Cryptid Profile: The Father of All Turtles
There are well over 100 different species of turtle recognized by science in the world today. Some examples of these species include Alligator Snappers, Box, Red Ear Sliders, Mud, Desert Box, Florida Softshell, Sea, Wood, Bog, Spotted, and Leatherback. All of these turtles can grow to a wide range of sizes, some clock in at only a few inches long while the largest (the Leatherback) is able to grow anywhere from 4ft to 9ft long. But what if there was a turtle that was able to grow to sizes never before imagined, quite possibly nearing that of a whale, what would you call it? Simple, The Father of All Turtles.
First reported in 1494 by famous explorer Christopher Columbus near the Dominican Republic, the Father of All Turtles was described as being whale-sized and also possessing a long tail with a fin on each side to help with movement. The monster turtle was said to have kept its head out of the water the entire time it swam within close proximity to Columbus’s ship. Eventually the Turtle dove below the surface of the Atlantic and was seen no more.
Then, 389yrs later, the Father of All Turtles was seen and documented again by another passing ship. On March 30th 1883, the vessel Annie L. Hall came across what appeared to be an overturned boat near the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland. As the curious crew of the Annie L. Hall approached the bobbing hull of the overturned ship, they quickly realized that it was anything but. What they were looking at was the giant shell of a massive turtle. As the boat got closer, the giant whitish-gray turtle began to move. The turtle was documented as being roughly 40ft long, 30ft wide, and possessing flippers nearly 20ft long. Just as before, after making close contact with the ship, the turtle calmly submerged back below the surface and dove into the deep Atlantic Ocean.
Fast forward 72 years to March 8th 1955, and the turtle would begin to show up more regularly. While stranded on a raft after being washed overboard by a rogue wave while on the destroyer ship Caldas, L. Alejandro Velasco sighted a giant turtle in the Gulf of Uraba near Colombia. He recalled that the turtle was a dull yellow color, and it measured over 14ft long. The second sighting would come in June of 1956. The crew of the cargo ship Rhapsody would spot a large white turtle off the coast of Nova Scotia that was estimated to be nearly 45ft long. The front flippers appeared to be almost 15ft long and the back flippers were almost 13ft long. The crew stated that the giant turtle was able to lift its head and neck nearly 8ft out of the water as it slowly swam along the surface. It is rumored that after hearing reports of the giant turtle, the Canadian Coastguard started warning local boats about the possibility of encountering the creature and to take caution while out on the water so as to avoid sinking if contact was made.
The third sighting in the 1950’s would take place on September 13th, 1959 by two shark fishermen named Tex Geddes and James Gavin. As the two men were fishing off the coast of Scotland, they witnessed a gigantic turtle swim to the surface of the water and make its way towards their boat. While they were not able to see the creature from high above like other witnesses, they were able to see it at water level. The two men claimed the exposed shell above the surface measured almost 10ft wide and that it stuck out of the water nearly 3ft high. The head was described as being roughly 2ft 6in high and possessing extremely large protruding eyes. Nostrils were not visible but they were able to see a large red mouth which appeared to almost separate the head completely in half when opened. When the turtle was in 60ft of their fishing boat, it dove back beneath the surface, swam underneath them, and disappeared from view.
Could there really be a giant turtle swimming within the Atlantic Ocean waiting to be discovered, or possibly rediscovered? Many people feel that the turtle(s) being reported was nothing more than a common Leatherback turtle. These turtles can grow upwards of 9ft and have the largest flippers of any sea turtle alive today. The white/yellow color reported by witnesses could be the result of a color mutation or albinism. Unlike other sea turtles, Leatherbacks are known to feed in cold water and are often seen in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence near Quebec and can be found as far north as Newfoundland. Their main habitat is the open ocean and male Leatherbacks never leave the water over the course of their whole life. There are others though who feel that the Father of All Turtles is actually a surviving Archelon ischyros, the largest turtle to have ever existed. This Cretaceous period turtle is thought to have died out nearly 70 million years ago and their habitat was once a shallow sea that covered modern day North America. The largest skeleton found measures almost 14ft long and is nearly 16ft wide from flipper to flipper. The turtle is thought to have weighed in at nearly 4,900lbs while alive, and it possessed a pointed tail, narrow skull, large overbite, and high-vaulted shell.
Legends of giant turtles have long been found throughout the world and are often main components of many different religions and religious stories. The “world turtle”, which is a gigantic turtle that carries the entire world on its shell, can be found in Hindu mythology, Chinese mythology, and various myths and legends from different Native American tribes within North America. Could these legends and myths of giant turtles have originated from actually witnessing a living Archelon ischyros? That is hard to say, but eyewitness reports of these extremely large and gigantic turtles started coming in regularly enough during the 1950′s that Bernard Heuvelmans listed the Father of All Turtles as an official classification of sea monster in the 1960′s.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archelon