NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XXVI, No. 2, June 1970
NOTES ON SEA SERPENTS OF COASTAL NEW ENGLAND
L. D. Geller
Aye, we shall turn him to a good account;
IN THE month of August 1817, it was currently reported on
various authorities that an animal of very singular appearance
had been recently and repeatedly seen in the harbor of Gloucester,
Cape Ann, about thirty miles distant from Boston. It was
said to resemble a serpent in its general form and motions, to be
of immense size, and to move with wonderful rapidity; to appear
on the surface ol the water only in calm and bright weather; and
to seem jointed or like a number of buoys or casks following each
other in line.
of wealth and wonder the exhaustless fount
Let Salem boast her museum and her witches
Her statues Newb’ry, Marblehead her riches—
We from them all the shining now will take,
The snake and Glo’ster, Gio’ster and the snake.
In consequence of these reports at a meeting of the Linnaean
Society held in Boston on August 18, 1817, the Honorable John
Davis, Jacob Bigelow, M.D. and Francis C. Grey, Esq. were appointed
a committee to collect evidence as to the existence and
appearance of such an animal. The committee then wrote to the
Honorable Lonson Nash of Gloucester, “requesting him to examine
under oath some of the inhabitants oi that town with regard
to the appearance of this animal, to make the examination
as early as possible (after the event), to request persons examined
not to communicate to each other the substance of their respective
statements, until they were all committed to writing.” The same instructions were sent to Samuel Davis, Esq. of Plymouth, Massachusetts requesting him to “examine upon oath some respectable man of that place, with regard to the appearance of an animal said to have been seen in the year 1815, and to resemble the one lately seen in Gloucester.”
From the standpoint of the folklorist the examinations and
testimonies were most significant....
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