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Flock of Birds Mistaken for Sea-Serpent

    Naturevolume 135page988 (1935) | Download Citation



    LIEUT. A. J. COBHAM, R.N., sends us an account of a flock of low-flying birds being mistaken for a sea-serpent. Similar observations have been made before, but it is worth while to put Lieut. Cobham's notes on record. On March 14, 1935, H.M.S. Electro, was 100 miles S.W. of C. Spartel (North Africa). At about 17.30 G.M.T., weather being fine and visibility a maximum, Lieut. Cobham was on the bridge with a midshipman and a signalman. Suddenly to the westward, about 200 yards off, what seemed to be a sea-serpent was seen, travelling at about 30 knots on a slightly divergent course. “It had a small head, on the surface, creating a bow-wave, and behind, at intervals of approximately 12 feet, there were four humps, each with a bow-wave. Every 20 seconds or so the beast submerged for a few moments. Inspection with binoculars showed the phenomenon to be a flock of small birds of the guillemot family (Alle alle or Fratercula arctica). They were flying in five ‘V-formations, skimming so closely over the water that from time to time they were hidden by a swell. The light, due to a heat haze, was peculiar. The sea, to the westward, appeared to be an oily grey colour, against which the birds showed black. All three of us had the same impression on sighting, and so ‘real’ was the appearance that after establishing the truth with binoculars, the birds still looked exactly like a sea-serpent when seen with the naked eye.”

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