June 21, 2024

The Tasmanian Globster

In 1960 a huge, unidentified sea creature washed up on a remote Tasmanian beach. This is, The Tasmanian Globster.

Western Tasmania
Largely uninhabited: Western Tasmania

The west coast of Tasmania is one of the world’s most isolated locations. There are only two small towns on the coast itself, otherwise it has no permanent inhabitants. The main road that services the area, the Lyell Highway, runs mostly inland.

This a rugged and windswept place: lonely beaches, pristine National Parks and farmland.

Despite its geographical isolation, the coast sees a high volume of material wash ashore; ocean currents deposit a variety of a natural and man-made objects on the area’s beaches. Much of this is rubbish, and a large volunteer cleanup operation is run every year, removing hundreds of tonnes of waste.

But more intriguing items wash ashore as well.

Four Mile Beach, Western Tasmania
Four Mile Beach

In August 1960, three local stockmen – Ben Fenton, Jack Boote, and Ray Anthony – were out tending cattle on a property that straddled the Interview River. When their work was done, the three men went to the nearby Four Mile Beach to take a stroll.

There they found something unexpected.

An enormous sea creature had washed ashore; 20 feet long, 18 feet across, and four and half feet thick, it had an unusual appearance for a marine animal, alongside its vast size.

There were no limbs or eyes, and the body was covered in hair.

‘The part exposed was hard and rubbery, covered with fine hair like sheep’s wool, with a greasy feel. The animal had a hump of about four feet in front, that tapered gradually to the back. There were five or six gill-like hairless slits on each side of the fore part and a smooth, gullet-like orifice. I’ll never forget my first sight of it, it was eerie.’

 

– Ben Fenton, later quoted in the ‘Hobart Mercury’

While the creature appeared to have been dead for some time, it was well preserved. None of the discoverers had seen anything like it before.

The original team that investigated the Tasmanian Globster
The original investigation team

Fenton reported the find to the local authorities, who seemed disinterested. It was not until two years later, when word of the mysterious creature reached Hobart, that further investigation began.

In March 1962, a local businessman paid for a private expedition to the site, deploying a team of four researchers.

They began with an aerial search, and spotted the creature north of its previous location, where it had drifted on the tide. They then approached the location on horseback.

Considering the passage of time, and exposure to the elements, the animal remained remarkably intact.

The group made incisions into the hairy hide and found it was composed of a network of strong tendons connected by fatty tissue. The flesh was resilient and difficult to cut, the samples only removed with difficulty.

The animal appeared to have no bones.

Despite the overall preservation of the body, some decomposition had occurred: it now exhibited a strong smell, similar to battery acid. One member of the party observed that the group’s horses refused to approach it.

The investigators were not able to identify it.

The Tasmanian Globster reported in the press
‘Nearly as big as a house!’ The press reports the Monster

The press now pounced on the story, and headlines crying ‘Sea Monster Found in Tasmania’ appeared in newspapers around the world. The Sydney Morning Herald dispatched a reporter to the site, who set a dramatic tone.

‘We flew over some of the roughest country I have seen anywhere in the world. Aircraft pilots like to keep away from the district.  It was impossible to land at the scene, so we made six passes at a height of less than 50 feet. The monster lies half exposed at the foot of a scrub-dotted sand dune.’

 

– Jack Pervical, Sydney Morning Herald, 1962

Members of the investigating team were interviewed, some offered exotic opinions as to the animal’s origin; one suggested it was a prehistoric creature, unearthed by an underwater volcano, another that it may be an extra terrestrial. The lack of sensory organs meant it likely had a formidable ‘tactile sense’, that was of advantage at great depth.

As speculation raged about what the animal could be, its undefined shape, and lack of features, lead to it being called, ‘The Globster’ in some reports.

In response to the coverage, The Federal government launched their own investigation. Overseen by Liberal Senator John Gorton, later to be Prime Minister, three additional scientists were dispatched to western Tasmania.

Their task was to finally identify the mysterious discovery.

The mythical 'Kraken', scourge of early sailors
The mythical ‘Kraken’, scourge of early sailors

History is full of reports of strange and unidentified animals washing ashore. The ocean is famously unknown; deep sea exploration is difficult and dangerous, only a small percentage of it has been investigated thoroughly.

Beached animals provide a glimpse of this unseen world. Most of these are eventually determined to be rare examples of known species, a handful remain unidentified.

A few well known cases are described below.

The first picture of a giant squid, 1873

The Kraken

Stories of sea monsters stretch back into ancient times, with mariners reporting encounters with giant creatures, far out to sea. These were often labelled ‘Kraken’, after the Norse myth, and were usually dismissed as tall tales.

But from the 1850s on, evidence of an unknown giant marine species began to accumulate. Among other examples, a giant beak washed ashore in Denmark in 1853, and the remains of a huge tentacle in the Bahamas in 1857.

These incidents were often reported in the popular press as evidence of sea monsters.

Scientists instead hypothesized the existence of a giant species of squid, and confirmation finally arrived in November 1873. A three metre squid, the largest seen to that time, washed ashore in Logy Bay, Newfoundland, where it was photographed by Reverand Moses Harvey (pictured above).

