Debunked: Sea Creature in New Zealand (Boat Trail on Google Maps)


Senior Member.
The "Daily Mail" and other publications have picked up a story brough up by one "Engineer Pita Witehira".
The Google Maps satellite view of Oke Bay in the North-East of New Zealand allegedly shows an unexplained phenomenon: a long darkish strip resembling a giant snake between two curved lines of wakes.


External Quote:
[...] Mr Witehira also ruled out that a boat was the cause of the wake because there is no white froth like normal wakes created by motors.
However, when zoomed in only slightly more, something like a boat is visible at the tip of the wake. Due to the relatively low detail level of the satellite image in this area and the prevailing haze over the water, the features of the boat are not very clear.

(To see it for yourself, search Google Maps for "Oke Bay, New Zealand" and switch to satellite view.)


There are reasonable explanations possible for the other aspects of this "mysterious phenomenon":

1. The lack of froth around the boat can be explained easily by assessing that the boat driver has just slowed down considerably, probably due to the proximity of the rocks. The angle of the wake edge is consistent with this conclusion - the boat had clearly been faster before.


Seawater froth is usually short-lived.

The small size and the (lack of) color might indicate a stylish blue or black jetski, which would be quite capable of quick acceleration, high speed turnings and sudden deceleration, as pointed out by @scombrid in the thread below.​

2. There are several possible explanations for the dark trail, some made plausible by the overall very quiet conditions as indicated by the lack of noticeable beach surf:​

- The boat's movement caused an upsetting of sea water layers with suspended particles (e.g. algae), altering the water's reflectivity.

- The boat has created a 'distrail' in the haze that is lingering over the water; the lack of wind made that 'gap' stay on for a while.

- The boat is a jetski with underwater exhaust, leaving a trail of fine bubbles, again changing the reflectivity of the surface.​

There is no good reason to assume anything else than a boat's trail here.
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It also doesn't move like a long sea creature. Eels, loaches, and sea snakes move by undulating their entire bodies back and forth - a large one like this would create a lot of movement in the water because the undulations move back along their body faster than they move forward in the water. Others like knife fish, electric eels (not really eels), or oar fish move by undulating their long dorsal and anal fins in the same way, while keeping their body mostly straight.

This thing appears to move like a snake on land, where the body just continues forward along whatever route the head already took. That doesn't work in water.
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I guess small vessel with an inefficient 2-cycle engine with under-the-water exhaust.
The shape of the wake indicates that the vessel was running on plane (waves almost parallel to boat path near longer lines that JFDee drew) then turned hard to starboard and throttled back (then at 45 degree angle at second set of JFDee lines). Actually it looks like it accelerated from standstill near the word “oke” in the top picture. I’d almost guess it is a jet boat the way it appears to have accellerated, turned, and decelerated.

I think that the dark area is likely the oil-exhaust gas bubble mixture of exhaust causing a little slick area behind the boat along its path. Sea state is textured indicating a light breeze and the little wavelets make the water sparkly from above but the exhaust bubbling to the surface is sufficient to create a little short lived mini slick. It need not even have any oil in it. Just the "fizzy" of bubbles behind the boat will change the reflective nature of the surface directly along the path of the boat as will the turbulence of the prop wash as well as the turbulence from skin drag.

edit: tubulence is probably plenty sufficient to explain the dark strip as turbulence will disrupt the wavelet formation for quite a distance aft the boat.
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I’d almost guess it is a jet boat the way it appears to have accellerated, turned, and decelerated.
Indeed, this would explain the relatively small size of the boat and its faint colour (probably blue or black), compared to the bigger white ones moored in the bay. It would also mean - in the light of the high acceleration and speed these things are capable of - that the 'trail' didn't have to be very 'persistent'; it could have been created in a very short amount of time.

I will edit and amend the OP.
Totally random... But have you all ever noticed that the Daily Mail in the UK seems to be notorious for posting this kind of rubbish claims? Almost as unprofessional as the History Channel :P