Residence: Chinatown, Manhattan

Incident Location: Chinatown, Manhattan

Age: 8 and 36

Gender: Female and Male

Injury or Fatality: No

Other Witnesses: Yes – Wife and Mother

BEGIN RECORDING

Captain Cousteau: Hello Richard and Madison! Thank you for meeting with me. Please recount your sewergator encounter with as much detail as possible…

Richard Wake: Madison should begin. The alligator was her pet.

Turning and addressing Madison, an 8 year old girl with pigtails.

Madison, honey, could you tell Mr. Cousteau about your pet?

Madison is distracted by the recording equipment and does not answer.

Madison, this man would like to talk to you.

Madison Wake: Yes daddy?

Madison shyly agrees to discuss her pet. She refuses to make eye contact with Captain Cousteau and climbs onto her father’s lap.

Madison pats her father on the face. She retracts her hand, surprised by the feeling of his whiskers against her palm. She frowns.

You want to talk about Albert?

Richard Wake: Yes, Maddy, tell Mr. Cousteau about Albert, your alligator.

Madison Wake: Albert was my pet. I kept him in a terrr-air-e-um on the desk in my room next to my bed. Daddy built him a water pool. And I found sticks and bark and rocks and dirt in the park for him to live on. Then we went to the pet store and purchased a heating lamp.

Richard Wake: Tell the Captain where the alligator came from.

Madison Wake: Madison looks to her father for direction and then looks away.

Suddenly her eyes light up and she leans closer to the recording device.

Grandpa Wake! I got him with Grandpa Wake.

Richard Wake: Let me explain. Madison went to Florida last summer to visit her grandfather. They went fishing on the boardwalk and Madison caught Albert!

Madison Wake: I reeled him in!

Richard Wake: My father purchased a terrarium that mimicked the natural environment the animal would live in. The cage had a jungle motif. The alligator and terrarium arrived by mail just after Madison returned from vacation.

Madison crawls off her father’s lap and walks to the door.

Go see mommy. She’s in the lobby.

Madison nodded okay and ran out the door. She made heavy footsteps that the recording device picked up.

Richard Wake: Sighs and brings his hand to his forehead.

I’m sorry… now I can tell you what really happened…

The city warden service took possession of the alligator because we did not have a permit to possess the reptile. We were issued a summons for keeping wildlife in captivity and importing and receiving wildlife without a permit. I appeared before the Supreme Court on March 4th of last year and receive a fine of $300. The warden received a tip about the alligator from a “confidential informant” who saw pictures of it on the Internet. We posted photos of Maddy and Albert on Flickr for my father to view. The photos were of Albert, with tape around his mouth, sitting at the table for Madison’s birthday celebration. We were all gathered around the table singing and the gator looked happy enough. He was part of the family then.

A zoologist accompanied the warden. When they took the gator out to their truck, they cut the tape that secured the Albert’s mouth and the gator began to thrash wildly. The zoologist wanted to check the integrity of the gator’s teeth. The beast bucked wildly and the zoologist lost the gator down a storm drain next to the curb.

The police arrived and removed the drain cover. City workers crawled into the drain after the alligator, but Albert was gone. They never found him.

Had the alligator been safely transported to the animal rescue facility in Brooklyn that has a permit to possess exotic animals, we could have visited and Madison could have said goodbye. As it is, it seemed best to tell Maddy that God had taken Albert to heaven.

END OF INTERVIEW

Photos of Incident Location:

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chinatown_02_-_new_york_city

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Permit Information:

An importation permit is $27, and a possession permit for propagators and general wildlife or fish also is $27. An exhibitor permit is $147.

An individual seeking a permit would call the department about their interest to import and possess an exotic, non-native animal. A discussion would take place as to what the intended use is of the animal. Once a prospective classification is determined, the applicant would need to submit all of the required information asked on the application as well as a veterinarian inspection. If an animal is going to be possessed, the caging facilities also would need to be inspected.

