Monday, June 17, 2013


There's something calming and grounding about a body of water, especially salt water. I grew up close to a salt water river, and about 10 minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico, so that might have something to do with it. Maybe if I grew up in Nebraska I'd be all awestruck over wheat fields.

Every morning I bike by the St. John's River for about a mile or so. It's the highlight of my commute, mostly because I know I'm not going to get hit by a car. Seriously, America. Turn signals. They're not that hard.

I get to see people walking and fishing, and the different colors of the water, and the sun shining off the waves. Every once in a while I'll see manatees or dolphins. It's so much better than sitting on Butler Boulevard, cursing the traffic in front of me as I moved another inch every couple minutes. The physicality my ride combined with the calmness of the water keeps my craziness under control better, and I feel I can be a much more productive member of society.

Morning commute. Driving can suck it.
Plus, the St. John's is home to a sea monster.

Yeah, no crap.

 Or at least it was.

These sea monsters weren't tales from olden days when sailors would mistake manatees for mermaids (as a kid growing up in a city that had manatees posted on everything, I never understood how anyone could mistake a lumbering manatee for a sexy lady mermaid, but I guess if you've been cooped up with a bunch of dudes on a boat for six months, just about anything would start looking like a woman.). No, these were modern people, people from the '70s who had TVs and glasses and a knowledge of the animals in the St. John's.

Seriously, if these look like sexy mermaids to you, you've been on the boat too long.

In the mid-seventies, several different people reported seeing strange creatures swimming in the St. Johns - usually a long snake-like animal with a large head and a spiny backbone. According to the Jacksonville Times Union Dave Green reported the creature as "...quill-feathered, fanned tail, like an eel with a ridged-hump down the middle of it" in 1975. A spoil sport later in the story said that the creature was really a school of otters, even though otters are rare on the St. Johns.

The creature was spotted again that year, described as "a 25 foot long creature with a head the size of a basketball."

Once reports came in, more people reported seeing the creature, saying "...they never reported what they saw to the authorities or to the press out of fear of being ridiculed by friends for drinking too much or being branded 'some kind of nut.'"

The creature slept for a few years, then was reported again in 1977, when it was seen again, and was described as pink and bony looking.

Nothing has been heard from the creature since then, at least according to Times Union searches. Or possibly people have been too afraid of being "branded some kind of nut."

As a kid, I devoured books or TV shows about the unexplained - ghosts, the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, UFOs, everything. It helped that I grew up in the '70s when there were whole industries churning out nonsense about how aliens helped the Mayans construct pyramids to communicate with the ghosts of Yetis by using time-traveling crystal skulls.

I've since heard that men are more likely to believe in weird animals like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, while women are more likely to believe in ghosts and weird supernatural stuff. I have no idea where I heard that, let's assume it was in one of the many scientific journals I subscribe to, but it works in my case.

If you tell me you saw a ghost, I'll think it's pretty cool, but I'll run down all sorts of scientific theories in my head to explain it. If you mention that you think you saw a Bigfoot, I'll take out a loan to buy fancy cameras and traps to help you capture it.

Especially if you think you've seen a sea monster.

Logically, I know that there's little chance of these beasts actually existing today; just the massive amounts of food these things would have to eat to survive makes it pretty unlikely. Plus, with everyone in the world having cameras on their person, it seems like we'd have some proof.

But still, with scientists finding giant squid over 40 feet long or fishermen finding a previously thought extinct Coelacanth, there's always hope that something's gonna turn up.

And every morning I ride my bike to work, I swear that this is the morning that I'm gonna see it.

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