Thursday, January 28, 2016

Creature of the Month: The Cape Hatteras “Dragon” by Nick Redfern

A fascinating and harrowing encounter with a monster of the oceans occurred on May 30, 1908, and involved more than a few highly credible individuals. They were Captain W.H. Bartlett, Second Officer Joseph Ostens Grey, and the rest of the crew of the cargo steamer, Tresco. Captain Bartlett and his crew had sailed from Philadelphia just forty-eight hours earlier. All was well and completely normal – for a while, at least. When they reached a point around ninety miles off of Cape Hatteras (a cape on the coast of North Carolina), however, the crew noticed that the water appeared decidedly disturbed and inexplicably oily. High-strangeness was afoot. Each and every person on-board was quickly destined to find out just how strange.

    Suddenly, and rather incredibly, a group of around three to four dozen sharks were seen racing through the waters, almost as if something terrifying and deadly was in hot pursuit. It turns out that was exactly what was going on. And, it must be said, there are very few things that frighten sharks! Shortly afterwards, and at a distance, the crew saw what they first took to be a boat, possibly one that had capsized and with the bottom of the hull protruding out of the water. A boat, it most definitely was not.

    That much was in evidence when a huge head and neck surfaced from the water, revealing that what the crew had encountered was actually a huge animal of a distinctly unknown and massive kind. An understanding of the sheer size of the leviathan can be gained from the description of the neck. It was, said Captain Bartlett, “as thick as a cathedral pillar.”

    As the crew tentatively closed in, they were astonished to see that the monster most closely resembled a classic dragon of ancient Chinese lore and mythology! What was perceived to be nothing stranger than a legend, just might have been something else, entirely. It was described as being in excess of one hundred feet in length, had a width of around eight feet, and had a pair of wing-like protuberances, one on each side of its long body. The entire body was scaly and green in color – yet further amplifying the dragon-like associations. All that was missing was fire-breathing! The most detailed and amazing description came from Second Officer Grey, who had the good presence of mine to quickly write the details down, as soon as the encounter was over. He committed the following, astonishing words to paper:

    “There was something unspeakably loathsome about the head, which was five feet long from nose to upper extremity. Such a head I never saw on any denizen of the sea. Underneath the jaw seemed to be a sort of pouch, or drooping skin. The nose, like a snout upturned, was somewhat recurved. I can remember seeing no nostrils or blow-holes. The lower jaw was prognathous, and the lower lip was half projecting, half pendulous. Presently I noticed something dripping from the ugly lower jaw. Watching I saw it was saliva, of a dirty drab color. While it displayed no teeth, it did possess very long and formidable molars, like a walrus’s tusks. Its eyes were of a reddish color. They were elongated vertically. They carried in their dull depths a somber baleful glow, as if within them was concentrated all the fierce menacing spirit that raged in the huge bulk behind.”

    Clearly aware that it was being watched, the dragon made a menacing warning in the direction of the crew: it violently thrashed its tail in the water for a few moments, and shook the boat in a decidedly precarious fashion. Fortunately, and evidently, when the monster was done and satisfied that it had made its point, it sank beneath the waves, never to be seen again by the crew of the Tresco. To their everlasting relief.

    Of course, real dragons don’t exist. Do they? Here’s where things get not just controversial, but even beyond controversial.

    Richard Freeman is the Zoological Director of the Devon, England-based Center for Fortean
Zoology. It’s a full-time group – with a worldwide network - dedicated to the investigation of unknown animals, such as the United States’ Bigfoot, lake-monsters, West Virginia’s Mothman, the Chupacabra of Puerto Rico, and the Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. Freeman says of the “dragons are real” theory:

    “Back in 1979 Peter Dickinson wrote a book that was titled The Flight of Dragons. Dickinson had come up with this idea – an excellent theory, in fact – that real-life dragons did exist and that they were the descendants of dinosaurs such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Dickinson suggested that these animals developed large, expanded stomachs that would fill with hydrogen gas, which would come from a combination of hydrochloric acid found in the juices of the digestive system that would then mix with calcium found in the bones of their prey.”

    Freeman continues: “Then, from there, the hydrogen – a lighter-than-air gas – allowed these creatures to take to the skies and then control their flight by burning off the excess gas in the form of flame. Anyone seeing this would be seeing the closest thing to the image of the dragon that we all know and love. Dickinson’s theory is an excellent one, and may well be a perfect explanation for sightings of real dragons – in times past, and perhaps today, I believe.”

    A fascinating scenario, to be sure. 

    In light of the words of Richard Freeman, perhaps there is more than mere myth to the saga of the dragon. If so, such creatures are clearly no longer with us today. But, once? Long ago? Maybe. Or, at least, something that provoked dragon-like imagery and subsequent tales of their existence. Indeed, very often there is a truth behind a legend. Did the crew of the Tresco, back in 1908, see something that most people would equate with the imagery of a dragon? The idea sounds as outrageous as it does unlikely. Does that make it wrong? That’s very much down to a matter of personal opinion!

Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including his most recent Bloodline of the Gods . He has appeared on more than 70 TV shows, including: Fox News; the BBC’s Out of This World; the SyFy Channel’s Proof Positive; the History Channel’s Monster QuestAmerica’s Book of SecretsAncient Aliens, and UFO Hunters; the National Geographic Channel’s Paranatural; and MSNBC’s CountdownNick writes regularly for UFO MagazineMysterious Universe, and Fate.

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