Sea Monster Attack off Newfoundland!

Imagine this: you’re hard at work, doing what you do everyday, when all of a sudden fact and fiction collide and you find yourself fact-to-face with a mythological beast.  That’s exactly what happened to the fisherman aboard the schooner Augusta off Newfoundland on August 11, 1888 when a sea monster attacked. 

As was typical, two fisherman boarded their dory and set out from the Augusta to set their trawls.  Suddenly, their tiny boat was surrounded.  The animal surfaced in so many places at first the men thought they were being surrounded by a school of squid hounds1. Then they caught sight the creature's head and realized that what was surrounding them was a single, gigantic animal.

One of the men threw a bait tub at it.  The beast was undeterred, it mere sniffed the tub and raised its neck until its head was towering 4-5 meters above the water.   They described the head as square-shaped, about 4m wide and resembling a sculpin.  After getting a good look at the dory, the creature lowered its head back into the water. The men must have hoped that it was about to descend to the depths and out of their lives.

That was not the case.

On The Shore, Happy Adventure

The creature flattened its body and began to move across the surface of the water toward the boat. The terrified men began rowing.  The creature kept pace; at times getting close enough to throw coils of its tail on to the boat.  Terrifying as this was, the men soon noticed that throwing its coils on to the boat seemed to cost the creature speed. It gave the men an opportunity to put some space between themselves and the animal.  During one of these lulls the men threw another bait tub at it.  Once again, the creature was interested.  It stopped and explored the tub — but not for long. It soon resumed its pursuit and caught up with the dory.

Sea Monster Makes Headlines

Headline from the St. John's Evening Telegram, August 25, 1888 concerning the Schooner Augusta and her sea monster/sea serpent encounter.

So large was the creature, that the men were surrounded. The animal raised its head on one side of the boat while its tail coiled on the other. It attempted to grab the boat. The men re-doubled their efforts and headed for the Augusta. While, the creature pursued, it wasn’t able to make contact with the dory anymore.  When they reached the schooner, the creature descended below the waves.

Back on board the Augusta the men described what they had seen —  a brown-striped creature estimated to be over 30m long and 6m wide, with a large fin, enormous eyes and tail that tapered like an eel.  No one had seen anything like it.

The crew remained aboard the Augusta for two hours, and with no further sightings, decided that it was time to return to fishing.  Six dories set out. For 5 of them, it was business-as-usual. The sixth was not as lucky -- it encountered the creature.

The animal set its sights on this new dory just as it had before.  It attempted to throw its coils aboard. It raised its tail. The men were afraid it was about to strike.  They began rowing, the animal’s tail struck mere feet from the boat.  The men rowed for their lives but were barely able to put any space between them and the creature. As they approached the Augusta the creature raised its head again.

Then, there was a gunshot. Captain Chidley, of the Augusta, had seen the attack and shot at the creature. It disappeared into the ocean and out of the lives of the terrified fisherman.

Some who have since heard the tail have suggested that what the Augusta encountered was a giant squid.  In 1888, the giant squid itself had only recently made the transition from myth to verifiable creature.  And while the large eyes and dory-attacking behaviour of the creature encountered by the Augusta square with squid, the long neck and head do not.

It remains a mystery.

This re-telling of the story of the Augusta, and her unusual encounter were based on articles in the St. John’s Evening Telegram (August 25 and 27th, 1888).

Check it out.


1. According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English 'squid hounds' or 'jumpers' are names sometimes used for pilot whales, porpoises or tuna.


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