In subsequent years, much larger examples have been found, with some specimens measuring more than 10 metres. Giant Squids remain mysterious; little is known about their life cycle and habits, living examples have only been filmed twice.

The Canvey Island Monster

The Canvey Island Monster

Canvey Island is a low lying area in Essex, where the Thames River meets the English Channel. It is more of an island in name only; the region is separated from the mainland only by a series of creeks.

In 1953, an unusual animal was found on the shore: broad, and circular, it looked a bit like a flattened fish, with feet (pictured above). Initial speculation was that it might be a kind of reptile; artist’s impressions depicted it as a cross between a frog and a kangaroo.

It was dubbed, ‘The Canvey Island Monster’.

The Angler Fish
The Angler Fish

Subsequent study revealed it to be a flattened out Angler Fish, a less mysterious but still exotic deep sea species. The Angler Fish is found in the ocean below the point where sunlight can penetrate; it creates its own illumination via a fleshy bulb, that hangs in front of its face. It also has a huge, borderline alarming, jaw.

A second Angler Fish washed up at Canvey Island in 1967.

The Roch Ness Monster

The Roch Ness Monster

A more recent example from England was the Roch Ness Monster, the label given to a large animal found on the shore of Lake Hollingsworth in Manchester in 2015. Two metres long and wearing a sinister expression, the creature was discovered by local resident Anne Battersby, who was out for a walk with her daughter (pictured above).

When the press reported the story, speculation was that it was the remains of a prehistoric creature, that had been living in the lake undetected.

Local fisherman and scientists instead indicated it was simply an oversize pike. The lake was stocked with pike for recreational fishing, they regularly grow to 1 metre or more in length.

The Montauk Monster

The Montauk Monster

At the northern tip of Long Island, facing the Atlantic, the beaches at Montauk regularly see all manner of items wash ashore.

In July 2008, Jenna Hewitt was out for a walk with some friends at Montauk, when she stumbled across a discoloured animal carcass. The creature was small, about the size of a dog, and featured a hooked beak, and four short limbs (pictured above).

Hewitt took a photo, the only known one in existence, that shortly became a viral sensation. Online speculation was that it was a new species, or possibly a mutated animal, that had escaped from the nearby Plum Island medical research facility.

Scientific analysis of the photo drew a more straightforward conclusion. William Wise, director of Stony Brook University’s Marine Resources Institute, determined it was either a fake, or the decomposed body of a dog (other scientists suggested a racoon).

Further investigation was not possible: Hewitt also reported that the corpse was shortly removed from the beach by an unidentified man.

There are many further examples of unidentified and disputed sea creatures that have washed ashore; the topic rivals UFO sightings in the annals of online investigation.

A sketch of the Tasmanian Globster
A sketch of the Tasmanian Globster

The government team investigating the Tasmanian Globster was prestigious; members were drawn from the CSIRO, the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). They arrived on site on March 17, 1962, and spent two days taking photos and removing tissue samples for analysis.

While the Government had hoped to settle the matter conclusively, they were to be disappointed; the team’s report, when it was finalised, still declined to formally identify the animal. Although it did present a theory: the tissue samples were not inconsistent with whale blubber.

Gorton was more categoric when he presented the findings to the press.

‘In layman’s language, and allowing for scientific caution, this means that your monster is a large lump of decomposing blubber, probably torn off a whale.’

 

– John Gorton, 1962

Speculation was that it may have fallen off a whaling ship. Commercial whaling was still legal at this time, whalers often worked in the waters off Tasmania.

The Bermuda Globster
The Bermuda Globster

But the Globster refused to disappear completely.

A sample from the government mission found its way to the Tasmanian Museum, where it was placed on display under the unhelpful label ‘West Coast Monster’. This, aligned with the fact that the official report did not actually identify the animal, lead to ongoing speculation.

Other globs were also discovered.

In 1965, a 30-foot-long example washed ashore on Muriwai Beach, west of Auckland. Ben Fenton also reportedly found another specimen, near where he found the first, in 1970. And a smaller glob was found in Bermuda in 1988.

Mainstream researchers suggested these were all parts of decomposing whale carcasses. Cryptozoologists, and other amateur investigators, continued to insist they were examples of a new deep-sea species.

A hairy Globster from the Philippines, 2017
A hairy Globster from the Philippines, 2017

In 2004, an international team of scientists was assembled to re-examine the remaining Globster samples, taken from different spots around the world. The resulting report was published in the University of Chicago’s ‘The Biological Bulletin.’

The conclusion was definitive.

‘All blobs examined represent the decomposed remains of great whales of varying species. Once again, to our disappointment, we have not found any evidence that any of the blobs are the remains of sea monsters or unknown species.’

 

– Biological Bulletin report

Many more Globsters have been found in recent years, their appearance is no longer even considered uncommon.

To commemorate the Globster’s place in local history, in 1989 a western Tasmanian rivulet near where Fenton made his discovery  was renamed, ‘Monster Creek’.

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