The Morgawr is an alleged sea monster in the folklore of Cornwall, South West England. Morgawr means “sea monster” or “sea giant” in the Cornish language.
Cornish lore claims the Morgawr lives in the waters in and around Falmouth Bay off the south coast of Cornwall.
Most Morgawr sightings occurred along a stretch of the south Cornwall coastline known informally as Morgawr’s Mile.
Morgawr’s Mile stretches from the Rosemullion Head (a headland between the Helford River and Falmouth) and Toll Point, at the mouth of the Helford River, near Mawnan village.
Local fishermen sometimes grumble about the Morgawr scaring fish away and causing low catch.
Based on alleged eyewitness accounts, the Morgawr is a giant, stout-bodied monster with a long, curved neck and dark or grey skin.
Morgawr is similar to a sea lion
It is about 17-20 feet long and has several humps on its back. Some sources estimated the length as 40 and 50 feet (cornwalllive.com). It also has a long tail that tapers to a point.
Some locals compared it to a sea lion.
Mr. White, the captain of a Falmouth tugboat, Triton, who claimed to have sighted a creature in the waters off the Cornish coast in 1903, told the Falmouth Packet that the creature swam very fast. It had long tusks and a strange-looking head.
Two crew members of an American liner, who reported sighting a sea monster along the Cornish coast in 1906, said it had massive jaws and a head and neck about 18 feet long.
Morgawr has a hump on its back
A 1935 eyewitness said it had a big head, a “goose-like neck,” and “a huge hump on its back resembling a big barrel.”
Two Falmouth residents, Scott and Riley, who reported spotting the Morgawr in the water off Pendennis Point in 1975, recalled it was a large, hump-backed creature with an elongated neck.
It had horn-like structures on its head and bristles along its neck. They allegedly saw it feeding on conger eels.
An alleged witness who claimed to have snapped a photo of the Morgawr in 1976 described it as 15-18 feet long. It had a long neck and humps on its back.
Sightings and Tales
Morgawr: A mysterious creature in the water
In 1876, two fishermen said they caught a sea serpent in Gerrans Bay (cornwalllive.com).
The tugboat Triton was returning to Falmouth from a trip to Dublin in 1903 when Captain White, a veteran of the seas, sighted a mysterious sea creature near Longships lighthouse.
Spicer and Cuming, two crew members of St. Andrew, an American liner, reported seeing a strange beast off the coast of Cornwall in August 1906 (Eberhart, 2002).
The alleged sighting occurred near Land’s End, a headland on the Penwith peninsula, western Cornwall.
Locals also claim there were sightings of strange creatures in the water around Falmouth during World War I after a German U-28 submarine sank a British ship off the Cornish coast (Malcolm Archibald, 1999).
The incident presumably attracted or disturbed the monster in its underwater lair.
Two fishermen, Reese and Gilbert, reported catching a strange creature about 20 feet long in Falmouth Bay in 1926. But it tore through their nets and escaped.
In 1935, locals reported seeing strange beasts in the waters off the coast at Port Isaac. Falmouth natives, Scott and Riley, claimed they spotted a sea creature while strolling near Pendennis Point.
Tony “Doc” Shiels
According to cryptozoologist George Eberhart in his Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology (2002), Falmouth Packet reporter Noel Wain probably coined the name (Morgawr) in 1976.
However, other sources claimed that Tony “Doc” Shiels, a British stage magician, named the monster after alleged sightings in 1976.
Skeptics believe Shiels never sighted the Morgawr and that the photographic evidence he shared with local newspapers was a hoax.
Shiels claimed to have photographed the Morgawr lurking in the waters off the coast of Mawnan (a village in south Cornwall). He also shared two blurry black-and-white photos attributed to an anonymous person, Mary F.
Mary F. allegedly captured the photo from Rosemullion Head in February 1976. According to a letter to the editor of Falmouth Packet, the creature was visible above the water for only a few seconds. It revealed a part of its body 15-18 feet long.
Falmouth Packet published the photos on March 5, 1976. They appeared to show a creature with three humps and a long curved neck.
However, some investigators concluded that the photos were hoaxes and that Shiels created them using plasticine models.
