Newspaper reports dating back as far as the 1920s detail mysterious creatures spotted by trawlermen
From the Loch Ness Monster to the infamous Kraken, enormous water-dwelling creatures have captured the imaginations of generations of seafarers and the general public alike.
Though often reserved for novels and films, there are plenty of real-life documented sightings of these alleged enigmatic serpents – many close to home.
Long before anyone had heard of a beast in Loch Ness, between the 1920s and 1930s, the Humber Estuary and North Sea were home to a series of still-unexplained sea serpent sightings involving hundreds of eyewitnesses in both Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, spreading from Cleethorpes, up the Humber, then out past Spurn as far north as Whitby.
These sightings were well documented at the time with hundreds of newspaper reports being published locally and nationally, with numerous mentions in the columns of the Grimsby press.
The story began in August 1922, when on Wednesday, August 30, a Grimsby steam trawler named CHANDOS, had a run-in with a sea serpent in the North Sea, 35 miles out from Spurn Point. The crew, who had sailed from Grimsby that morning, believed that they were initially seeing two brown sails from two inshore fishing boats, so approached them at a steady rate of knots.Upon approaching, however, they realised that they were not actually looking at any sailing vessels but instead were the large dorsal fins of two very large unknown sea creatures. The unknown fish swam off in a southerly direction, away from the steam trawler, leaving the crew baffled.
They estimated that the creatures were 50 feet in length, and the skipper, who is not named in the report, claimed that “in all his experience at sea he had not seen their like”. The baffled skipper continued: “They were neither sharks nor whales.”
By Thursday, August 31 1922, the local newspapers carried the report, and the story even made it into the Daily Mirror, which concentrated on the size of the creatures and their distance from Spurn Point.
In 1923, a Hornsea school teacher was swimming off the coast when he was attacked by an unknown sea creature.
Reports continued during this period with eyewitnesses coming in from Hull, especially trawlermen, and from holidaymakers at Spurn Point, Easington, Hornsea, Withernsea, Flamborough, Filey, and Whitby.
Then, in February 1934, another report surfaced when it was revealed in the Nottingham Evening Post that a feud had broke out between Grimsby and Cleethorpes fishermen, after both reported that their trawl nets had been interfered with. Both parties blamed the other after fish caught in their nets and on their hooks had been wrenched off. Such was the destruction that both Cleethorpes and Grimsby ports had night-watchmen employed to keep an eye on their nets and hooks.
It wasn’t until February 1934, when a Grimsby fisherman named Kirwan, was standing on the bow of his boat, when he gave a shout and fell backwards towards his crew. He was pulled to his feet and pointed over the side of the trawler, where his crewmates saw what was described in the press as “a huge black shape, moving rapidly away from them in a terrible swirl of water over 100 yards away”.
Initially the Grimsby crew believed that the creature was a seal, but admitted that they had never seen a creature, seal or otherwise, as large as this.
Days later, the Daily Mirror, ran a story on February 6, 1934, in which they claimed that Grimsby fishermen were on the trail of the Humber Monster. W. Croft, a fishermen of Rowston Street, Cleethorpes, reported that his two sons saw something large and unknown in the vicinity of his fishing lines. He described it as “having ears and a mane,” but added that “it was away under water before we could get a close view”.
At this point four Grimsby men, J. Porritt, J. Swann, R. Hackforth, and G. Woods, who were on the Humber described seeing a large sea serpent heading from Grimsby towards Cleethorpes. They described it has having humps that left the water of the Humber “broken at intervals by hashes of a black shining body”.
A newspaper cutting from August 1922 detailing a mysterious sea serpent sighting in the North Sea
They later added that it was probably a school of porpoises swimming in line, adding that this could explain the fishing lines being stripped of fish.
Another eyewitness, Thomas Atkinson, reported a frightening encounter with the monster in 1934. He had been on the shores of the river with his wife and children when he spotted a black creature swimming in the water. It had turned towards the family and reportedly stared at them with “eyes the size of portholes” until they fled in horror.
Whilst sightings continued in and around the Humber and North Sea, the sightings at Grimsby appeared to slow down, until August 1936, when reports flooded in of another visitor near Grimsby. All was not as it seems, however, as the media whipped up a frenzy of alleged sea serpent sightings, the fishermen of Grimsby were less than excited, and their down to earth approach was well founded, for days later the infamous visitor was washed up near Grimsby.
It transpired that the August 1936 sea serpent sightings in the Humber around Grimsby were none other than a young whale. The creature was spotted by a group of campers, and later it was seen floating upside down 50 yards below the high water mark. They approached and noticed that it was still breathing, but evidently in trouble. It was 10 feet in length and 20 inches across at its greatest diameter.
It was claimed that its mottled black and grey skin could account for the many sightings in the Humber recently, but not everyone was convinced and stories continued to flood in regarding the Humber Sea Serpent.