Steller sea ape


A good overview of the expedition leading to the remarkable sighting of what has become known as Steller’s Sea Ape can be found in the November 17, 2005, article in the California Literary Review. The essay is by Peter Bridges, former U.S. ambassador to Somalia, and is about the animal discoveries made by naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller.

Bridges writes that:

In January 1738, Steller set out from St. Petersburg on a five-thousand mile journey across European Russia and Siberia to Kamchatka on the Pacific Ocean. His assignment was to study plants, animals and minerals in the empire’s eastern reaches….

And later relates that on August 10, 1741:

One smallish fur-bearing creature that Steller reported sighting at sea has never been seen since then. It was a playful animal with a head like a dog and a fat hairy body, and it cavorted around the ship for two hours. Steller called it a sea ape; he thought it must be an oceangoing primate. Today’s cryptozoologists keep Steller’s sea ape in their list of mysterious mammals, along with the Asian Yeti and American Bigfoot. Most people think it must have been a monk seal.

The Hawaiian monk seal hypothesis may not be as widely accepted as Bridges records. Cryptozoologist Roy Mackal, for example, in his 1980 book, Searching for Hidden Animals, felt the Steller’s Sea Ape might be a juvenile specimen of an unknown long-necked pinniped. Steller himself related it to the Danish Sea Monkey, Simia marina danica. The most recent extended discussion of the cryptid, in The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates (1999, to be updated in 2006) positively reconsidered Steller’s notion that they may have, indeed, been sea-going primates.

Steller’s name remains on many animals that he discovered, including Steller’s Sea Raven (a cryptid cormorant-like bird never verified by Science with a specimen), Steller’s Sea Cow (discovered in 1741, declared extinct in 1768, but infrequently reported since then, as a cryptid), Steller’s Jay, Steller’s Eider, Steller’s Sea-Eagle, and Steller’s Sea Lion.