John Cock and George Vinnicomb
Following Shiels’ alleged Morgawr sightings, others claimed they also saw the monster.
Two local fishermen–John Cock and George Vinnicombe–caused a stir when they reported spotting the Morgawr in waters off Lizard Point on the Lizard Peninsula.
Lizard Point is the southernmost tip of Cornwall. It is also the southernmost point on the British mainland.
Writer Sheila Bird
The British writer Sheila Bird also reportedly saw the Morgawr while walking with her brother, Eric, at Porthscatho, near Falmouth and Gerrans Bay, on July 10, 1985 (Eberhart, 2002).
She said a gray-skinned beast was visible above the water for several minutes before diving back underwater.
In September 1995, Gertrude Stevens spotted a longnecked creature with a small head and tail in the waters off Rosemullion Head.
Later in August 1999, John Holmes captured footage of a mysterious creature with a serpentine head and neck at Gerrans Bay.
In May 2000, Derek and Irene Brown claimed they saw humps and a head on a narrow neck above the water at Falmouth.
Morgawr skull discovered on Durgan Beach?
In 1975, some locals claimed to have found the skull of a monster on Durgan Beach, near Falmouth, Cornwall.
Locals reportedly recovered the skull from the rotten carcass of a giant sea beast. Some cryptozoologists later proposed it was the skull of a Morgawr.
However, subsequent expert examination determined it belonged to a pilot whale (genus Globicephala).
Skeptics have proposed various theories to explain Morgawr sightings.
Skeptics believe the British stage magician Tony Shiels invented stories and faked photographic evidence to promote the Morgawr legend.
Shiels’s stories inspired independent reports in the late 1970s and 1980s.
However, while some claims might have been fake, skeptics believe some eyewitnesses honestly thought they saw something unusual.
Some cryptozoologists say that descriptions of Morgawr match the Plesiosaurus (Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus), an extinct species of marine reptiles that lived during the Jurassic.
Fossilized remains of Plesiosaurus showed it was a large creature with a stout body, long slender neck, two pairs of flippers, and a tail.
Basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) frequently visit the waters off the coast of Cornwall. Some marine biologists and cryptozoologists have suggested that eyewitnesses might have mistaken Basking Sharks for strange sea monsters.
Basking Sharks are the second largest species after the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). They have mottled greyish to brownish skin. Adults regularly exceed 26 feet in length. Some specimens exceed 40 feet.
Basking Sharks are one of the few species of sharks that feed on plankton.
Cetaceans include large marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Although they are aquatic, they have lungs instead of gills.
Cetaceans that visit the Cornish coastal waters include dolphins, porpoises, and whales, such as fin, Mink, humpback, and pilot whales.
|Other Name/s||Durgan Dragon|
|Type||Monster, Sea Monster|
Where to find
Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, George M. Eberhart, (2002).
https://cornishbirdblog.com/hunting-for-cornish-sea-monsters-the-legend-of-the-morgawr/, “Hunting for Cornish Sea Monsters–The Legend of the Morgawr,” accessed on March 12, 2023.
https://cornishbirdblog.com/cornwalls-leviathan/, “Cornwall’s Leviathan,” accessed on March 12, 2023.
https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/story-sightings-mystery-sea-creature-4092252, “Stories and sightings of ‘Cornwall’s Nessie’ the sea creature Morgawr,” accessed on March 12, 2023.
https://tetzoo.com/blog/2021/2/2/morgawr-and-the-mary-f-photos, “Morgawr and the Mary F Photos,” accessed on March 12, 2023.
https://books.google.ca/books?id=LJZonj9bxvUC&pg=PA20&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false, “Sixpence for the Wind: A Knot of Nautical Folklore,” by Malcolm Archibald (1999), accessed on March 12, 2023.
https://books.google.ca/books?id=QTwTDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT55&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false, “Folklore of Cornwall,” by Clifford Shaw and Tony Deane (2009), accessed on March 12, 2023.
https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/morgawr, “Encyclopedia.com: Morgawr,” accessed on March 12, 2023.
Featured Image: The Morgawr is a sea monster that lives in the waters around Falmouth Bay off the coast of Cornwall, England. Pic credit: Pixabay