On or just after the Ides of March 1934, the skipper of the lightship tender Rose returned from dropping off a relief crew on the Columbia River Lightship with a remarkable story. It seems the entire crew of the lightship, plus the crew of the Rose, saw a huge, snaky thing swimming around the ship – a genuine sea serpent.
Other crew members on the Lightship watched the creature with binoculars. J. Jensen, captain of the Rose, told the Morning Oregonian that the creature’s head looked more like that of a camel than a snake. But the witnesses agreed on most other details. Members of the crew, after watching the strange creature with field glasses for a few minutes, wanted to launch a small boat and approach it for a better view.
[It had a] neck some eight feet long, a big round body, a mean-looking tail, and an evil, snaky look to its head. L.A. Larson, first mate of the Columbia River Lightship
The officers, though, ordered them not to. The sea serpent was big enough that it could potentially tip the boat over. Colossal Claude is said to be 15 to 40 feet long, with an 8-foot-long neck. It has a round tan body with a snake, horse, or camel-like head and a long serpentine tail.
Someone from the crew named it Colossal Claude which wasn’t a very imaginative name so the press gave it very little attention. Three months later a carcass washed up on Long Beach Peninsula in southwest Washington but there was not much press on the findings. In 1937, the fishing trawler Viv reported that “Claude” had reappeared, and had spent a little time studying them at close range.
[Claude was a] long, hairy, tan-colored creature, with the head of an overgrown horse, about 40 feet long, with a four-foot waist [diameter]. Captain Charles Graham of the fishing trawler Viv
Just months later a couple sighted a creature they described as looking like an “aquatic giraffe” along Devil’s Churn, 120 miles to the south. They estimated it at 55 feet in overall length. On April 13, 1939, the crew of the halibut fishing ship Argo also saw Colossal Claude just off the Columbia River. It reared up over the water ten feet away from the hull of the ship. The crew watched it eat fish before they turned away from the creature. It was described as having a camel-like head with coarse gray fur. It had glossy eyes and a bent snout.
He could have sunk us with a nudge. His head was like a camel’s. His fur was coarse and gray. He had glassy eyes and a bent snout that he used to push a 20-pound halibut off our lines and into his mouth.Captain Chris Anderson
This was the last “confirmed” sighting of Colossal Claude. All the “confirmed” sightings of Colossal Claude happened during the spring Chinook salmon season, just off the mouth of the river. If there were a monster lurking in the waters off the Oregon Coast, given the volume of fish pouring into and out of that river that time of year, that would be where it would lurk.
In 1963, the Shell Oil Company during an oil search off the Oregon coast recorded a videotape that shows a 15-foot animal with barnacles ridged along its body. It swam in a corkscrew fashion in 180 feet deep water. This recording gave Colossal Claude the nickname “Marvin the Monster.”
- The Plesiosauria, plesios, meaning “near to” and sauros, meaning “lizard” or plesiosaurs are an order or clade of extinct Mesozoic marine reptiles, belonging to the Sauropterygia. Plesiosaurs first appeared in the latest Triassic Period, possibly in the Rhaetian stage, about 203 million years ago. They became especially common during the Jurassic Period, thriving until their disappearance due to the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous Period, about 66 million years ago. They had a worldwide oceanic distribution, and some species at least partly inhabited freshwater environments. Plesiosaurs were among the first fossil reptiles discovered. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, scientists realized how distinctive their build was and they were named as a separate order in 1835. The first plesiosaurian genus, the eponymous Plesiosaurus, was named in 1821. Since then, more than a hundred valid species have been described. In the early twenty-first century, the number of discoveries increased, leading to an improved understanding of their anatomy, relationships, and way of life. Plesiosaurs had a broad flat body and short tail. Their limbs had evolved into four long flippers, which were powered by strong muscles attached to wide bony plates formed by the shoulder girdle and the pelvis. The flippers made a flying movement through the water. Plesiosaurs breathed air, and bore live young; there are indications that they were warm-blooded. Modern research, however, indicates that several “long-necked” groups might have had some short-necked members or vice versa. [Back]