The tale of Bobo, Monterey Bay’s sea creature, resurfaces.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
It was a clear fall day, and the Pacific Ocean was as flat and clear as a giant mirror. From Captain Sal Colletto’s small salmon fishing boat, 10 miles off Moss Landing, the indentation of the Monterey Bay on the shore looked like a giant’s thumbprint as he headed back towards Point Pinos. After a day of luckless fishing in the waters of Santa Cruz, the Monterey fisherman was looking forward to getting home.
Suddenly, Colletto noticed something floating in the sea about a half-mile farther out. Thinking it might be a man bobbing in the ocean, he gunned the engine and headed out towards the object. When the captain got within 100 feet of the thing, he saw a creature with a head the size of a 50-gallon barrel. It was tapered to where a duck-like bill protruded from the massive bulging forehead.
Colletto started to think about how a pair of fishermen had disappeared recently without a trace. Maybe this sea monster had devoured them. Not wanting to join their ranks, he pushed his boat’s throttle all the way down and headed back towards the Monterey Peninsula. He decided that he would not tell anyone about what he had seen.
Sixteen years later, Colletto was traveling towards the fishing grounds off Half Moon Bay on his 45-foot boat, the Dante Alighieri. While the crew ate lunch in the galley below, Colletto and his brother-in-law swapped fishing stories as the craft headed northward. Eventually, his brother-in-law started talking about a strange sea creature he had spotted a few times at the edge of the deep Monterey submarine canyon. Colletto got the chills as his brother-in-law described how other fishermen had said the beast would only surface on calm, sunny days 24 hours before a strong northwest wind started to blow.
It was a windless day, and the water was smooth and silver as liquid mercury. As Colletto gazed towards the Santa Cruz Mountains, he observed something bobbing in the sea and his heart fluttered like a dying fish’s gills. He realized immediately that it was that strange creature.
“All hands on deck,” Colletto yelled to the crew. They poured out of the galley and stood on the bow of the boat, wondering what the commotion was all about.
“I want all you guys to see this,” he said as he slowly brought the boat closer to the beast. The captain then cut the motor, and the boat drifted within 50 feet of the object. The creature’s eyes were closed and it floated on the surface as if it were sunbathing or sleeping.
“It has the face of a monkey,” his cook squealed. “Let’s leave. This is a bad omen.”
“No, its face looks like that of an old man,” Colletto’s brother-in-law said.
The noise must have awakened the monster, and it slowly opened its eyes, which were as big and pink as grapefruits. The creature’s body was brown and almost as long as the boat. Its skin was wrinkled and sagged from its frame like ill-fitting clothing. Colletto thought to himself that this was a very old animal.
While the crew argued about what the animal looked like, the monster quietly slid underwater like an elderly man easing into a bath.
Following the sighting, several other fishermen saw the creature, and eventually the people of Monterey started to refer to the animal as “Bobo, the old man of the sea.” From then on, Colletto kept a camera on his vessel hoping to once again spot “Bobo” and get photographic evidence of its existence. He never saw it again.
A few years later, in 1925, a strange sea creature washed ashore on a beach two miles north of Santa Cruz. Though the dead body was decomposed, scientists including E.L. Wallace, a former president of the Natural History Society of British Columbia, did not think the carcass was that of a whale or shark. Wallace even suggested that the animal might be a plesiosaurus, a large marine reptile held over from the Jurassic period.
Whatever it was, a creature resembling Bobo was never spotted again in the waters of Monterey Bay.
THIS STORY IS BASED ON A TRANSCRIPT IN THE MONTEREY MARITIME MUSEUM’S COLLECTION WRITTEN BY SAL COLLETTO, A MONTEREY SARDINE FISHERMAN WHO WORKED ON THE BAY DURING THE EARLY 1900’S.