Friday, September 16, 2011

Chessie: The Chesapeake Bay Monster

For over 200 years, a strange creature has been sighted in the Chesapeake Bay. This creature, affectionately known as Chessie, is said to be a dark snake-like animal, approximately 30 feet long, and capable of swimming up to 10 MPH. Chessie is known to be playful and is not feared by those who work and live on the Bay.
So what is Chessie? Some believe it is a prehistoric creature, however, this is unlikely. If it were a prehistoric reptilian creature, the Bay would not be an ideal habitat. The Chesapeake is very shallow and cold, in fact, in winter it can freeze over in places. A cold blooded prehistoric animal would not be able to survive.
Others have leaned towards the idea that Chessie isn't an unknown animal at all. In 1994, a manatee was captured and tagged in the Chesapeake Bay. It was taken back to its native Florida home and released. The following year the manatee swam into the Bay again. In fact, it swam clear up to Rhode Island before turning and heading south again. Year after year this same manatee makes his journey. Could it be Chessie the monster and Chessie the manatee (as it has been named) are one in the same? I find that scenario as unlikely as the prehistoric animal theory.

Chessie the Manatee.  Not very snake-like.
In 1982, someone by the name of Frew videotaped the creature. Mr. Frew and his wife were looking out at the bay when they noticed a large snake-like creature. The Frews grabbed their camera and started recording. That video tape was later analyzed by people at the Smithsonian. It was determined that the creature taped was a living animal, however, the type of animal could not be identified.

Still frame from Frew video
Chessie is still seen in the Bay. Most sightings occur in May through September most likely because that is when the Bay is overrun with boaters and swimmers. Chessie has been sighted most often at Love Point at Kent Island, the mouth of the Potomac, and the eastern Bay.

In 2008, while visiting the memorial for the U.S.S. Tulip in southern Maryland, we happened to spy a couple of strange aquatic "creatures" in the Potomac. What we saw was roughly 6-8 feet long and swam around for a few minutes before swimming off. It appeared that whatever the creatures were, they were in the middle of fishing/feeding.  One photo shows what appears to be knob-like objects along the spine.  This is similar to a fish known as an Atlantic Sturgeon.

Was this Chessie? Or was this simply a rare sighting of an Atlantic Sturgeon?
Either way it's a spectacular find.

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