THE CARNIVAL CRUISE MONSTER – Did a Living Mosasaur Stalk the Ship?

THE CARNIVAL CRUISE MONSTER – Did a Living Mosasaur Stalk the Ship?

My interview with Paul George, the affable UK resident who spotted an enormous, unknown marine creature from the upper deck of the Carnival Breeze in 2014, caused quite the stir last month. (original article: The Carnival Cruise Monster: Was This The Super Predator? ) The thought that a giant and, as yet, unidentified “sea monster” could exist in our oceans, let alone calmly keep pace with a cruise liner in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, has stirred the imaginations of many.

Last week, I decided to follow up with Paul George, in the hopes of trying to narrow down possible candidates for what he observed. Taking what is, admittedly, an anecdotal sighting at face value, I attempted to come to some sort of conclusion as to what the Carnival Cruise Monster might have been.

Or is.

The Carnival Breeze docked in Port Canaveral in August 2019. Image credit: Max Hawthorne

If you’ve read any of the books in the Kronos Rising series, you know that pliosaurs are my passion. But as much as I’d like to believe that there is a relict population of them eking out an existence out there, the odds are against it. Moreover, Paul did not describe any perceivable flipper movements near the front of the animal he saw (and with just the head to mid-back measuring a full 50 feet, it was enormous. Any fore-flippers paddling would have been obvious) that tends to eliminate any of the assorted plesiosauridae as a candidate.

After sending Paul dorsal views of every large whale species I could find, including a rare beaked whale, I have concluded that he did not see a cetacean of some kind. My conclusion is reinforced by his statement that, when the “creature” came up for air, the water around its head turned white right before it broke the surface. There was no spouting, as a whale does. Rather, its exhalation started below the surface, like sea turtles and crocodilians often do. For crocodiles, this is done for purposes of concealment, and for a stealthy marine predator makes perfect sense.

With the Carnival Cruise Monster being seemingly propelled by some sort of tail or caudal fin, it appears that the only remaining candidate is a mosasaur or marine crocodile of some kind. The color and texture of what Paul saw rules out a croc, and a mosasaur seems far more likely. They were still alive during the Chicxulub impact, 65 million years ago – nearly 25 million years after pliosaurs are believed to have gone extinct. They were also huge, with fragmentary fossil evidence of such species as Hainosaurus, Mosasaurus, and Tylosaurus suggesting they could reach nearly 60 feet in length, making one of them a strong contender.

To better explore this possibility, and for starters, I sent Paul a piece of paleoart depicting a mosasaur leaping out of the water. Our conversation went like this:

Mosasaur airborn (Image credit:

Max: “Hi (Paul). Might a dorsal view of something like this be what you saw? The paddles might explain the shoulders, but don’t let me brainwash you. If it was turtle-like that’s fine.”

Paul: “Hey mate. This in all honesty still seems too streamlined. The head looks about right, but I’m sure this things body was more robust.”

Max: “Seen from above it could be far broader, I would imagine. My question really boils down to, was it broad like a turtle, or were the front fins spread out at angles like a sub’s diving planes and, seen from above, created the appearance of a dark, wider body. Again, not trying to brain wash u.”

Paul: “If what I saw were fins then they were thicker and stronger. This thing I saw seriously looked like it had traps!”

Max: “One sec, let me do a quick sketch.”

I drew a quick sketch, trying my best to create the shadowy form that he had described to me via his sketch and during our previous interviews.

Paul: “Exactly like that!!!! That’s it!”

Max: “Interesting. one minute”

Paul: “Imagine that, completely jet black. A foot above the small waves, water running off it. That’s what it was

Max: “One more sec.”

I then added a dotted line around the form I’d sketched, in an effort to show what its shape might be without water clarity obscuring it.

Max: “If I take into account the angle pectoral fins would have as they angled down, this is what it would be outlined without the water obstructing. It really does look like some sort of heavy-bodied mosasaur of some kind.”

Paul: “I see. That could have been how it was positioned then.”

Max: “Don’t let me brainwash you. I don’t want to hear some other asshat saying stuff like that. All that matters is the first sketch matches what you saw.

Paul: “It was cruising. It wasn’t making any effort to keep pace. So it may have had its fins relaxed by its side. Don’t worry, I know the shape of what I saw. The first picture really does look like it.

