The Creature of Chacachacare: A Cryptozoological Mystery

Note: This is the third installment of a nonlinear narrative describing a voyage from Kansas to South America. Part 1 is here, Part 2 here.


From Wikipedia:

"Chacachacare, at the west of the first Boca, is horseshoe shaped and very hilly. The hills slope towards the inside of the horseshoe. At the junction of the arms of the horseshoe, the land is flat and marshy. At times of spring tidesor in rough weather the sea often passes over the isthmus. Boats can be hauled from calm water on the east to La Tinta, so called on account of the colour of the sand, which is black, the water being clear, but the sand beneath it makes it look black.

In 1791, there were many people living on this island, cultivating ground provisions and sugar apples (Annona squamosa). During the time of slavery large quantities of cotton were grown, which after emancipation was abandoned. Later, when the price of cotton was very high, the industry was re-established by Messrs. Gerold and Urich. There were also three or four whaling stations carried on by Messrs. Gerold and Urich, Tardieu and F. Urich and Partners.

Looking across the Boca Grande there is a view of the Venezuelan mountains eight miles [12.9 km] away. On a clear day they appear to be much closer. On the land side of the bay there is a fringe of deadly Manchineel tree [(Hippomane mancinella)]. Tall cacti and aloes grow on the cliffs on the southern shore. There is a pebbly beach—Bande de Sud—inside which there is a lagoon from what in the early days the islanders attempted to extract salt.

About 1887 a stone pier and a large house for the use of a sanatorium was erected on the island by S. Chittendon. At present there is only a lighthouse on the west and the Leper Asylum on the island."


*****

Will had promised Arlene way back in Savannah that he'd be home before Christmas, but due to unfavorable winds we encountered after Puerto Rico which blew Lillie Mae onto the Venezuelan coast, we didn't make it to Trinidad 'til Christmas day. That was too late for Will to be part of already scheduled family holiday events, so because he felt real bad about it (and because Christmas is an even bigger deal in TT than it is here), plans were duly finalized about a week later to take Arlene and her sisters and nephews and nieces on a day trip aboard Lillie for some belated family time. 

After some discussion, the decided upon destination was Chacachacare, a Trinidadian national park and uninhabited island in the Bocas del Dragón. The morning of the expedition found Arlene and Will's beautiful, warm-hearted family boarding Lillie Mae with coolers full of island delicacies and shandy and other beverages for the outing, and about an hour's sail after casting off from our berth in Chaguaramas Bay we were anchored off the allegedly haunted island Christopher Columbus had named El Caracol because it coils upon itself like a snail. 

Until a few decades ago there was a leprosarium on Chacachacare, and most of the buildings still visible from offshore were once part of that facility. 

Though I passed near the shoreline on Lillie's inflatable a time or two with Arlene's nephews, I didn't go ashore because my camera was malfunctioning and it would have involved a fair amount of slithering around on razor-edged rocks and I might have spilled my beer, and maybe also because I'm sorta old and stuff, I dunno. Will and Arlene have hiked all over the island though, and they say you can see ransacked file cabinets from the leprosarium's administrative buildings strewn up and down the forested pathways along-side clothing and other possessions of the lepers who were once banished to this remote place. 

The company and the sun and sea and sights and sounds around such a mysteriously jungled island on such a gloriously exotic tropical day were more mind blowingly, peak-life-experience fantastic than anything a landlubbing blue collar Kansan might hope to experience in the usual run of events, but nonetheless by mid-afternoon I had got sorta drowsy.  As everyone else chatted merrily away in the cockpit or went ashore on the inflatable, I was just sitting there on Lillie's bow fiddling with my camera and sipping on a beer when I noticed... wtf man?

 

There was some kinda damn... thing emerging from the briny depths about 20 feet to starboard!

Thankfully, in those days I was faster with a camera than ol' Wild Bill Hickock ever was with his six shooters, so even though my dear old Canon Rebel EOS T3 had by that time been pretty much ruined by salt water and 100s of 1000s of snaps taken over just a few weeks time, I managed to fire off a couple shots as the whatsit surfaced, chuffed an audible burble of air and saltwater just like a dolphin, then sank back out of sight before anyone aboard Lillie Mae but myself even noticed a damn thing.

And here is where I am asking all my marine biologist homies out there what they think. What the hell was that damn thing? It's a little hard to tell two and a half years later complicated with perspective-related foreshortening of the images and so forth, but near as I could tell at the time the visible part of whatever that critter is appeared to be four or five feet in length. Making note of the apparently very rough, reptilian, alagae-coated skin covering it presented, coupled with the fact that it blew air out of somewhere on what certainly must be the Creature's headish area, is there anyone out there who can give me some idea as to what the heck the Creature of Chacachacare might possiby be?

And by the way - many thanks to all a'y'all for your expressions of kindness when tr ig passed, including Loriannnnne who I erroneously accused on Facebook the other day (mainly because I'd had too much whine but that ain't never no damn excuse) of terminating OS with the express purpose of keeping me from finishing this post.

