Cuba is home to more than 60 species of sharks, however in 1945 fishermen from Cojimar came across something that could only be considered a monster.
Ernest Hemmingway set The Old Man and the Sea in these very waters off Cojimar which was notorious for sightings of huge sharks that battled fishermen for their catch.
June 1945, the dawn broke and six Cuban fisherman set sail in their 14-foot boat. Their aim was to bring in a catch of dorado, tuna and marlins. Three miles from the coast they dropped anchor as did other fishing boats nearby. The hours passed and not one fish was hooked. They looked at other vessels, and it was obvious they too had no luck.
The morning sun shone down on them, and in the silence they all waited for perhaps a shout to indicate that fish were being landed. None came, and in this suspension of activity their eyes were drawn to a huge dorsal fin that broke the surface of the water. The answer as to why their catch had disappeared became obvious.
This was not the first time these experienced sailors had seen sharks in these waters, but in that moment they knew that a specimen like this could bring in a handsome profit, especially to make up for the catch that had been scared away.
They quickly improvised tackle to land a shark, and baited it with half a tuna. The large shark ignored them, and it was only when it lunged at the bait that they realized that it was larger than their own wooden skiff. Anticipating that it would take several hours to tire out the shark, they tied the fishing line to small wooden floats known as "palangares"
The minutes ticked by and stretched into an hour. Estimating the shark had tired out they prepared to harpoon it when it suddenly turned and charged the boat. It hit the side and started to bite at the keel. It circled back and resumed its attack, once taking a piece out of the rudder. They harpooned it, and once dead they brought it to shore.
"El Monstruo de Cojimar" (Monster of Cojimar) as it became known measured more than 21 feet and weighed 7,100 pounds. The accuracy of the length and weight were hotly debated for many years. However in 2015, according to a New Times article a documentary crew from the Discovery Channel confirmed it was the largest great white ever caught.
It was a joint effort between shark scientists at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota and the University of Havana. Over the course of 15 days and two trips, the team was able to track down a 78-year-old man who was present the day the monster shark was brought in. A black-and-white photo shows ten kids sitting comfortably on the shark’s corpse, and the old man was able to point to himself — a slouching 8-year-old sitting on the head of the giant fish.
Great white sharks are estimated to reach a normal length of 16 to 20 feet, however sightings of larger fish calls into question whether there are outliers in the oceans such as the Monster of Cojimar that disprove this theory.
In 1965, Cuba was under communist rule, but Guantanamo Bay Naval Base was held by the United States. A six year old girl named Patty Carson lived there with her parents. One afternoon as she walked home with her 4-year old brother George, she saw movement in the tall grass by the road only 30 feet from where they stood. She could not believe her eyes when she saw a creature raise its head. It was taller than a man, had needle-like teeth rimming its beak and a long tail. It had no feathers or fur, and she called it a "flying dinosaur". The creature jumped and took flight with a flap of its massive wings. When she came home she told her parents, however they did not believe her.
Tom, Patty's 10-year-old brother, saw the creature once more in 1966. He was by himself, and only had a fleeting glimpse. He commented that it had "the shave tail of a dog."
This was not to be the end of the strange encounters with what is described as a pterosaur. This one like Patty's was in broad daylight.
The eyewitness was Eskin Kuhn, a marine stationed at the base. He saw not one but two, in an encounter he described thus in an interview:
It was probably about mid-March  when the C-130 prop plane arrived at the Naval Air Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I had been in Cuba for perhaps four months and the SeaBees were engaged in constructing new barracks for us.
These persons didn't know each other and the sightings were years apart, however their description of the creature is very similar. What did they see in Guantanamo?
In March 1948, in the swamps surrounding Morro Castle and Havana's harbor there were reports of a 15-foot creature. It was hairy and stood on its hind legs. It head was similar to a crocodile but the jaws were shorter. The eyewitness compared it to a ground sloth.
By mistake it was tied to a story making the headlines in those days of a three-toed track being found on Clearwater beaches. It was called a "Cuban marsh dinosaur" and eventually considered a hoax.
But strange as the description of a sloth-like creature is, stranger is the story that was published in 2016 by National Geographic describing a rare discovery of three extinct giant sloths inside a water-filled cave near Varadero, Cuba.
The discovery was made by divers exploring the cave
Across most of mainland North America, animals like giant ground sloths and mammoths went extinct about 10,000 years ago. But on Caribbean islands including Cuba, some sloths—including the species recovered from the cave—hung on until about 4,500 years ago.
The sloth fossils belong to two species found only in Cuba. One of them, Neocnus gliriformis, would grow to the size of a dog, however the other Megalocnus rodens was the size of a grizzly bear.
Strange indeed that more than 50 years after the sloth-like creature sighted in Cuba's swamps, fossils confirming their existence turn up inside a cave.
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