Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Le Serrec’s Sea Serpent photos


This picture gives me the shivers, even though it “has been rather universally labeled a hoax”, as cryptozoologist Loren Coleman points out. Darren Naish over at Tetrapod Zoology wrote an excellent piece back in 2008 on these amazing Hook Island sea monster photos.

It was on Naish’s post that I saw two additional photos that, even knowing they must have been hoaxed, managed to creep me out even further.


Perhaps that has something to do one with the fact one of my terrors since childhood have been giant underwater creatures. But I don’t think I’m alone and the story told by photographer Robert Le Serrec in 1965 that his wife saw this gigantic tadpole-like creature, and he along with friend Henk de Jong got off their boat to get better close-ups and even film this huge 75-80 ft thing is quite unbelievable. According to them, they only returned to the boat when the creature opened its mouth and moved towards them.

The story is highly doubtful even if you don’t take into account that Le Serrec was not a very credible man, that six years earlier he was apparently already talking about making money with a sea-serpent and that according to Coleman even the Interpol was after him.

So, this must have been a hoax, but how he did it? Darren Naish quotes Ivan Sanderson’s suggestions of “either a plastic bag used by the US Navy ‘for experiments in towing petrol’, a deflated skyhook balloon which had become covered in weed, or a roll of cloth which had been tied together in places”.

Naish favors however the idea that “it was a custom-shaped expanse of plastic sheeting, weighted down with sand”, an idea also favored by Bernard Heuvelmans already in 1968.

It’s a very good suggestion. Naish notes how the broken outline of the creature-thing, especially as can be seen in the head close-up photos, show  that “in at least four spots it looks like someone has placed handfuls of sand on top of the edge of the creature: exactly what you would do if trying to weight down a monster-shaped sheet of plastic.”

But this broken outline bothers me. They could be as Naish suggests the result of sand thrown over the black plastic sheet at the bottom of the lagoon, but I tried the best I could to better see the bottom and I would assume the several rocks that can be seen would mark the contour of the creature if it was plastic sheeting weighed down. Apparently, they don’t. The borders go over the rocks, perhaps that’s why Sanderson suggested weed and cloth tied together, because the border is very broken.

Most of the broken outline could be simply due to the water waves distorting the image of the borders of the creature at the bottom. This Japanese video parody of the Le Serrec photo is funny, but it also illustrates that water distortion on the borders:

But there’s another possibility: the whole black streak could be simply thick oil floating over water. If you look at the broken outline, is could composed of patches of oil breaking from the main blob. Here are some images from the oil spill by South Korean tanker Hebei Spirit in 2007.



This spill is on a much, much larger scale, and looks somewhat different from Le Serrec’s photos. But it illustrates the idea. It has its problems, starting from the fact that I don’t know if it would be even possible to get oil in that shape for a couple of minutes, or even longer; if one could make “eyes” by poking holes in the oil floating. Also, Le Serrec’s story actually mentions that the alleged creature was at the bottom of the lagoon, which favors the idea that that was true, only that the creature was a black plastic sheet, as suggested by Heuvelmans and Naish (and also supported by Coleman).

I hope further investigation, analyzing better quality versions of the original photos, and perhaps even some attempts at reproduction on site, would definitely settle how he did it. Naish even mentions rumors that Le Serrec may be still alive and living in Asia – as of 2003.

However he hoaxed this, and as skeptical as I am, the pictures really creep me out.

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Posted in Fortean | 5 comments

5 Comments so far

  1. redcat July 15th, 2010 9:25 am

    What about a school of smaller fish? It would explain the broken edges, and fish behavior is weird enough to produce a snake-shaped school.
    Just my idea.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Ritchie, steorfan. steorfan said: Le Serrec’s Sea Serpent photos | forgetomori http://goo.gl/jeAC […]

  3. zogarma July 16th, 2010 3:51 pm

    Years ago I heard from a work mate that a friend had seen what looked like a giant tadpole lying in shallow water that swam away. the siting was at Mans Head St Ives Cornwall

  4. Bruceleeeowe July 18th, 2010 3:52 pm

    Hi Mori,
    most of the times they are just misinterpreted illusion, but if you are claiming that this is really impossible, I’m against you. But this analysis has chosen its right way. See my analysis in which I’ve concluded how they could be illusions and some other possibilities too.

  5. Bayne October 17th, 2010 10:03 am

    I had a holiday on Hook Island in my teens. I didn’t see any giant serpents though i did do a little bit of snorkling in the waters there. I saw some awesome geckos and birds, had the worst ant-bites of my life from some translucent green-and-brown ants that did a coordinated attack on my feet at night and ran down to shove my feet in the cool saltwater, I saw cool cuttlefish and threw what i thought was a long dead beached coneshell away in horror when it’s apparently deadly barb started to extend from it’s shell. My brother and a friend of his spotted a baby hammerhead there at close quarters.

    But this sea serpent story and photo when i first encountered it, in Malcom Smith’s book Bunyips and Bigfoots i think, really creeped me out too. See on the boat from the mainland i got a feeling, a really strong feeling, of something big and old and weird being under the water. And this is before i ever read H.P. Lovecraft either.

    I want to make it clear that i didn’t witness anything at all. Not a jot of evidence of any form. And i make no claims of psychic stuff. But i had this strong feeling when on this boat as we were going to hook island and the memory sticks with me. So when i read the report i was all ‘this is interesting’ till i realised it was where i had had my weird feeling. An unusual coincidence.

    Also i didn’t find that weird feeling was scary at all, the whole boat trip was lovely. If anything it sort of felt calming and pleasing to me at the time this feeling of something old and big and weird in the depths. As if i was somehow safer because of this.

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