By Marten Youssef, Staff WriterPublished: August 10, 2008, 23:49
For the past two decades an anonymous voice that comes over radio transmitters in the Gulf has been shrouded with a laughable mystery.
It is pitch-black in the operations deck, with exception to the odd red light sitting above the map of the Indian Ocean.
The crew of the Canadian navy ship, HMCS Calgary, gazes into the eerie, hushed sand starless night, which is rhythmically interrupted by the thundering sound of the warship crushing through the waters.
Channel 16 on the radio transmitter, used for distress calls, randomly screeches with the odd voice tearing through the silence - almost visibly.
In the most abrupt fashion, that shatters a sense of comedy into this tense hour, a squeaky voice announces over the transmitter. "Filipino Monkey", the caller stretches the words as if it was an opening line to a nightly performance and he is a standup comedian who just walked through the curtains with a mike in hand.
The crew laughs, unabated by the obscurity of this x-rated entertainer. Much of what the Filipino Monkey says is too profane to be repeated, but this faceless voice has become a comedy-relief and a cause for tension for the past four decades.
"We have to keep Channel 16 on when we are in our area of operation. It's the channel of communication here," says one of the Canadian sailors manning the radio transmitter.
The Filipino Monkey talks for hours and provokes ships in sometimes a vulgar exchange. He makes threatening remarks hoping to provoke seafarers, but few respond. "Sometimes he will get into a verbal fist-fight with other sailors and its humorous to listen to," the sailor says.
"There are war diaries from the Gulf War, and even before that, where there is reference to the Filipino Monkey," the sailor says.
As it turns out, the monkey has been around for a long time. In 1988, the first reference is made to the Monkey in a book titled No Higher Honor.
The book is an account of the US navy in the Arabian Gulf. In the book, Bradley Peniston, describes what it believed to be the first account of the Filipino Monkey.
"From time to time, the radio squawked, breaking the quiet with a burst of static. Most of the messages were fully routine, the expected traffic in a crowded sea. But every so often a high manic voice would break from the speaker: "Hee hee hee! Filipino Monkey!" No one knew who the caller was, or what he meant by his strange message."
The crew of the Canadian navy ship dismisses him as some bored figure that has nothing better to do but to taunt sailors.
In January 2008, it's believed that the Filipino monkey was the cause of an escalating tension between two warships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
"There actually is no way to track him down or to ask him to stop, because that would just aggravate him to keep doing it," the sailor says.
Although little is known on the person behind the monkey, sailors believe the original source is long gone and has been replaced by imitators who are trying to relieve themselves of the all-too-often mundane life of seafarers.