Photo of Albert:

alligator

Photo of Richard and Madison Wake:

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The East River... an alligator throughway?

The East River... an alligator throughway?

My second interview with Rusty proved fruitful. His testimony confirmed my suspicions—there was and is several generations of gater lurking in the waters of the metropolis. What disturbs me is the water quality of the East River, especially at the latter half of the 19th century. It is quite polluted, and is actually dangerous to swim in, though now in 2009 it is much cleaner than ever before. What type of adaptations must these alligators have to be able to survive in such a habitat?

The alligator that injured Chester may still be alive, but Chester has long since passed. I could not investigate his tail to see if the bite marks are consistent with an alligator’s jaw and teeth. My supposition is that it must have been a relatively small alligator; a larger creature would have devoured Chester. Perhaps a more appropriate term is maim. You see, alligators perform what is known as a “death roll” on order to eat their prey. They tightly grip the prey by its body and use their powerful tails to swing that body around until bits of flesh are removed. Only a relatively small gator, even a baby, would have been able to remove a cat’s tail and leave the rest unharmed. The water in that area though moves quite rapidly, at about a speed of four knots. The alligator must be small but an incredibly strong swimmer.

The East River, where Rusty believes the alligator to have lived, connects Upper New York Bay on the south to Long Island Sound on the north. These gators would have a range of habitat then, from the boroughs of the city to Long Island. I decided that Manhattan would be the best center for this type of habitat for several reasons. Namely, the island is actually centrally located, has an intricate network of underground systems including the sewer, the subway, and the tunnels to and from the city that are tightly woven and interconnected, and most importantly, Manhattan is perhaps the only location where such a peripheral population could have gone unnoticed for almost a century.

I decided not to physically investigate the East River. It is too dangerous for swimmers to enter its waters (including scuba divers) because of the levels of toxicity and because of the speedy current. As an alternative, my crew prepared to enter the urban subterranean depths in search of the sewergater.

First Dive

April 28, 2009

Sewergator?

Sewergator?

Clearly Ms. Coventry and her lawyer Louis had seen something unusual—or had they? The dog could have simply gotten caught in some underwater muck and drowned. Typically, alligators live in the south eastern portion of the United States, in the lagoons and swamps. They are usually between 6 and 14 feet. Crocodiles, on the other hand, are not native to the US. It is for this reason that I knew we were searching for an alligator. I still had many questions though: was this one isolated case? Or was there a colony of alligators just below the city’s surface? Smaller alligators tend to live in large groups. Unfortunately, neither Ms. Coventry nor her lawyer were able to see how large the animal was because it was partly submerged.

The Diving Saucer

The Diving Saucer

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, located between 86th and 96th streets, can certainly sustain a population of large reptiles. According to Central Park’s official website, the reservoir, “covers a full one eight of the park’s surface. The 106-acre water body is 40 feet deep and holds over a billion gallons of water,” (http://www.centralpark.com/pages/attractions/reservoir.html). Until 1991, the reservoir was an integral portion of the fresh water supply in the city. Since then though, it has been largely converted into an aesthetic attraction and this has allowed the park’s wildlife to live there in peace. Though not able to utilize Calypso, my ship, in the reservoir, I decided to investigate this incident with my crew using the Diving Saucer. The Saucer can dive as far as 350 meters (equal to approximately 1,150 feet) and can stay underwater for up to five hours (http://www.cousteau.org/technology/diving-saucer). This tool would be perfectly suited to an exploration of the vast reservoir.

Taking a member of my crew with me, the Diving Saucer was transported to New York and prepared for the dive ahead. Alligators are nocturnal, and so I thought that we would descend in the manner of an alligator, at night, in order to catch a glimpse. When we finally descended beneath the dark, still waters of the reservoir, I kept the Diving Saucer’s lights dimmed. I did not want to frighten any creatures, especially this alligator. We viewed the magnificent wildlife that calls the reservoir their home, but still we did not see any sign of the alligator.

