Globsters: When Sea Monsters Wash Ashore

Feb 7, 2019 0 comments

On November 30, 1896, two young boys, Herbert Coles and Dunham Coretter, were bicycling along Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the United States, when they noticed an enormous carcass half buried in the sand, apparently washed from the sea. The boys thought it was a whale, and reported their discovery to the local physician, Dr. DeWitt Webb.

Dr. Webb visited the carcass the next day, and discovered that it was not a whale. But he couldn’t say what the mass of badly decomposed flesh was. There was no defining feature, no bones, no eyes, and no appendages that he could identify. Dr. Webb noted that the carcass was very pale pink, almost white, and had a rubbery consistency. Dr. Webb, who would be the only person of an academic background to see the specimen in situ, estimated that the carcass weighed 5 tons. After many hours of inspection, Dr. Webb conjectured that the carcass was that of a giant octopus.


Some weeks later, Webb sent photographs of the creature to the Harvard zoologist Joel Asaph Allen asking for his input. This letter fell on the hands of Prof. Addison Emery Verrill of Yale, who at that time was the foremost authority on cephalopods in the country. At first, Verrill suggested the carcass might represent the remains of a giant squid, but later he changed his mind and wrote that the carcass was indeed that of a giant octopus. By February the next year, hardly two months after the initial discovery, the creature had a name—Octopus giganteus.

Dr. Webb had the carcass dragged further inland with the help of six horses so that the specimen would not be lost to the sea. There, at its final resting place on the South Beach of Anastasia Island, it became a tourist attraction and was visited by large numbers of people. What happened to the carcass afterwards is not known. Perhaps the smell became unbearable and it was buried in the sand, or perhaps it was dragged back to the sea.

While the carcass was lost, samples had been obtained and these were subjected to innumerable tests for the next one hundred years. An analysis conducted in the 1970s confirmed that the St. Augustine sea monster was an octopus.


“The implications are fantastic,” wrote Dr. Joseph F. Gennaro Jr., a cell biologist at the University of Florida, in March 1971 issue of Natural History. “The idea of a gigantic octopus, with arms 75 to 100 feet in length and about 18 inches in diameter at the base—a total spread of some 200 feet—is difficult to comprehend.”

This observation was endorsed fifteen years later by another analysis. Roy Mackal, a biochemist at the University of Chicago, believed the carcass belonged to a gigantic cephalopod, probably an octopus.

In 1995, the advancement made in electron microscopy and biochemical analysis allowed the samples to be studied in more detail. This time it was found that masses were pure collagen, the structural protein found in skin. Researchers concluded that the mass was the remains of whale skin, “nothing more or less”. Subsequent analysis confirmed that the mass was indeed whale flesh.


It turns out that carcasses similar to the St. Augustine monster have washed ashore on beaches across the world. They are called globsters. Often found with no defining features, these deformed lump of flesh have intrigued people for centuries, and may have reinforced the stories and legends of gigantic and fearsome sea monsters that have been told by sailors for thousands of years. Nearly all of these globsters have been identified as carcasses of whales, or sharks, or other such marine animals known to man.

St. Augustine’s monster was the first documented evidence of a globster that had been photographed, sampled and researched for nearly a century. Other famous globsters are:



Trunko washed ashore on a beach in Margate, South Africa, in 1924. According to a new article published on London's Daily Mail, the creature was seen battling two killer whales off the coast for three hours. Eye witnesses reported seeing the creature, which was said to resemble a “giant polar bear”, attacking the whales with its tail. Later, its carcass washed up on Margate Beach where it remained for ten days. Unfortunately, no experts had the opportunity to study Trunko.

Decades later, paleontologists studying the few surviving photographs of the monster arrived at the conclusion that Trunko is the carcass of a whale. The white fur-like thing is badly-decayed collagen which is found in abundance in whale tissue.

Tasmanian Globster

tasmanian-globsterThe Tasmanian Globster washed ashore in western Tasmania, in August 1960. It measured 20 feet by 18 feet and was estimated to weigh between 5 and 10 tons. The mass lacked eyes and in place of a mouth, had "soft, tusk-like protuberances". It had a spine, six soft, fleshy 'arms' and stiff, white bristles covering its body.

The carcass was identified as a whale two decades later using electron microscopy to analyze the collagen fiber. The term “globster” was coined to describe this carcass.

New Zealand Globster

This initially unidentified whale carcass washed ashore at Muriwai Beach, 42 kilometers from Auckland in New Zealand, in March 1965. John Morton, head of the zoology department at the University of Auckland, described it as “an unusual elephant which had died at sea.”

Chilean Blob

chilean-blobA large mass of tissue was found on Pinuno Beach in Los Muermos, Chile, in 2003. It weighed 13 tons and measured 12 meters across. At first biologists were unable to identify it, but later DNA nalaysis proved it to be part of a sperm whale.


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