The following story is a part of an 1897 U.K. newspaper article titled “Strange sea tales”. It tells how, in 1868, an unknown monster latched on to the anchor of the Governor of Lombok’s vessel at Christmas Island and towed it around for the best part of a day.
It would be interesting to know why the Governor of Lombok (name unknown), his wife and officials were at Christmas Island; Possibly for replenishment of water etc. But the question arises, where was he heading, or had come from? Cocos Island? What was his business?
In the month of August 1868, the whale ship Phantom, of Boston, was bearing up for Christmas Island, off the south coast of Java to replenish her wood and water. We were about 40 miles due south of the island, and were rolling about on ground swell, without breeze sufficient to fill a sail, when a Javanese craft of about 100 tons burden was sighted coming down upon us from the south at a speed of seven or eight knots an hour. There was no wind, and she had no sail set, and when she passed us a quarter of a mile away we were filled with speculation and astonishment. It would have been a mysterious yarn to spin ashore had we not been boarded by one of her crew, who jumped overboard as she was passing and swam to us. He explained that she was a craft belonging to the governor of Lombok, one of the Islands east of Java proper, and that the governor and his wife and officials were aboard on her. She had reached Christmas Island just at daybreak, and cast anchor, but half an hour later something had picked up her anchor and towed her out to sea.
Having but the one anchor and there being no wind, it was perhaps good seamanship not to let slip the cable, and let the marine monster carry off the mass of iron. The sailor had been ordered by the governor to leap overboard and request our captain to render such assistance as he could as soon as a breeze sprang up. This we were ready to do, but it was nearly six hours before the wind came. Meanwhile the native craft had been performing some curious evolutions. She ran to the south for three or four miles and then returned almost over the same course. For an hour she was towed about in a circle. Then she ran to the east – turned to the north – swerved around to the west, and finally came back to us.
No one could make out what sort of monster had hold of her anchor. Had it been a whale he would have had to show on the surface sooner or later, and he would have run straight away in his fright. Nothing that we had ever seen seemed strong enough to tow that craft the best part of a day without a moment’s rest. I have asked several naturalists what it could have been, and none of them was clear about it, though leaning to the belief that it was a species of devil fish.
The craft was two miles away when the breeze finally came, and she was being towed in a circle when we got near enough to lower a boat and carry a rope to her. No sooner had the monster felt the strain of our ship behind him than the Anchor was loosened. When it was brought to the surface, there were no evidences that it had been torn loose from gills or mouth, and it is a mystery how it was carried around so long.
Hull News Supplement – Saturday 10 April 1897 – page 11