From a July 1930 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

What is described as a gigantic sea lizard, estimated to be sixty feet in length, was seen on Devil’s Bridge ledge last Thursday afternoon by Captain Fred Colwell of Fairhaven and G. Roche, his mate, of the same town, according to the story brought into Menemsha Creek by the two men, under stress of great excitement, and later repeated in all earnestness to a Vineyard Gazette reporter. The two men, who are engaged in otter trawling out of Menemsha Creek, were bound in from back of the Head when, just after turning the bell buoy, they saw floating lumber and began to pick up loose boards and timber. While so engaged, they noticed something thrashing in the water and steered for it to investigate.

Roche, who was on the bow, saw the monster first and shouted to Colwell to keep away. The latter, not understanding, held on his course with the result that the boat came squarely alongside the monster which, they said, thrust out one hind leg and pushed itself clear of the boat.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Captain Colwell, “our boat is fifty-two feet long and this thing was many feet longer. What it could have accomplished if it had started to fight, I hate to think.”

The creature was heading toward sea and moving very slowly, so that both men had ample opportunity to study its appearance. Their description tallies in every detail and gives a picture of an incredible animal, larger and more exotic than the sea serpents of seaside fiction. The narration is given seriously, however, and with every instance that it is the truth.

In the words of the fishermen, “It was shaped like an alligator, only the head was more rounding, with the jaws swelling out from the joints and curving in toward the front. The mouth seemed to open clear back to the joint, but no teeth could be seen. The general shape of the head was like that of a cow, and it was almost about four feet long. There were large nostrils and ears shaped something like those of a cow, and something like a pig’s. The eyes showed a great deal of white and were the size of a medium plate.

“The body was perfectly smooth, with its greatest width at the shoulders, tapering somewhat toward the rear. The fore legs were shaped exactly like a man’s arms, with five tows on each paw. The hind legs were much longer in proportion, with the middle joint or knee bending backward, like that of a person. They also had five toes on each foot.

“The tail was slightly darker color and carried a ridge along its upper surface that gave it a triangular shaped appearance. It was the size of a barrel where it joined the body, tapering to the size of a man’s leg or smaller. On the extreme end was a triangular fin or something similar that appeared to be composed of a horny substance and showed signs of being worn and broken. About four feet of this tail appeared above the water as the creature swam, and was constantly thrashed about. The swimming was all done with the four legs which were moved exactly as a person’s limbs.”

Roche has been to sea for a dozen years in fishing vessels, and Captain Colwell has followed the sea all his life. Both men declared that they had never seen anything like the monster before, and they did not appear anxious to see it again.

The Bight fishermen in general have done considerable laughing and joking over the story, but there is an undercurrent of seriousness, which was further increased by the mysterious loss of a Woods Hole fisherman out of his boat on Saturday while hauling pots near Quicks Hole. The boat was found steaming slowly with no one on board and a lobster pot buoy jammed between two bait barrels, the line trailing over the stern and parted as if from strain. There was no sign of the fisherman, no indication of what manner of disaster had overtaken him.

This is not the first report of sea monsters in Vineyard waters, but it is the first time there has been so circumstantial an account, and the first time that unexplained tragedy so closely up the heels of the report.

The files of the Gazette, some seventy years back, related the sighting of a monster between Gay Head and Newport by an Edgartown packet captain whose truthfulness and aversion to exaggeration were vouched by the editor. In this article the creature was describes as about seventy feet long, with a head shaped like that of a horse and as big as a barrel. The article also mentioned fore flippers and limbs.

Other fishermen now living and fishing out of the Bight have seen strange creatures back of Gay Head at various times, but have never been able to approach near enough to discover their shape and form.

Fishermen who have read Kipling’s story of a great sea lizard dislodged from the sea bottom by a submarine earthquake are asking whether the recent earthquake that sunk the halibut banks could have raised the present monster from its habitat. Kipling described his creature as having white eyes.

Compiled by Hilary Wall