St. Augustine Monster: 5 Fun Facts

While riding their bikes along the coast of Anastasia Island, Florida, two young boys stumbled upon something that was very large, very confusing, and very dead. The boys were Dunham Coretter and Herbert Coles; the year was 1896. What they found would puzzle science for over a century. It became known as the St. Augustine Monster.

1. IT WAS VERY BIG AND VERY, VERY WEIRD

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What the Florida boys found was very big, but they didn’t think particularly weird. That’s because they didn’t pay much attention. Luckily, they dutifully reported the mysterious carcass to the local science institute. The founder, one Dr. Dewitt Webb, noticed what appeared to be the numerous stumps of arms—or tentacles. While the giant squid had recently become a documented scientific fact, what he was looking at didn’t fit the description. He was convinced it was not a squid, but an octopus—one orders of magnitude larger than any before seen.

Dr. Webb championed the octopus theory, being the man to send correspondence to the world’s leading experts on cephalopods, as well as photographs and tissue samples. A debate quickly raged over what the carcass might have been when alive. What was definitive, however, was that it was a globster.

2. GLOBSTERS AMONG US

Globster is not to be found in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, being a technical term used by cryptozoologists in referring to mysterious carcasses originating from a watery environment—key word: mysterious. The term was coined by Ivan T. Sanderson in 1962 to describe a puzzling carcass found on the beaches of the Tasmanian coast [identified in 1981 as a whale]. While most globsters are—technically speaking—just a big ol’ mess, certainly that does not apply to all such finds. Below is a list of some of the more notable non-blob globsters that yet defy scientific explanation:

    • Stronsay Beast, 1808; Orkney Islands, Scotland
    • Zuiyo-Maru Carcass, 1977; off coast of New Zealand
    • Conakry Monster, 2007; Guinea
    • Horned Sea Serpent, 2007, Spain
    • Montauk Monster, 2008; New York, USA
    • Sakhalin Island Monster, 2015; Russia

3. GLOBSTERS AND SQUIDS AND OCTOPUSES, OH MY! 

ceph-cute

We’ve all heard the saying: There’s plenty of cephalopods in the sea. Likewise, there’s plenty of adjectives in the dictionary. Though the public may use them interchangeably, to scientists there is a difference between colossal, giant, and jumbo. The famous kraken is a giant squid—being exceptionally long and narrow—whereas the colossal squid isn’t as long but is particularly wide. Fret not, gentle reader, there will not be a test. Below are a few notable sizes and who belongs within.

  • Colossal Octopus: Myth
  • Giant Octopus: Fact (Genus Enteroctopus, with four known species)
  • Jumbo Octopus: Myth
  • Dumbo Octopus: Fact (Grimpoteuthis, and super adorable)
  • Colossal Squid: Fact (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)
  • Giant Squid: Fact (Architeuthis, or the kraken of myth)
  • Jumbo Squid: Fact (Dosidicus gigas, or Humboldt squid)
  • Stubby Squid: Fact (Rossia pacifica, and simply the cutest thing under the sea)

4. THE ST. AUGUSTINE MONSTER IS HIGHLY CREDENTIALED

No less an authority on the sea than Jacques-Ives Cousteau himself—the inventor of the aqualung and indisputably the greatest undersea explorer of all time—thought the St. Augustine Monster was a giant octopus. Nor was he alone. The world’s leading expert on cephalopods, Yale University’s Professor A.E. Verrill, wrote the same in the prestigious American Journal of Science in 1897. Samples of the carcass were sent to Smithsonian Institute and labelled Accession 31678: “Sections of the muscle envelop of the body of Octopus giganteus verill”. 

The Smithsonian samples were retested in 1971 and the conclusion of giant octopus was upheld. A further test in 1986 also supported the theory.

5. IT ROCKED THE SCIENTIFIC WORLD FOR 107 YEARS

The beauty of science is that it’s gloriously messy. A theory is proposed and it’s up to the author to convince skeptical peers of its truth. Even passing such muster, additional information can at any time uproot a theory. Usually the goal of such upheaval is for the betterment of science and, thusly, civilization—but not always. For more on the lively—and misleading—debates regarding the St. Augustine Monster, not to mention the final outcome, see St. Augustine Monster: Monsterpedia.

It took 107 years for science to definitively identify what was the St. Augustine Monster. Below is a list of scientific publications debating the carcass. This does not include the countless newspaper articles and responses it elicited:

  • The American Journal of Science, January 1897; A.E. Verrill
  • The American Journal of Science, February 1897; A.E. Verrill
  • The American Journal of Science, February 1897; A.E. Verrill
  • Smithsonian Institute, February 1897 William Healey Dall
  • Natural History Magazine, March 1971; F.G. Wood
  • Natural History Magazine, March 1971; Joseph Gennaro
  • Natural History Magazine, March 1971; F.G. Wood
  • Cryptozoology Magazine, 1986; Roy Mackal
  • The Biological Bulletin, April 1995; S. Pierce, G. Smith, T. Maugel, and E. Clark
  • The Biological Bulletin, June 2004; S. Pierce, S. Massey, N. Curtis, G. Smith, C. Olavarria, and T. Maugel

6. MONSTER HIGH FIVE BONUS

monster-high-fiveThe St. Augustine Monster was famous in its day not just within the scientific community, but throughout the public at large. The carcass was dragged away from the beach and placed in front of a local hotel owned by Dr. George Grant, where it drew large crowds of curiosity seekers. Needless to say, this was before the advent of TV.

 

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Did you know all that? If you know something else fun that we missed, share it in the comments and exalt in the glory that will surely follow. And tell us which monster you love!

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