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Crocodile Rock: Pareidolia & the Filey Crocodiles

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

A family of holidaymakers have had perhaps the biggest kick they ever got, after apparently spotting two adult crocodiles and a hatchling swimming together in the North Sea off of the cliffs of the Blue Dolphin Caravan Park in Filey, North Yorkshire. Despite backing their claims with some astonishingly unclear viral video footage, they have, unfortunately, failed to convince the experts, who are perhaps too interested in protecting the lucrative local winter tourist trade.

The UK has, of course, no native crocodilian species and hasn’t had since the last interglacial period some 120,000 years ago. Current conditions, with sea water temperatures at a chilly 10 to 14 degrees centigrade, are unconducive to the cold-blooded crocodilians and any that made it here would be unlikely to last long, let alone reproduce. As such, conservationist Dr Angela Julian and local breeder Jordan Woodhead both dispute the claimed sighting.

These experts, while accepting that they could not completely rule out the possibility of a short-lived exotic escapee, propose more plausible alternative hypotheses for the source of this sighting. These include other marine creatures more suited to local conditions, such as walruses, seals or sea turtles, and floating debris, such as logs or plastic models, but after closely viewing the video, they seemingly settled upon semi-submerged rocks as by far the most likely culprit.

As to how the spotters could have been fooled in such a way, we turn to that old skeptic standby, pareidolia. In their own re-telling of the encounter, they say that their attention was first drawn to the disturbance in the water below by one of their children’s shouts of “crocodiles!” Thus primed, it is thoroughly unsurprising that they should view the nebulous stimuli in the unfamiliar waters below through such a thoroughly familiar psychological interpretation.

The spotters, however, remain 100% certain of their claim, stating that while the experts are, they suppose, entitled to their opinions, they weren’t there. And they even start slipping into conspiracy theorist territory by claiming that experts would be motivated to lie in order to protect the local tourist industry from the fear factor. Although, since one of them works in the special effects industry, you would have thought that they would know better than to trust their eyes so completely.

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