:30 A. M. on Jan. 11 they sighted a
strange object on the surface of the water about a mile away on the
starboard bow. As the ship drew nearer to the object it was seen that
it had ears and was about 20 feet long and nine feet across, but there
was no sign of a tail. When Captain Roberts and Chief Officer R. J.
Williams, who had been notified, came on the bridge the ears and nose of
the monster could be seen plainly through the glasses and resembled
those of an immense pig, the Captain said.

The only thing it resembled was a sea elephant, which is rarely seen
away from the Antartic [sic] Circle. The back, exposed well above the
water, was black or dark brown, the Captain said. When the Baltic drew
near the monster appeared to rise from the sea and then turned and swam
straight for the northeast, soon disappearing from view. It dived three
or four times as if it was being attacked by some enemy below the

A first cabin passenger was the Very Rev. Albert Victor Baillie, C. V.
O., M. A., of Windsor, England, where he is chaplain to the King and
Dean of the Chapel of St. George in Windsor Castle. He will preach his
first sermon in America on Jan. 28 at the Cathedral of St. John the
Divine. Another passenger on the Baltic was Lieut. Col. R. P.
Embury-Robinson, a representative of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in
Europe. His wife and two daughters accompanied him.


Inger Sheil

Wow! Now that's the kind of cryptozoological report I like to see! Not quite Rostron's sea serpant, but good stuff.

At least they had the sense to arrive at a possible sea elephant identification...20 ft long and 6 ft wide though, eh? Southern Elephant Seals Mirounga leonina, usually of sub-Antarctic waters, can attain a length of 4-5 metres and weigh 3.6 tonnes (females are smaller at 2-3 metres and 900 kg). There's also the Northern Elephant Seal Mirounga Angustirostris - rather smaller than their southern cousins, they can still grow to be bigger than 12 foot. Their habitat includes the North Eastern rim of the Pacific Ocean and extends along the coast from British Columbia, Canada to the mid Californian coast. I had to be dragged away from viewing them on the coast when driving from San Francisco to LA in 2002 - it was absolutely enchanting watching them. Wonder if it was an Elephant Seal or another wanderer? I seem to recall a dive group once encountering a rather lonely young bull far out of his natural habitat who wanted nothing more than to play with the divers, but can't recall where they ran into him.

No wonder those that go to sea are perpetually fascinated by what the ocean turns up - divers have been amazed by Oarfish seen near the surface, and giant squid once fed stories of krakens in the blue. Even in our local tideline I often come across oddities that are new even after having been raised and living much of my life here - some no doubt brought from warmer waters up North.
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