Altamaha-ha - Sea Monster of the Georgia Coast
|Habitat of a Sea Monster?
The Altamaha-ha is a monster said to haunt the
channels, marshes and old rice canals of
the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia.
Monster of Darien, Georgia
The Altamaha-ha is often
seen in the waterways and
marshes near the historic city
of Darien, Georgia.
One of the areas where the
monster has been seen is in
the channels and waterways
that surround Butler Island.
Altamaha-ha - Sea Monster of the Georgia Coast
The Monster of the Altamaha
|Copyright 2011 & 2017 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: April 22, 2017
Monsters of the South
Marshes of the Altamaha
The area where the monster
is most often seen is known
for its coastal marshes and
myriad of twisting channels.
The mysterious Altamaha-ha is a river or sea
monster that some say lives in the coastal
marshes and twisting channels around the
mouth of the Altamaha River.
It is most often seen in the area around
Darien and Butler Island, Georgia. A popular
part of the culture and folklore of coastal
Georgia, it is one of the most often sighted
monsters in North America.
The region where the Altamaha-ha is usually
seen is a beautiful and mysterious estuary
known for its vast marshes, multiple river
channels and abandoned 18th and 19th
century rice fields and canals. It seems
appropriate that the beastie inhabits the
waters around Darien, a town founded by
Scot Highlanders from the shores of Loch
Ness in Schotland.
The original settlers were recruited in 1735 at
Inverness, Scotland, a city known for
sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. The
Highlanders even called their settlement
New Inverness before changing the name to
The exact nature of the Altamaha-ha is as
mysterious as the domain in which it lives.
Some, of course, say it is nothing but floating
logs, masses of vegetation or known marine
creatures. Believers, however, tell of a 30-foot
long animal with flippers like a seal.
The monster made its splash on the national
scene in 1981 when a former newspaper
publisher named Larry Gwin reported seeing
the creature while fishing with his friend,
Steven Wilson. They said it had two big
humps about five feet apart and left behind a
wake like that of a speedboat.
When newspapers across the country ran
stories about the sighting, other witnesses
began to come forward. Harvey Blackman of
Brunswick, for example, said he had seen
the creature in the 1970s. He said it had a
snake-like head and was 15-20 feet long and
that he had seen it at a point called "Two
Way" on the Altamaha River.
Another eyewitness, Frank Culpepper, saw
its wake in the same area. He said it left
behind a billow of water so big that it caused
boats to bump about. One of the men with
him ran for a rifle, but it was gone before he
could get off a shot.
The reports in 1981 followed much publicity
about the Loch Ness Monster, a fact that
raised the eyebrows of the skeptical. It was
not, however, the first time the Altamaha-ha
had made the news.
In fact, a correspondent of the Savannah
Georgian newspaper reported multiple
sightings of a sea monster on the Georgia
coast in a dispatch datelined in Darien on
April 18, 1830. The primary eyewitness was a
Captain Delano of the schooner Eagle, who
saw a monster off St. Simons Island below
the mouth of the Altamaha :
...He repeated the...particulars precisely,
describing the animal he saw as being about
70 feet long, and its circumference about that
of a sugar hogshead, moving with its head
(shaped like an Alligator's) about 8 feet out of
the water. - Savannah Georgian, April 22, 1830.
A hogshead, for those not familiar with the
term, is a large barrel or cask.
Like the sightings reported in 1981, the 1830
appearance of the monster was verified by
others. Five men on the schooner also saw it
and a number of planters from St. Simons
Island told the correspondent that they had
seen something strange as well.
It appeared in St. Simons Sound that year
and was viewed through telescopes over a
period of several weeks.
Other eyewitnesses proclaimed the creature
seen in St. Simons Sound to be a whale, but
no one could say for sure whether it was the
same creature seen by Captain Delano. The
captain, however, was clear that he had not
seen a whale:
...Capt. D. also states, that he is acquainted
with all kinds of whale, and that he never saw
but once before, (about 4 years since, off
Doboy bar,) a monster similar to the one
above described. - Cbarleston Mercury, March 29, 1830.
Doboy Sound, the site of Delano's earlier
sighting, separates Sapelo Island from the
mainland and connects to the Altamaha
Sea serpents seem to have been part of the
lexicon of people around Darien well before
1830. In 1826, one of the sloops that sailed
from the wharves there was named the Sea
Serpent. Did it honor the Altamaha-ha?
The sightings of the monster in the early
1800s confirm that people have been seeing
something strange in the waters around the
mouth of the Altamaha River for a long, long
Tradition holds that the Tama Indians who
lived up the Altamaha had legends of a giant
snake-like creature that lived in the river. No
documentation has been found to verify the
claim, but the Creek Indians of Georgia
definitely told stories of giant snakes in the
rivers of their territory to early explorers who
recorded the legends.
Sightings of the Altamaha-ha continue to this
day, with people ranging from timber workers
to Boy Scouts claiming to have seen it. In
2010, an amateur photographer captured
video of something strange swimming in the
channel off Fort King George Historic Site in
Darien. You can see it at the upper right of
Although many theories have been offered
over the years as to what the Altamaha-ha
could be, they all remain unproved. Perhaps
that is just as well. There is something fun
about having a local sea serpent and Darien
makes the most of it.
Images of the creature can been seen all
over the community and it is not uncommon
to see tourists with binoculars, telescopes
and cameras on the watererfront hoping to
catch a glimpse of their own.
Please click here to learn more about the
historic sites and points of interest of Darien.
The 137 mile long Altamaha
River is one of the last great
wild rivers in the South. The
Nature Conservancy named it
a bioreserve in 1991.
WIldlife of the Altamaha
The Altamaha River basin is
home to more than 100 rare
and endangered species. Or
maybe more, if claims about
Altamaha-ha are true!