The legendary creature called Altamaha-ha, or Altie for short is said to live in the Altamaha River and its marshes in southeastern Georgia. Some people describe it as a sea serpent, others as a giant fish, and others as a crocodile-like beast. But what is the truth behind this fascinating folklore?
The legend of Altamaha-ha predates British-English colonization and is said to have originated with the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, who called the river Altamaha-ha, meaning “big water”. They told stories of a giant snake-like creature that hissed and bellowed in the river.
The first non-native report of the creature was in 1830, when a correspondent of the Savannah Georgian newspaper wrote about multiple sightings of a sea monster on the Georgia coast. The main witness was Captain Delano of the schooner Eagle, who saw a 70-foot long creature with a barrel-sized body and an alligator-like head near St. Simons Island.
Since then, there have been many more sightings of Altamaha-ha, especially around Darien and McIntosh County. Some of them were by timbermen, hunters, fishermen, boaters, and tourists. The most recent sighting was in 2018, when decomposing remains were found on a beach in the Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge. However, this turned out to be a hoax created by a performance artist using a stuffed shark and papier-mâché.
Altamaha-ha is described as having a sturgeon-like body with a bony ridge on its back. It has front flippers and no back limbs, and swims like a dolphin. It has a crocodile-like snout with large eyes and teeth. Its color is gray or green with a whitish-yellow belly. It is usually 20-30 feet long, but some reports suggest smaller or larger sizes.
Altamaha-ha is said to be shy and elusive, but sometimes curious or defensive. It has been seen basking on the shore, trolling along the river, or reacting to boats or noise. It makes hissing or growling sounds when disturbed. It feeds on fish and other aquatic animals.
Some of the most notable sightings of Altamaha-ha are:
– In 1920, timbermen riding the river saw a large snake-like water monster.
– In 1935, hunters spotted a giant snake swimming through the river.
– In 1969, two brothers fishing near Darien saw a 20-foot long creature with an alligator head and flippers.
– In 1980, several people saw a 30-foot long animal with a snout and a dorsal fin near Butler Island.
– In 1981, Larry Gwin and his friends saw a 15-foot long creature with gray skin and large eyes near Darien.
– In 2002, Taylor Brown and his father saw an eel-like animal with smooth skin near Wolf Island.
– In 2010, Marcus Conger and his friends saw an 18-foot long creature with scales and flippers near Eulonia.
There are several possible explanations for what Altamaha-ha could be. Some of them are:
– An alligator gar: This is a large fish that can grow up to 10 feet long and has an alligator-like snout with sharp teeth. It lives in freshwater rivers and can tolerate brackish water. It has been proposed as a possible identity for recent sightings attributed to Altamaha-ha.
– A sturgeon: This is another large fish that can grow up to 12 feet long and has a bony ridge on its back. It lives in freshwater rivers and migrates to saltwater to spawn. It has been suggested as an alternative explanation for some sightings of Altamaha-ha.
– A shark: This is a well-known marine predator that can grow up to 20 feet long and has a streamlined body with fins and teeth. It lives in saltwater oceans and can sometimes enter rivers or estuaries. It has been speculated that some sightings of Altamaha-ha could be misidentified sharks.
– A dolphin: