Cryptid Profile: The DSRV Alvin Plesiosaur
On July 20th, 1965, while making a dive in order to survey the Naval underwater listening array Artemis, the DSRV (Deep Submergence Research Vessel) Alvin encountered a creature that the small two man crew was unprepared for.
Submersible pilot Captain Marvin McCamis and Captain Bill Rainnie stated that as the small exploratory mini-sub reached a depth of around 5,000ft, they came upon a crevasse that extended an additional 300ft deeper than their current position. The vessel was currently sitting near the Grand Bahama Island in a location known as the “Tongue of the Ocean”, a deep oceanic trench in the Bahamas that separates the islands of Andros and New Providence. The trench has a flat bottom and is approximately 20mi wide and 150mi long and it can reach depths of nearly 6,600ft down. There is only one point of entry and exit to the open ocean which creates a perfect shelter for anything looking to get away from oceanic disturbances.
As the Alvin started its descent into the crevasse, Captain McCamis took notice of what appeared to be the subs cable drifting out below them and moving in front of them at a distance. Checking to make sure that the sub had not been caught up in a slow moving current, McCamis went to stop the forward motion only to discover that the sub was holding stationary in its current position. It was then that he realized that it was not the sub or its attachments that were moving before his eyes, but rather a large unknown object that was moving towards them.
As McCamis watched the thick object move closer to them in the distance, his first thought as to what it was, was an underwater navy utility pole that had broken free and got caught in the current. To verify his theory, McCamis positioned the sub with its lights directly towards the object to get a better look. To his amazement, he was able to clearly see that this was not a separated utility pole as he thought, but rather a living creature that was swimming in their direction.
Both Captain McCamis and Captain Rainnie stated that the large creature possessed an extremely long neck that was topped off by a snakelike head with two large eyes staring in their direction. The body was quite thick and possessed four large flippers, two on each side, that propelled the creature smoothly through the water. The creature, which appeared startled by presence of the sub, swam up from the crevasse in what appeared to be an attempt to distance itself from the Alvin. McCamis and Rainnie watched as the large creature swam upwards pass the front of the sub with its back towards the witnesses. McCamis quickly made work of moving the Alvin into a position to photograph the retreating creature at the required 25ft, but by the time the sub had completed its adjustment, the creature was out of range.
Although the mystery animal was no longer in camera view, the two occupants of the small sub knew the animal was not completely gone. The two men were able to see the creatures large shadowy form swimming through water around the sub in the distance. Realizing that they were now in a potentially dangerous situation, McCamis and Rainnie made the decision to leave the crevasse and return to the surface.
When McCamis and Rainnie returned to the surface ship, they told the on board crew what they had witnessed but their story was quickly laughed at. The official record as to was happened below the surface was written in the Alvin’s wet log, but was never included in the final log of dive. It is thought the Navy removed the encounter from the official documents as it was believed by those on board the surface ship that the event was not true and did not happen. Although many people will claim that the encounter never took place and it is nothing more than a story, there are even more people who believe the encounter did actually happen and their reasoning for this belief rest completely on the integrity of the two highly respected and credible witnesses.
In 1963, Captain McCamis was assigned the title of chief engineer and pilot for the Alvin project at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and later in 1966, he received a Meritorious Service Award from the Secretary of the Navy for his assistance in recovering a lost hydrogen bomb while piloting the Alvin sub. Captain Bill Rainnie received multiple commendations as well as Navy merit service awards for his leadership roles and deep submergence missions. Why would these two men lie about what they had seen? What did they have to gain from this story?
The creature witnessed by McCamis and Rainnie is widely believed to be that of a plesiosaur, a long extinct marine reptile that last swam within all the oceans of the world 66 million years ago near the end of the Cretaceous Period. They grew up to 49ft long and they are considered to be one of the largest marine apex predators in the entire fossil record. Reports of unknown sea creatures resembling plesiosaurs have long been reported by those who live their lives on or near the sea (or lakes that are fed by the sea).
The plesiosaur theory has often been applied to Nessie, Caddy, Ogopogo, Tahoe Tessie, Igopogo, the Lake Van Monster, Champ, the Pensacola Monster, and many other lake/sea monsters from all around the world. Along with the living “monsters” that witnesses have reported seeing, many of the dead globsters that have found their way onto the multiple beaches of the world have also been thought to resemble the long extinct plesiosaur, although there are many opponents to this way of thinking.
Those who feel that the plesiosaur theory is not possible often bring up three main facts to justify their reasoning. First, plesiosaurs went extinct nearly 66 million years ago with many of the other dinosaurs. Why would this one species survive into modern times and not countless other species?. Why was this one marine reptile chosen to survive in the world’s oceans in limited numbers and yet it is hardly ever seen? Yes the world’s oceans are big, but even the biggest animal in the world (the blue whale) is still seen by people. Second, if the plesiosaur did in fact survive, we should be seeing them quite often. Since they are marine reptiles, they would need to breath oxygen, meaning they would need to surface quite for air. This should mean that ships and beach goers should be witnessing their long necks breaking the surface of the water quite regularly. Dolphins and whales both breath oxygen and they can be seen at any given moment in the open ocean as well as in close proximity to beaches. There are entire businesses out there whose sole purpose is to bring people out onto the ocean so as to watch whales break the surface, feed, and swim past the boat.
Lastly, if this extinct giant did manage to survive, there should be much more evidence of attacks on both the animals and people who are unlucky enough to cross paths with it. This was a top apex marine predator after all, so if it was still alive, it should not be hard to believe that it would still be a hunter. Why is it that this carnivorous creature is often times reported while fleeing the vicinity of boats and people and why is it often described as shy? If it was a living predator, it should have no problem attempting to attack and eat anything smaller than it, such as people swimming in its territory, or a mini-submersible.
So what was the creature that was witnessed more than a mile beneath the surface of the ocean by two men in a small submarine? Was it actually a long extinct marine reptile, a misidentified known animal (such as a sperm whale or squid), or something completely new (like a giant long neck turtle or giant eel)? Nobody can say for certain, but when it comes down to it, the creature is whatever you want it to be. There are those who believe and those who don’t, each side has its mind made up and nothing will easily change that. Perhaps one day we will discover what the DSRV Alvin actually encountered, but until then, keep a watchful eye on the water, you never know what you may see.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: Google