Chessie

Sea Monster that frequents the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

Etymology: After the bay. First named in July 1977 by a reporter for the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch.

Variant names: Chesapeake Chessie, Potomac Patty.

Physical description: Serpentine or eel-like in general shape. Length, 12-35 feet. Smooth. Diameter, 8-10 inches. Dark gray to black. Three or four humps. Turtlelike head and neck held 3 feet above the surface. No fins.

Behavior: Sometimes reported swimming with horizontal undulations; at other times, it is seen swimming with vertical undulations, while the head and neck are kept steady. Passive toward observers.

Tracks: Described as reptilian or snakelike.

Distribution: Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River, and Rappahannock River in Maryland and Virginia. Favored spots are Love Point on Kent Island, Eastern Bay, and the mouth of the Potomac River.

Significant sightings: An animal suspiciously like a large turtle, 12 feet long with a large shell and four fins, was seen by the crews of two schooners on July 26, 1840, near North Point, Maryland.

An engineer performing helicopter test flights out of Aberdeen Proving Grounds saw an enormous, eel-like animal in the Bush River in 1963.

In 1965, Pam Peters saw a serpentine animal in the South River off Hillsmere Shores, Maryland.

In July 1977, Gregg Hupka took a fuzzy photograph of an animal at the mouth of the Potomac River.

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G. F. Green III and his family saw a 25-foot, humped animal while they were water-skiing on June 22, 1980. It sank when they approached it.

On May 21, 1982, Robert and Karen Frew videotaped a 30- to 35-foot sea monster, slightly under 1 foot in diameter, off Love Point, Maryland. They observed the animal from about 200 feet away as it repeatedly broke the surface of the water and moved against the current at about 4-5 knots. George Zug, Clyde Roper, and five other scientists from the Smithsonian Institution could not identify the object during a special meeting on August 20 to evaluate the tape, calling it "animate but unidentifiable."

Clyde Taylor and his daughter Carol were walking along Cloverdale Community Beach on Kent Island, Maryland, on July 16, 1982, when they saw a 30-foot serpentine animal in 3 feet of water moving in vertical undulations toward the shore. Carol ran toward it, and it dove out of sight. Clyde, a commercial artist, drew a series of pictures of it.

Possible explanations:

(1) Floating logs.

(2) The Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) only grows to slightly more than 6 feet in length.

(3) Sea turtles may be responsible for some sightings, especially the 9-foot Atlantic loggerhead (Caretta caretta), the 4-foot Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the 8-foot Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), all of which have been found in the Chesapeake Bay.

(4) The American eel (Anguilla rostrata) only grows to about 5 feet. It has a slender, snakelike body but does not hold its head and neck above the surface.

(5) The Northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) has dark dorsal crossbands and reaches a length of 4 feet 6 inches.

(6) A surviving archaic basilosaurid whale has been suggested by Roy Mackal for similar Sea Monsters.

(7) An out-of-place Anaconda (Eunectes murinus) was suggested by John Meriner, though these are tropical freshwater snakes.

(8) Moray eels (Family Muraenidae) and Sea snakes (Family Hydrophiidae) are similarly tropical or subtropical. Morays rarely swim on the surface. (9) The name Chessie has recently been appropriated by a Florida manatee ( Trichechus manatus latirostris) captured in the Chesapeake Bay in the fall of 1994 and returned to Florida. Subsequently monitored by the U.S. National Biological Service, Chessie was tracked migrating all the way north to Rhode Island in 1995. This or another manatee might have been responsible for earlier sightings. Sources: "Nessie Junior," Washington Post, August 18, 1978; Gary S. Mangiacopra, "The Great Unknowns into the 20 th Century," Of Sea and Shore 11, no. 4 (Winter 1980-81): 259-261; Russ Robinson, "Chessie May Have Made Video Debut," Baltimore Sun, July 11, 1982; "Chesapeake Bay Monster Filmed on Videotape," ISC Newsletter 1, no. 2 (Summer

1982): 9-10; "Chessie Videotape Analysis Inconclusive," ISC Newsletter 2, no. 1 (Spring

1983): 9; Michael T. Shoemaker, "The Day They Caught 'Chessie,'" Strange Magazine, no. 3 (1988): 30-31; Michael Bright, There Are Giants in the Sea (London: Robson, 1989), pp. 64-78; Michael A. Frizzell, "The Chesapeake Bay Serpent," Crypto Dracontology Special, no.

1 (November 2001): 129-137.

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