Mystery beasts come in all sizes and shapes, but in the case of globsters they are most famous not just for their great size but also for their conspicuous lack of any well-defined shape. Aptly named by American cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson in the early 1960s, globsters (also dubbed blobsters or blobs) are generally huge, amorphous masses of decomposing tissue, usually rubbery and covered in fibrous ‘hair’, lacking any recognisable body parts or skeleton, which are regularly washed ashore on beaches around the world.
GLOBSTERS IN THE NEWS
The first globster to attract international attention, and for which Sanderson coined the term ‘globster’, was discovered on the beach north of Tasmania’s Interview River by three eyewitnesses in August 1960. Measuring about 6 m long, 5.5 m wide, and 1.2 m thick, with an estimated weight of 5-10 tonnes, it was composed of tendon-like threads attached to a fatty substance that did not readily compose. Despite its unusual appearance, it was left uninspected on the beach for over 18 months until some on-site tests were finally conducted on 7 March 1962 by Australia’s CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), which proved inconclusive. A second CSIRO analysis 10 days later revealed protein and in particular the connective tissue protein collagen to be primary constituents.
In 1965, another hairy globster, 9 m long, was found on a New Zealand beach, and a smaller one, only 2.5 m long, turned up in November 1970 on a Tasmanian beach. More recently, Tasmania hosted yet another globster stranding when in January 1998 a 6-m, 4-ton specimen drifted ashore on Four Mile Beach. What made this example particularly interesting was that it sported several sturdy, elongate projections resembling tentacles.
Four Mile Beach globster as documented in the globster coverage from my book Mysteries of Planet Earth (© Dr Karl Shuker/Carlton Books/globster photo's copyright owner unknown to me – please post details if known)
Another tentacled enigma was the stranded globster spied by tourist Louise Whipps (not Whitts, as frequently but incorrectly given in media reports) on Benbecula, a small remote Scottish island in the Outer Hebrides. Until now, Benbecula’s claim to cryptozoological fame had been the burying here more than 170 years earlier of a supposed mermaid, but whatever the putrefying entity encountered by Whipps had once been, it had definitely never been a mermaid. A photo of her sitting beside the globster provided a useful scale that confirmed her estimation of its length - a relatively modest 3.5 m.
What made the Benbecula specimen unexpectedly eyecatching (for a globster!), however, was the series of tentacular flaps that fringed its otherwise flat, elongate form. Staff at Newcastle’s Hancock Museum, shown Whipps’s photo, were unable to offer any positive identification of this globster, and despite the photo later appearing in countless media reports worldwide, it remained unidentified.
Equally well-publicised was the so-called Bermuda blob - a grey 2.5-m rubbery specimen discovered washed up on a beach in Mangrove Bay, Bermuda, by Teddy Tucker during May 1988. Waves subsequently washed it back out to sea, but not before Tucker had removed a chunk of its flesh and preserved it in formalin.
Tissues samples were also obtained from the globster cast up from the depths in August 2001 at St Bernard’s, Fortune Bay, in Newfoundland, as well as from the most famous globster of modern times – the enormous gelatinous specimen discovered washed ashore on 23 June 2003 by a crowd of perplexed coastal villagers from Los Muermos, southern Chile. Measuring a stupendous 12.5 m long, 5.6 m wide, 1 m high at its tallest point, and estimated to weigh over a tonne, like most globsters it was wholly shapeless in form, leathery in texture, and grey and pink in colour, inspiring some news reports to liken it to a squashed elephant! With such a vast quantity of tissue available, it is heartening to learn that samples were indeed taken for scientific testing.
Perhaps the most sensational globster revelation of modern times, however, came in 2010, when, following our joint discovery of some remarkable photographs published more than 80 years earlier but which had hitherto remained entirely unknown to the cryptozoological world, I and German cryptozoologist Markus Hemmler exclusively revealed that one of the world's most anomalous and contentious mystery beasts had in fact been a globster. The cryptid in question was none other than Trunko – the huge sea monster sporting a long proboscis-like structure and covered in what eyewitnesses described as snow-white fur that was washed ashore on a South African beach during the early 1920s, remaining there for several days before the tide carried it back out to sea, never to be seen again, or identified – until 2010, that is.
Following a close examination of the excellent, newly-unearthed close-up photos, however, which had been snapped by one of Trunko's eyewitnesses and published shortly afterwards in a magazine article that had, astonishingly, been overlooked completely by cryptozoologists for more than eight decades afterwards, I could see beyond any shadow of doubt that what they depicted was an absolutely typical (indeed, classic) globster. In other words, the Trunko carcase was not that of some extraordinary maritime elephant whose species still eluded science, as had been seriously speculated in the past, but was actually something much more prosaic, the same as all other globsters – whose precise nature will be revealed a little later in this present ShukerNature blog article.
For full details of Trunko's long-awaited identification and resolution, click here, here, and here, and also see my definitive chapter-length account in my book Mirabilis (2013).
