Today I visited Spring Lake in attempt to uncover new evidence from a mysterious event. About 20 years before the infamous fatal shark attack of 1916, there was another strange incident. In September of 1895, Spring Lake would be the site of a Sea Serpent sighting that would receive national attention and be reported in the New York Times and Scientific American.
Phillip N. Jackson, of the Newark Power % Light Company and Willard P. Shaw were visiting the seaside resort town when they witnessed one of New Jersey’s most famous Sea Serpent sightings.
There encounter began on the beach on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. About a half mile straight off the beach the men saw a very curious sight. Mr. Shaw had a pair of binoculars making their view clear and unobstructed.
They reported seeing a mysterious creature about 100’ in length frolicking at the surface. They watched it until it disappeared into the surf about two miles away.
It was dark and very long with undulating humps. It had a “peculiar” head shape unlike anything known to the men with a roundish shape and about as big around as a flour barrel. The mouth resembled that of an alligator. It had no visible tentacles of any kind.
At times its body raised 10’ into the air before crashing back into the waves. It was moving south at a great speed of between 30 and 40 miles per hour. It was dark colored, smooth, with now fins and carried its head several feet above the waves.
It moved with a snake-like undulating motion. Sometime throwing itself its full body length out of the water. The animal continued moving south until it totally disappeared from view.
The story appeared in the September 30, 1895 edition of the New York Times and was picked up by other publications such as the Gothamist and Scientific American giving the incident national and worldwide attention.
Two marine animals come immediately to mind, the Basking Shark or a Whale.
The snout of a feeding Basking Shark would give a possible alligator like appearance viewed from a distance. Basking Sharks often swim and feed in chains that give an impression of undulations and a much longer creature. Two feeding in tandem may be a possible explanation for the sighting.
The one thing that does not add up with a Basking Shark hypothesis is the breeching of the creature. This is much more suggestive of a Humpback, Fin, or Blue Whale. The three mentioned whales would be a off a size closer to what was reported and as filter feeders would feed with open mouths perhaps giving an alligator shape, but not as close as a Basking Shark profile would appear.
The search continues for more accounts of the creature from the area around the same time. Perhaps if new evidence can be found a more definitive identification can be made.