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The Hạ Long Bay serpents or Along Bay serpents were localised sea serpents reported from Vietnam's Hạ Long Bay by French naval officers between 1893 and 1908, classified as many-finned sea serpents by Bernard Heuvelmans and many-humped sea serpents by Richard Freeman. They have been connected with the con rit, a many-finned globster discovered on Hạ Long Bay's beach in the 1880s. Relevant sightings were reported by the ships La Mutine, Avalanche, Bayard, Vauban, Charles-Hardouin, Gueydon, Château-Renault, La Décidée, and possibly the Hanoi, some of which claimed to have seen the animals on multiple occasions.
Examination and theories
Biologist Emil Racoviță, one of the first scientists to take an interest in the Hạ Long Bay serpents, who interviewed Lagrésille and de Ligny, thought the "dragons" must have been A. C. Oudemans' long-necked seal (Megophias megophias). In 1903, Racoviță placed an account of the serpents before the Zoological Society of France, alongside advice on killing, photographing, or sketching the animals. The zoologists printed copies of the communication for distribution among naval officers in Indochina. When L'Eost's later report was read before the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1904, zoologist Alfred Mathieu Giard suggested that the serpents were likely surviving mosasaurs or ichthyosaurs, living at great depths, a suggestion much criticised.
While the serpents did not resemble fish-shaped ichthyosaurs, some scientists were more receptive to the mosasaur theory, and herpetologist Léon Vaillant wrote in support of it later in 1904. Some of the largest mosasaurs (such as Mosasaurus itself) were capable of diving and hunting in deep water, perhaps as deep as the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), meaning that, like the Hạ Long Bay dragons, a mosasaur's breath would likely be visible when it surfaced to expell and take in air. While Bernard Heuvelmans believed that mosasaurs (or thalattosuchians, "sea crocodiles") could survive as marine saurians, he argued that the Hạ Long Bay serpents could not have been mosasaurs. While reports from Hạ Long Bay describe an animal which undulates vertically, the flexible mosasaurs, like most reptiles, were built for either horizontal, serpentiform locomotion, or were powered by lateral movements of the tail. Of the Mesozoic marine reptiles, only thalattosuchians and some plesiosaurs were capable of vertical undulations.
Heuvelmans instead classified the Hạ Long Bay dragons as many-finned sea serpents, a type which he believed to be armour-plated cetaceans, but which many later cryptozoogists theorise are giant arthropods. However, Cameron McCormick and Dale A. Drinnon both note that the Hạ Long Bay dragons do not conform to Heuvelmans' many-finned profile, and Richard Freeman instead classifies the Hạ Long Bay dragons as many-humped sea serpents.
Notes and references
- Heuvelmans, Bernard (1968) In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Hart-Davis, ISBN 9780246643124
- Freeman, Richard (2019) Adventures in Cryptozoology: Hunting for Yetis, Mongolian Deathworms and Other Not-So-Mythical Monsters, Mango, ISBN 9781642500165
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
- Woodley, Michael (2008) In the Wake of Bernard Heuvelmans: An Introduction to the History and Future of Sea Serpent Classification, CFZ Press, ISBN 978-1905723201