Max: “Good. If you take the actual painting I sent first today, picture just the top of the body showing and the fins spread out to the side, like a shark’s. They’re for steering. The propulsion comes from the tail which is like a shark’s but upside down. With the animal being black, seen from above, those flared fins would stick out like shoulders. Like padded shoulders on a suit. It was going on a straight line so the fins would just be angled to maintain depth at the surface

Paul: “That could’ve been it. I never saw the back end of it. I think that was angled down. I only saw to about half way down it’s back I think. Makes sense. But I still say that if it is an ancestor of this animal, it’s gotten bigger built over the years.”

Max: “It was probably doing this”

(I then sent him this image of an altered crocodile, which I had added to the article featuring our first interview)

This surfacing/respiring crocodile exposes only its head, neck, and upper back, much like the Carnival Cruise Monster (Image Credit: Public Domain)

Max: “With the head angled down a bit to keep an eye out for rivals. Or dinner.”

Paul: “I think that’s exactly what it was doing. Which is crazy cos it was as fast as our ship without making any effort.”

Max: “They were the top predators at the end of the Mesozoic. It would make sense, between whales evolving and the mega-toothed sharks it was competing with, for it to grow substantially. Large, blubber rich, warm-blooded prey would provide a lot of nutrients. And mosasaurs were growing steadily at the end of the Cretaceous as they annihilated big sharks. All the big sharks were extinct by then. And Mosasaurs were still growing.”

Paul: “Trust me, this thing could eat anything it wanted for breakfast! The thing I remember the most is just how robust and powerful it looked. Like it wasn’t bothered about anything. I think that’s the main thing we all said. It was just chilling out.”

I thanked Paul at this point for his time and for having the courage to reach out to someone about his sighting.

Paul: “One day it will all come out I guess. Someone will find something. Either a new bone or an alive animal. Just hope they don’t go extinct.”

Max: “Tell u what, if I can go after one on rod and reel, I’ll invite you to come along. If ur game”

Paul: “Haha! We would need 100 men to pull the thing I saw onboard. Maybe more!

A few days later, I can across a piece of paleo art from an unknown artist and sent Paul the image to gauge his response.

Max: “Maybe this is what you saw… Note the fins out to the sides that, submerged, could create the illusion of extra width or shoulders…”

Mosasaurus hoffmani (artist unknown)

Paul: “What is that???”

Max: “A Mosasaurus hoffmani.”

Paul: “It could very well be it. It looks robust enough

Max: “If u picture it seen from above you’ve got a huge, croc-like head, a thick neck and massive body.”

Lastly, I spoke to Paul yesterday, after he listened to my interview on Monster-X Radio, where we discussed his sighting at length. During the interview, cryptozoologist Scott Mardis asked me about whether the lifeboats attached to the ships could have been used as a reference for size comparison. I told him I didn’t know exactly where the lifeboats were on the ship, but I imagined with them being a substantial distance from the water, forced perspective would make them appear much larger and eliminate them from being a useful barometer of the animal’s length. Paul confirmed this:

Paul: “Btw, the lifeboats are on deck 4 But u can’t see them from 12 as they are below deck 5 which was the promenade deck and wrapped around the ship.”

Max: “Thank you, that is good info to know as I plan on doing a follow up piece on the sighting.”

In conclusion, I find nothing from Paul George’s tale that takes away from his story. He seems sincere and reliable and I believe he saw what he says. What he saw, of course, remains to be seen – and proven. Personally, I believe that, based on available evidence, and having eliminated every species I can think of, some sort of extant mosasaurid is the most likely candidate.

As I discussed during this past week’s Monster X interview, there have been numerous sightings of creatures like this. The most dramatic is undoubtedly the Monongahela Incident, where a whaling crew harpooned, killed, and processed a “sea serpent” measuring over 100 feet in length. I believe, and Paul did also, after he read that piece, that the animal must have been either sick or dying to allow them to approach it like that.

The Monongahela incident, as fantastical as it seems, rings true for multiple reasons. The details the captain provided of the animal are astounding, but two points that stand out as being almost certain indicators of its veracity are 1- when butchered, they discovered that the creature had one lung longer than the other. As Scott Mardis pointed out during our interview, this is a known characteristic of some snakes, which Mosasaurs are distantly related to. 2- As I pointed out, the animal’s tail is described as ending in flat, firm cartilage. The Monongahela incident took place in 1852. We didn’t know that mosasaurs had hypocercal tails with a caudal fin like a shark’s until the 21st century.

In short, it is distinctly possible some sort of giant, whale-eating, mosasaur-type creature may still be alive in our seas. If so, it outlived the dinosaurs and outlasted the Megalodon shark. And if Paul George got to see one – from a safe distance – he is an incredibly lucky man.

Max Hawthorne



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