Clearly, there is no shortage of globsters on record – but what exactly are they? Resembling no known species, they have been the subject of heated zoological and cryptozoological debate for decades – with identities ranging from some wholly unknown marine species or decomposed whales to rotting shark carcases and, most intriguing of all, the putrefied remains of gargantuan octopuses, far bigger than any currently recognised by science.
TENTACLES OF TERROR
The world’s largest known species of octopus is Enteroctopus dofleini, with a maximum recorded tentacle (or, technically, arm) span of 7.1 m. Having said that, a freakishly large specimen of Haliphron atlanticus was dredged up by a fishing trawler off New Zealand’s Chatham Islands in March 2002 that sported an estimated tentacle span of 10 m (it was an incomplete, badly-damaged individual). However, some truly gigantic octopuses that would put even the latter to shame have been reported from a number of disparate locations over the years, suggesting that science has far from confirmed the upper size limit of these mighty eight-limbed monsters of the deep.
Hawaii has a longstanding history of giant octopuses. In 1928, for instance, no less than six colossal specimens, each with an estimated tentacle span approaching 12.5 m, were allegedly sighted together off Oahu’s coast by Robert Todd Aiken, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor with the US Navy at that time. A comparable giant, greyish-brown and said to be the size of a car, with suckers as big as dinner plates along each of its 9.3-m tentacles, was seen by diver Madison Rigdon about 200 m off Oahu’s Lahilahi Peninsula one Sunday morning in 1950. The octopus was being attacked by several sharks, but succeeded in warding them off, after which it released a huge quantity of black ink and swiftly sank out of sight.
Amazingly, an even bigger octopus was reported that very same year, this time spotted by fisherman Val Ako as it rested 10 m or so underwater on a reef off Hawaii’s Kona Coast. Ako claimed that its tentacles were around 25 m long, armed with suckers as big as car tyres, and stated that it was still there half an hour after he had first sighted it.
My giant octopus trinket box, inlaid with mother-of-pearl; interestingly, whether by chance or design, some of the octopus's tentacles are bifurcate (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Gargantuan octopuses have sometimes been blamed for disturbing or raiding shellfish traps placed on the seabed. One such case featured Bermudan fisherman Sean Ingham, who lost two very sizeable prawn traps to an elusive underwater plunderer between 29 August and 3 September 1984, the second of which had been snapped from its cable at a depth of 560 m. When laying some more traps 16 days later, however, he had a terrifyingly close encounter with his foe, when without warning something grabbed hold of his boat from below, and effortlessly dragged it along for more than half a kilometre before finally releasing it again. Moreover, the vessel’s sonar equipment revealed that the mysterious underwater boatnapper had been 15.5 m high and pyramidal in shape, i.e. the typical shape of an octopus, but one of gigantic proportions.
On Christmas Eve 1989, a massive octopus - “as huge as an imported cow”, according to one eyewitness, Agapito Caballero - allegedly rose to the surface and attacked a motorised canoe transporting a number of people in waters off the southern Philippines. Twelve survivors were rescued, clinging onto their overturned canoe, by some fishermen on Christmas Day. The survivors claimed that once the octopus had capsized the canoe by grabbing its outriggers, it had simply sunk back beneath the waters, without attempting to harm any of their company.
Famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) claimed that a monstrous octopus with a barrel-sized head and tentacles 9 m long would come ashore and raid fish ponds in Rocadillo, Spain (octopuses are indeed known to leave water and cross land if necessary to capture prey). And as far back as classical times, giant octopuses have been reported from the Mediterranean. Indeed, the mythical many-armed, hole-dwelling sea monster Scylla has been claimed by some researchers to have been inspired by sightings of huge octopuses in Italian waters.
During his own investigations of reputed giant octopuses, veteran American marine biologist and amateur cryptozoologist Dr Forrest Wood collected several reports from the Bahamian island of Andros, whose blue holes (vertical underwater caves) are claimed by locals to be frequented by a monster known as the lusca, equipped with “hairy hands” that drag down any unwary human divers or bathers. Certain octopuses, known as cirrate octopuses, are characterised by tentacles bearing hair-like projections (cirri). Consequently, some cryptozoologists have suggested that the lusca may be an unknown species of giant cirrate octopus.
Supporting a link between lusca and giant octopus is a report given to Wood on Andros by an island inspector, who claimed that during a fishing trip off the island with his father, in waters approximately 180 m deep, their line seemed to snag on the sea bottom. When they looked down through the transparent water, however, they were aghast to see that in reality, the line had hooked an enormous octopus, which abruptly released the line and gripped the bottom of their boat instead! Fortunately, however, it soon let go, and sank down far below until it vanished from view.
Clearly, then, there is ample circumstantial evidence on file to suggest the existence of mega-octopuses in various expanses of water around the world – but what about globsters? Do they genuinely constitute physical evidence for these creatures’ existence?
For this and other startling revelations, be sure to check out Part 2 of this ShukerNature blog article, coming soon!
Captain Nemo viewing a giant octopus – an illustration from the classic Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (public domain)