 

*****

 

 

All images  ©2017 by nanatehay

Views: 739

Comment by marilyn sands on September 3, 2017 at 9:58pm

Looks like a fun adventure & what's that in the water?  We'll never know - but let that keep you up at night! 

Comment by nanatehay on September 3, 2017 at 10:13pm

Marilyn Sands! Thank you for coming by! Insomnia definitely will keep me up tonight, as it does almost every night of the week even tho the Creature only occasionally surfaces during those interminable hours. Sometimes I think, based on its appearance, that it was a giant sea turtle, but why would a reptile be blowing bubbles like a cetacean? I honestly to this day have not the slightest idea what the critter was.  Luvya Marilyn!

 

Comment by koshersalaami on September 3, 2017 at 10:15pm

Perhaps a whale had contracted leprosy or psoriasis or something that might make its skin scaly. 

Comment by nanatehay on September 3, 2017 at 10:37pm

That is possible, Kosh. Maybe. I've seen photos of dead whales before which could have been pretty much anything if you didn't know better, but this critter was a functioning, manouevering (sp?) animal far from areas where whales small enough to be potential perps usually wander. As far as I know, the smaller non-delphinic cetaceans like minke whales and narwhals and so forth rarely if ever visit the Caribbean coast of South America, and what I saw was way too little to be a grey or humpback or what have you. Bottom line for me is: we live on a damn weird planet and I think we're still a fur piece from understanding everything we see here. 

Comment by nanatehay on September 4, 2017 at 1:47am

Comment by koshersalaami on September 4, 2017 at 5:15am

Most of the ocean floor is still unexplored

Comment by Steel Breeze on September 4, 2017 at 5:26am

R&L..

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on September 4, 2017 at 7:43am

I'm blaming the Russians.

Comment by greenheron on September 4, 2017 at 8:43am

Sea turtles need to come up for air between dives. They are loners, live in warm water, and some get really big…I will go look up.

So, leatherback sea turtles can get really big–2000 lbs and six and half feet long. They also get old-up to 80 years. Leatherbacks have sort of an ancient dinosaur appearance, are dark, not green like other sea turtles. They live way out there too, and travel long distances by themselves.  Here's a pic:

 

Old turtles can be truly prehistoric creatures of dreams. There was a huge snapping turtle rumored to be a hundred years old in a pond on the Audubon sanctuary where I worked in the summers. All sorts of vegetation grew on his shell and even on his face. When he locked eyes with me, I'd feel this primal chill. The kids would want to poke him with sticks, but I’d seen him break a branch in one snap, so we respected his space.

All kinds of cool stuff lives in the ocean though. It could be a million things, but probably something that breathes air, which culls the possibilities a good deal. Did you see the recent PBS series on the Pacific ( I know your trip was in the Atlantic)? Maybe one of the best nature docs I’ve ever seen and as you might guess, I have seen many.

xoxo,

Mrs. Attenborough

Comment by nanatehay on September 4, 2017 at 2:30pm

Happy Labor Day Mrs. Attenborough, Steel Breeze, Amy, Marilyn, Kosh et al. The weather is back to normal after several days of triple digit heat not just over the hills east of here but right on the Bay itself. Was 104 in SF Saturday which is literally unheard of, and so hot and humid here in Oakland yesterday it felt just like any given day back home between May and October. 

Turtles... I used to think cartoons were real 'til a painted turtle we caught when I was 6 years old disabused me of that notion. I had been watching a Warner Brothers cartoon featuring Yosemite Sam getting bit by a turtle right before the incident, and my line of reasoning went like this: Sure, Sam had acted like it was painful when the turtle chomped onto his thumb, but if it had really hurt he wouldn't have agreed to film that scene at all, so... I held my hand in front of the painted turtle's face and it immediately clamped its jaws right onto my thumb just like I'd seen happen to Sam on the TV a few hours earlier. Up to that point reality had exactly mirrored WB's portrayal of what would happen in that sort of situation, and unfortunately for me it continued to do so, because as it turned out Yosemite Sam hadn't been acting at all and it really does hurt if a turtle latches onto one of your digits with its beak. It hurts a lot in fact, and it's pretty damn startling too. So there I was, screaming and flopping around and that vicious terrapin just would. not. let. go, and between my histrionically despairing wails and windmilling my arm around with a reptile dangling off the end of it I had soon drawn a pretty good crowd of kids from up and down the block, including Trig who had been playing ball a couple back yards away and ran up and threw his baseball glove at the turtle but missed cos I was thrashing around so much. Undeterred, he retrieved his glove, wound up like a pitcher, and whipped it at the turtle again, scoring a direct hit this time and to everyone's astonishment and gratification the turtle came loose slick as a whistle. Now, if I had tried that experiment with one of the snapping turtles we sometimes caught on hook and line at WyCo Lake I probably would have lost that thumb and maybe part of the hand too, but the terrapin had been plenty bad enough and I seem to remember an outbreak of cheering as I checked to make sure my thumb was still attached and blood wasn't spurting out of me, though maybe my relief at finding everything intact just made me think people were cheering, I dunno.   

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