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Was it a whale? An eel? A sea serpent?


George Kalwa hadn't been fishing in a month, which for him borders on prolonged hiatus. It seemed like each time Kalwa had a craving to take his boat out on the bay and chase rockfish, something came up or the weather turned ugly. The weather was ugly again Sunday morning, but this time it didn't stop him. Kalwa took his 17-foot Starcraft out of Dundee Creek in eastern Baltimore County. His neighbor, a city police officer named Gary Starkey, was with him. It was raining. The wind was up from the northwest, between 10 and 15 knots.

"We ended fishing off Pooles Island," Kalwa says.

That's a popular fishing ground due east of Middle River, south of Aberdeen Proving Ground, smack dab in the middle of the upper Chesapeake.

"We must have been 100 to 150 yards off the north shore of the island. We were perpendicular to the shore, near the old lighthouse. The water there is about 14 feet deep, but then it drops off to 35. There are some pretty good swells there. It can get rough. We were anchored and fishing in that deep hole."

Though there was nothing showing on Kalwa's electronic fish finder, he and Starkey kept casting small artificial lures, hoping to hook a rockfish at least 18 inches long, the minimum size allowed this time of year for take-home fish.

"I was fishing on one side of the boat and my buddy was on the other," says Kalwa, a 41-year-old artist for a video production company who, several years ago, did some excellent work as a courtroom artist for Baltimore television stations. "It was about 1 o'clock in the afternoon when, all of a sudden, I saw what I thought was a big carp or catfish at first, but I have no idea what it was. It was too long to be a carp or a catfish. It was huge, so big around I probably couldn't get my arms around it. It looked like a giant eel. It kind of humped out of the water in a long, continuous line. It had no dorsal fin. I was only about 60 feet away from it, so I got a good look at it. I was blown away by it."

Kalwa describes what he saw as an animal, with skin, not scales, dark brown to black in color. It seemed to slither in an arc out of the water and back into. Imagine tossing a garden hose over a tree limb, then pulling the hose down by one end -- that's the kind of swimming movement Kalwa believes he saw. A few minutes later, Starkey saw the same thing. He told Kalwa he thought the animal was black.

"We weren't drinking," Kalwa adds. "Because of the weather conditions, I was very alert and perceptive to my surroundings."

Could it have been a manatee?

PTC It was too long to be a manatee, Kalwa says.

Could it have been a whale?

It was more like an eel, he says, with no taper to the body, and no tail.

Kalwa's description of this creature is strikingly similar to ones given over the years for the legendary Chesapeake Bay sea serpent known as Chessie. If you missed that story, don't feel bad. We haven't had a serious Chessie sighting in at least 10 years, according to Bill Burton, retired Evening Sun outdoors editor and foremost chronicler of Chessie.

And it's been 15 years since the famous "Frew videotape" sent both Chessie skeptics and true believers into a frenzy.

It was in May of 1982 that an Eastern Shore resident named Robert Frew and six other witnesses watched a large, eel-like creature swim by the Frew home on Love Point, the northern tip of Kent Island. Frew videotaped the spectacle. The creature appeared to be about 30 feet long, possibly longer, and dark brown or black.

"I thought at first it was an otter," Frew told reporters. But he changed his mind quickly after the animal disappeared below the water, then resurfaced several seconds later, revealing more than 20 feet of itself. The next time it broke the surface, it appeared to be even longer.

Everyone who saw the three-minute videotape, including biologists, concluded it was no hoax. Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution reviewed the tape in the summer of 1982 and concluded that the creature was "an animate but unidentifiable object."

The incident at Love Point was not the first Chessie sighting.

A retired CIA employee and his wife reported seeing three creatures like the one in the Frew video during the summer of 1978 near Heathsville, Va. They estimated the longest to be about 35 feet, the shortest between 5 and 10. In September 1980, Trudy and Coleman Guthrie reported seeing a huge eel-like creature at the southern end of Kent Island, in Eastern Bay. The serpent the Guthries saw was dark, finless and scaleless. It swam in front of their boat as they sailed in the bay. In 1981, a woman named Katherine Pennington snapped a color photograph of what appeared to be a serpentlike creature in the upper Choptank River.

"All of the witnesses describe the color [of the animal] as olive to black," says Bill Burton, who hopes to write a book on the subject. "All of them describe it as a giant eel, moving in a line, not wiggling. I've had very credible people make reports, Coast Guard officers among them. . . . We've had 82 sightings that seem legitimate."

I think we could make that 83 now.

Pub Date: 11/12/97

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