I’ve always been fascinated by cryptids (animals that have not been proven to exist), so how did I live in South Georgia for 15 years without hearing of Altamaha-ha (known as Altie), the legendary creature down near Darien?

Altie is the subject of a fun and well-written cover story in Creative Loafing Atlanta: Stalking Georgia’s Loch Ness Monster, Altamaha-Ha. Writer Curt Holman takes us on an entertaining tour of the creature’s history:

The Altamaha-ha, known more casually as “Altie,” defies scientific explanation. Even before European settlement, the Tama tribes people told stories of a giant, snake-like river animal that hissed and bellowed. Over the past century, fishermen, lumberjacks and boy scouts have reported sightings of a creature in the tributaries and marshes of the Altamaha River, which feeds one of the largest river basins on the Atlantic Coast. The eyewitness consensus holds that the Altamaha-ha has a dark, smooth hide, apart from the tire-tread-like ridges on its back, as well as a narrow neck, prominent snout and flat, porpoise-like tail.

Could it be a sturgeon on steroids? A throwback to marine reptiles like the toothy plesiosaur? Maybe the Loch Ness Monster’s cousin from across the pond? I’m skeptical about cryptids, the kind of famous beings like Bigfoot unrecognized by the scientific establishment, but the Altamaha-ha called me with a siren song, despite the likelihood of a search turning into a snipe hunt. But even if the Altamaha-ha isn’t real, it could still have significance.

There’s this completely unhelpful but provocative cell phone video:

And here’s part one (7 mins.) of a documentary on YouTube:

Cryptozoology.com describes the creature as having various features similar to dolphins, alligators, and eels.

If you’ve had any Altamaha-ha encounters, let me know.

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