A Modern Day Gloucester Sea Monster Encounter

A true story, the following is a modern day fanciful beast encounter. I have been reluctant to write about this adventure for fear it would draw sight-seers to regions of Cape Ann off the beaten path, as happened with the white pelican sighting. Now that the mystery of its identity may perhaps be solved, I think it safe.

One morning at daybreak as I was unloading my gear at Brace Cove, I paused to scan the edges and then the whole of Niles Pond. I do this often when out filming and photographing at our local ponds and marshes, looking for swans and other wild birds that may be seeking shelter along these idyllic shores. In the middle of the pond was a float of ice with a great many seagulls just beginning to awaken with the rising sun. Nothing unusual about that. What caught my attention was a very large brown shape there on the ice amongst the gulls. Harumph! I said to no one but myself, what a view spoiler and how utterly trashy that a large brown paper lawn and leaf bag should blow out to the middle of the pond and become stuck there. And then the brown shape slithered into the pond. I not only saw it, but heard the very distinct sound of a creature sliding expertly into water. I tried in vain to catch another glimpse and spent the remainder of the morning half spooked and half kicking myself for not more hurriedly making the effort to film and photograph the “garbage bag.” If only I’d known it was alive!

Shortly after the creature encounter, I read about the Ten Pound Island sea monster sightings and concluded, that yes, a mysterious sea creature could easily swim around Eastern Point Lighthouse, haul up at Brace Cove, cross the causeway, and have himself a swim at Niles Pond, if he were so inclined.

I thought about this beast encounter for weeks and at one point, somewhat embarrassedly, asked my husband to come with me to photograph a moonlit evening at Niles Pond as I wasn’t sure I wanted to come face to face with such a great creature at night. By myself. Being the good sport that he is, he came, if just to prove that it was perfectly safe to photograph in the moonlight.

As mentioned, I’ve been hesitant to write this until very recently when at Henry’s Pond, on a rainy and chilly early spring morning I spied for only a few moments what appeared to be a very mini version of the Niles Pond creature. It was swimming at top speed with a long sinuous streamlined shape beneath the surface of the water and only a bit of its head visible above the water. I took a blurry snapshot and raced home to search books and internet for any clues. The creature was too big to be a muskrat and its tail too slender to be a beaver. I am almost certain that what I saw at Henry’s was a North American River Otter. Two weeks passed when while filming Mr. Swan, again on an overcast morning at Henry’s, the little creature energetically appeared near the marshy shore on the opposite side of the pond, looked all around, dove, re-emerged, again looked all about, and then disappeared. This time I was able to capture a few seconds of video of this inquisitive little otter.

What I have learned about North American River Otters is that they can grow very large, up to five and half feet and weigh thirty pounds. There is the Great River Otter of South America, which can grow over six feet, but the creature I saw at Niles was about four and half to five feet long.

Well there you go, a modern day fanciful beast encounter. After seeing my beast, I think it quite easy to understand how sea monster stories from days gone by could so easily capture people’s imaginations.

Please write if you think you have seen a River Otter in your neighborhood. Thank you!

Look toward the marsh in the first clip, with Mr. Swan in the foreground. You can see the bobbing head of the otter in the background. I was hoping to see the otter again and try to capture better footage but it has been several weeks and no further sightings.

5 thoughts on “A Modern Day Gloucester Sea Monster Encounter

  1. Years ago many of us participated in alewife counts at the fish ladder between the West Gloucester water treatment plant by Little River and Wellspring. Being an early riser I would take the dawn shift. One morning a strange creature swam and slithered up the ladder after the fish. The doe who often slipped out of the woods behind me to look over my shoulder at the clip board confirmed that it was an otter. It sure looked like a sea serpent to me.

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  2. Thanks Damon for adding your sighting!! I have to admit though not sure what is meant by the doe confirming?

    Now that the fish ladder has been restored I wonder if it will be even more of an otter attractant?

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  3. Well, actually it was Stubby Knowles, the clam warden, who confirmed what I had seen. However there was a doe in the woods there who did not seem to be particularly shy and several times came out around dawn to check up on what I was doing. She would scamper away if I turned around to look at her. I bet she was used to the next door neighbors at Wellspring who were wildlife friendly. I only saw the otter once in all the weeks and springs that I counted there.
    That fish ladder did not work very well really and I hope the new one is designed better. Stubby was always working on getting it to function correctly with blocks and stuff in the flow. He would stock the Lily pond with fish and the next year we would get a good return. Then it would peter out and he would have to stock again.

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    1. Thank you for clarifying and sharing the story about the doe, sounds like very sweet moments. Deer are so beautiful up close.

      The work over there has been extensive and is quite a dramatic change. It will be very exciting to see in action. I read that a few centuries ago, before rivers and streams were dammed for industrial use, cod used to be much more of an inland species as they were coming in for the small fish. As more and more fish ladders are being restored all around New England, perhaps we’ll see cod move inland.

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  4. Very interesting…

    All are part of the big circle of life the conditions they live in can increase populations or suddenly decrease populations as like humans they are affected by mother nature and other human controlled balance. There are many studies on these impacts…Sort of like horseshoe crabs where abundant when I was growing up that way in the 60’s…

    Cause and Affect alive and well!

    Dave 🙂

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