They’ve washed up on beaches around the world: slimy blobs of organic material that don’t resemble any creature known to science. Some lack discernable faces and limbs, and others sport hair-like filaments and fleshy stumps that suggest streaming tentacles. They range from a few feet long to the breadth of a house.
Part glob, part monster, these strange visitors from the depths are known as globsters. They’re often mentioned alongside Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, but unlike other cryptids, there’s no shortage of physical evidence for these apparent organisms. They’re also unique among monsters in that their true identity is usually confirmed by scientists. The vast majority of globsters turn out to be hunks of decomposing whale blubber. Basking shark carcasses rendered featureless by the sea are another common culprit.
Though these marine mysteries are usually solved, globsters continue to capture the public’s imagination. As long as masses of rotten blubber show up on shores, people will keep projecting their fears about the ocean and its strange creatures onto them. Here are some of the more baffling and bizarre globsters to make headlines over the years.
1. The Chilean Blob
Experts were initially perplexed when this mysterious flesh mound washed up on a beach in Chile in 2003. Dubbed the Chilean Blob, the globster weighed 13 tons and measured 41 feet long by 19 feet wide. The monstrosity’s gelatinous consistency led some researchers to speculate that it came from a giant squid or a new species of octopus. The latter possibility was especially intriguing, as no octopuses of that size have been identified by science. Electron microscopy and DNA testing revealed a more plausible and less exciting explanation: the Chilean Blob was merely the decomposing blubber of a sperm whale.
2. The Hairy Globster of the Philippines
Some globsters are more hairy than jelly-like. That was the case with a 20-foot-long organic mass discovered on a Philippine beach in 2018. The white, shaggy carcass may have resembled the dragon from A Neverending Story (1984), but its origins were less fantastical. Local officials concluded that the remains belonged to a whale that had died a couple of weeks earlier—possibly after being struck by a ship. The long “hairs” were actually decaying muscle fibers, and the white coloration was a natural consequence of decomposition.
This globster holds the rare distinction of allegedly being spotted while it was still alive. A farm owner named Hugh Balance claimed he saw the sea monster fighting two whales off the coast of South Africa in 1922. He said the body washed ashore that night, and when he got a closer look he observed it was 47 feet long, 10 feet wide, and covered in white hair. The nickname Trunko comes from the 5-foot-long trunk that apparently hung from the creature’s face. After 10 days on land, it was swept back to sea without being studied by an expert. Two years later, the Daily Mail reported the sighting under the headline “Fish Like A Polar Bear.” Photographs and descriptions of Trunko match those of other whale blubber-based globsters, though without a sample to analyze, its identity remains unconfirmed.
4. The Stronsay Beast
The Stronsay Beast is one of the first globsters on record. The remains washed up on the shore of Scotland’s Orkney Islands in September 1808. With an alleged 55-foot long body and the girth of a pony, it was immediately compared to legendary sea serpents. Other unusual features reported by eyewitnesses included two blowholes, a silky mane, and three large fins on either side of its body. Scientists in Edinburgh who studied samples of the specimen believed they had identified a new species. They even gave it a scientific name: Halsydrus pontoppidani, after the 18th-century Danish bishop and sea monster enthusiast Erik Pontoppidan. But not everyone was convinced: After studying the animal’s vertebrae, a leading surgeon named Sir Everard Home determined it to be a decomposed basking shark. Further analysis in the 1980s supported this assertion. The Stronsay Beast still remains a mysterious creature, however. The longest basking shark on record measured 32 feet, which is significantly shorter than the globster’s reported length of 55 feet.
5. The St. Augustine Monster
Another early globster to make national headlines was the St. Augustine Monster. Two boys stumbled upon the amorphous carcass in 1896 while walking along a beach on Anastasia Island in Florida. The boys shared the find with local doctor DeWitt Webb, who concluded that the creature had been some kind of large octopus. The blob was 21 feet long by 7 feet wide, with stumpy appendages protruding from one end. Another doctor who examined it described the presumed head as being “as large an ordinary flour barrel, and has the shape of a sea lion head.” Newspapers dubbed the specimen a sea monster.
It took nearly a century for scientists to reveal the true identity of the St. Augustine Monster. In the early 1990s, researchers studied a sample of the globster under light and electron microscopes and found it consisted of pure collagen. The remains had likely come from a whale, and they definitely didn’t derive from an invertebrate like an octopus. DNA analysis of the specimen in 2004 confirmed the whale theory.
6. The Tasmanian Globster
It wasn’t the first unidentified marine blob of its kind, but this mass discovered in Australia did give us the term globster. Scottish cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson coined the delightful label following the creature’s arrival on a Tasmanian beach in 1960. The 20-foot-long mound reportedly had white bristles, gill-like openings, and tusk-like stumps on its body. Because it beached on a remote part of the island inaccessible by car, it took two years [PDF] for scientists to observe it. They determined that it was part of a dead whale, but some eyewitnesses remain skeptical. Graham Airey, who was a child when the globster washed up near his home, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2016, “This thing doesn’t look like whale blubber […] this thing has five gills on each side of it. It was 5 foot high, slightly furry fur, like wool from a sheep with spikes all over it. Whales don’t have that sort of thing.” He also cited the fact that the carcass sat on the beach for years without rotting away as evidence of its mysterious origins.
7. New Ireland Globster
The most recent addition to globster roster is an unidentified “mermaid”-shaped mass that washed up on the shore of New Ireland, an island forming the northeastern province of Papua New Guinea, in October 2023. The gooey white body appears to have whale-like flukes but no other distinct characteristics. Residents who discovered the globster posted photos on Facebook and reportedly buried the object before measurements or biological samples could be taken. Experts consulted by Live Science examined the Facebook images and suggested the blob could have been a decomposed whale, shark, or dugong—a marine mammal closely related to manatees, which are thought to have inspired sailors’ tales of mermaids.
A version of this story was published in 2021; it has been updated for 2023.