As it does every morning, the sun began to rise at about 5:30. My crew members and I had scanned the waters from above and below the surface, but we had not seen an alligator or, for that matter, any unusual or large creature. Though beautiful and majestic, the small fish and birds native to the reservoir were not what we had come in search for. I felt disappointed, but I was not discouraged. We had set out two weeks after the incident relayed by Ms. Coventry. By now, the alligator could have easily wandered over land to another body of water in the park, or could have entered one of the many abandoned sewer tunnels leading into the heart of the city.

I needed more interviews, more information. The reports of a “sewergator” were numerous, but many dated back many, many years. The alligator of the 1935 reports would not be alive today. If the reports have any truth to them, that alligator(s) would have left descendants; Pollock’s could have been one of those descendants. In the wild, alligators can live from 35 to 50 years and they reach sexual maturity at about 10 to 12 years of age. That means that there is a possibility that seven generations of gators have been born since the original sewergater, five of which could still be swimming in the depths, and every generation increasingly adapted to their adopted environment. I absolutely had to find this hidden habitat.

“Alligators kept as specimens at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries aquarium in Washington, D.C, are being tried out as plumber’s assistants to open up clogged pipes. Placed in a length of pipe that is stopped up with silt and sediment, the reptile digs his way through, opening up a small hole which water later will widen by its pressure as it sweeps through.”

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From: http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2007/04/04/plumbers-use-alligators-to-open-clogged-pipes/

brooklyn

Wednesday November 29, 2006 – “It was found behind an apartment building in Brooklyn, not in the sewers of Manhattan; it isn’t particularly big (under two feet long, police say); nor is it even, strictly speaking, an alligator (it’s a caiman).  Still, press reports on yesterday’s discovery of an abandoned saurian are likening it to the age-old urban legend about discarded pet alligators thriving in the New York City sewer system. Some say the creatures grow to monstrous size and turn white due to the lack of sunlight.

The urban legend is false, of course, but “gator” sightings do occur with some regularity in New York and environs, odd as it seems. The last such incident happened five years ago, when a specimen of similar size — dubbed “Damon the Caiman” by city officials — was captured in Central Park. Though illegal in the city, caimans can be bought on the Internet and are sometimes kept as pets, only to be abandoned when they outgrow their welcome.”

From David Emery’s Urban Legend Blog (urbanlegend.about.com)

Alligator vs. Caiman - Caimans are the most common alligator pets. They are a so called miniature alligator.

Alligator vs. Caiman - Caimans are the most common alligator pets. They are a so called miniature alligator.

“Although the story of the ‘Sewer Gator’ in New York City is well known and various versions have been told and built up over the decades, recent reports validate that the stories are much more than urban myth.

A trapper reported an abundance of the reptiles in sewers in Ormond Beach, Florida, as he told WFTV that they were using the sewer to travel through the city after sighting the first one with its tail sticking out from a sewer pipe in October 2005.”

weird_things_sewers_6sfw

From: http://www.lifeinthefastlane.ca/weirdest-things-found-in-sewers-and-drains/offbeat-news

sewergator

“New Yorkers are supposed to be born skeptics, but we’re actually the most accomplished spinners of these tall tales. Not only is New York featured in urban legends that spread around the globe, there are scores of homegrown legends associated with Gotham landmarks.

“Because this city is so large and diverse, it’s particularly rich in urban myths,” says Steve Zeitlin, director of CityLore, a Manhattan-based organization that collects area folklore.

From sewer alligators to skyscraper-spooking ghosts, urban legends are the contemporary equivalent of fairy tales, injecting a note of the fantastic into otherwise predictable modern life. But no matter how bizarre, most urban legends are just this side of believable — and often betray real concern about issues such as crime, health care and sexual promiscuity.”

From “Tales from the Urban Crypt: Legendary Whoppers about Gotham run the Ghastly and Ghostly Gamut” by J. D. Heiman

See: http://www.delorenzosdugout.com/urbanlegends.htm