On Saturday night’s Morton Through Midnight show the regular cryptozoology feature Morton’s Mystery Creatures focused on a mystery sea serpent spotted in Orkney
Just over a hundred years ago, one fine day in August, nineteen hundred and ten, three men were out hunting ducks off the coast of Orkney when they encountered something far larger than wildfowl.
The companions, a fellow by the name of Hutchinson, his father and a cousin, headed out towards the Skerry of Work located in Meil Bay. The day was perfect: bright, clear and tranquil as they sailed quietly out toward the Skerries. Suddenly the tranquility was broken by a school of whales leaping clear out of the water, making a great commotion and traveling at great speed as if in fear for their lives. This sudden surge of cetaceans, seemingly heading straight at the boat in a blind panic, just managed to avoid the fragile craft, much to the relief of its occupants.
But what was the reason for the whales’ panicked flight? The men first thought they were looking at an enormous stalk of kelp rising high above the water. However in place of a tangle of seaweed there was a head! They then realised that what they were seeing was actually a long snake-like neck topped by a horse-like head.
Now there appears to be two schools of thought on what to do in such a situation. The first is that displayed by Hutchinson; he thought the best thing to do was to aim his gun; after all what could be finer than the head of a sea serpent mounted on your wall.
While our souvenir hunter was all for taking a potshot with his fowling piece, his father disagreed. He belonged to the second school of thought that can be summed up as - just run away as fast as possible, on no account shoot it. Nothing to do with the rarity and wonder of sea serpents, rather the fact that shooting an animal that has just scared away a school of whales could leave you confronted by one very annoyed sea serpent.
Common sense prevailed, no shots were fired, no one was harmed and thus we have a description of the creature.
The visible parts of the animal were dark brown with the impression of lighter bands running across the neck which might have just been wet streaks. All agreed that the head was some 18ft above the sea’s surface, darker in colour and likened to that of a horse or camel. Particularly odd was the neck, appearing to be too slender for the size of the head; the top part resembled a snake that gradually thickened until it was the width of a man.
The men watched the animal for around five minutes before it sank slowly back into the water, making not the slightest splash and leaving no bubbles as it disappeared below the waves.
So what did frighten the whales that August day? The first impression would seem to indicate a half-kelp half-triffid beast. However, from the fuller description it was almost certainly a member of the animal kingdom. It would appear that our duck hunters had seen an example of what Bernard Heuvelmans, the great cryptozoologist, would describe as a merhorse. Interestingly, this wasn’t the only encounter Hutchinson was to have with a sea monster. But that’s for another day.
If you want to read more about this sea serpent and others in Orkney you can find them all in my book Mystery Animals of the Northern Isles, which is available in both paperback from Amazon
You can listen to this show on the following link Morton through Midnight it is 1 hour 26 minutes 10 seconds into the show.