The following is a list of alleged and circumstantial sea serpent sightings reported from the Pacific Ocean and its marginal seas before 1848, including the spans of time identified by Bernard Heuvelmans as the Scandinavian (1522 - 1799) and American Periods (1817 - 1847).
San Lázaro (Baja California, 1535)
According to an 1863 issue of the Columbia Spy, an 1823 history of California, composed of original documents and narratives, included an account of a "marine monkey" observed by the conquistador Hernando de Grijalva during his voyage to Baja California. This voyage occurred in 1535, when Cortés ordered him to Baja California onboard the ship San Lázaro. According to the Columbia Spy, quoting directly from Grijalva's account...
The Columbia Spy added that the animal had "a dog's head and eyes," "arms like a man," "breast and body like a woman," and "a long tail like a fish and divided at the end like a swallow's tail"; i.e., horizontally finned like a whale, sirenian, or pinniped. According to the newspaper, Grijalva's account was confirmed in Francisco Javier Clavijero's Historia de la Antigua o Baja California (1789).
St. Peter (Gulf of Alaska, 1741)
- Main article: Sea ape
During the Russian Great Northern Expedition to the North Pacific, from 1733 to 1743, naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709 – 1746) described several new species, including the now-cryptozoological Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), as well as cryptids such as Steller's sea wolf and Steller's sea ape, which latter has always been controversial, and is scientifically-unrecognised. Steller recorded seeing this animal for two hours on 10 August 1741, in the Gulf of Alaska, a region of many seamounts. Playing in the water with pieces of bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana), it was described as a hairy, prominently-whiskered animal with a shark-like tail and no visible forelimbs. If real and accurately-described, the sea ape is thought to have been some form of pinniped or otter, and some cryptozoologists have associated it with sea serpents. Roy P. Mackal suggested it could have been a young tizheruk, which he theorised to be an Arctic equivalent to the Antarctic leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx). Bernard Heuvelmans supported this theory, while also suggesting that the sea ape could have been a young zeuglodon. George Eberhart alternatively suggests a juvenile longneck identity. However, Heuvelmans also pointed out that the sea ape's vertically-finned tail was anomalous, as it indicates lateral undulation, which is not a mammalian characteristic.
Columbia Rediviva (Clayoquot Sound, 1791)
An undentified animal which has been categorised as a sea serpent was reportedly seen off Vancouver Island by American fur traders during the Pacific voyage of the Columbia Rediviva, under John Kendrick (1740 - 1794) and Robert Gray (1755 - 1806), in 1791. The sighting, which occurred during a hunting excursion to a cove in Clayoquot Sound, was recorded by the ship's clerk, John Hoskins (1768 - 1824), in his unpublished narrative of the voyage. It was an unidentified member of the party, and not Hoskins himself, who reported seeing the animal.
Hoskins was sceptical, but when he approached some local Amerindians with the description, they identified what the man claimed to have seen with the haietlik, described by them as a rare but partially terrestrial animal.
As the first recorded sea serpent sighting from the coast of British Columbia–although sea monsters such as the haietlik, wasgo, and sisiutl appear in coast Amerindian legend–the Columbia sighting is considered the earliest possible observation of Cadborosaurus willsi. However, Paul H. LeBlond, John Kirk, and Jason Walton alternatively suggest that, rather than a sea serpent, the animal could have been a giant salamander, like those reported from freshwater and coastal marine habitats throughout the Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia.
Ivan Kriukov (Bering Island, Before 1817)
Ivan Vasilevich Kriukov, a Russian pioneer who worked as an agent of the Russian-American Company in the Aleutian and Shumagin Islands around the turn of the 19th Century, reported to multiple sources that he had seen a sea serpent while off Bering Island in a light baidarka kayak. The first to publish this claim was the Russian explorer Otto von Kotzebue (1787 - 1846), who met Kriukov on Unalaska during his 1815-1818 circumnavigation of the globe, and included Kriukov's story in his narrative of the expedition, Puteshestviye Vokrug Sveta (1821).
In 1819, Semyon Yanovsky (1788 - 1876), Governor of Russian America and Chief Manager of the Russian-American Company, also met Kriukov on Unalaska, where he received another version of the sea serpent sighting, which was included, verbatim, in Yanovsky's official government report.
Heuvelmans felt that Kriukov's description, as transmitted by Kotzebue, was too vague to identify the sea serpent as either a super-otter or a many-humped sea serpent, but he later concluded that both of these types were restricted to the Atlantic. He instead suggested that the animal may actually have been a sea cow, possibly the last to be observed near Bering Island. Based on later interviews conducted by Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832 – 1901), sea cows were reportedly still present around Bering Island at the end of the 18th Century, and sightings persisted off nearby islands throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries. Another possible sea cow sighting was reported from the coast of Bering Island in 1834, by two Russian-Aleutians.
Fly (Gulf of California, 1830s)
George Hope of the British ship Fly allegedly sighted a plesiosaur-like sea serpent in the Gulf of California sometime between 1836 and 1840. Hope himself never gave a written account of the sighting, which was reported entirely by third parties. He is said to have related his sighting "in company," during conversation, and it was one of the men to whom he was speaking who reported the story to Edward Newman, who published it in his Zoologist in February 1849. According to the report, Hope claimed that...
Newman questioned his source on Hope's knowledge of ancient marine reptiles, but found that the only animal to which he had compared the sea serpent had been the alligator. Newman was apparently unable to obtain any further details from Hope himself. While trying to check Hope's sighting, Rupert T. Gould discovered that he had served as a Lieutenant on H.M.S. Fly between 1836 and 1840, and that the ship was often in the Gulf of California at that time. The Fly had also originally been captained by Peter M'Quhae, who later reported the Daedalus serpent in the Atlantic. Though lamenting the absence of a date or precise location in the report, Gould considered the story "too interesting to omit," and noted that certain other sea serpents seen on ships, including by multiple witnesses, were not mentioned in logs due to fear of ridicule and official reprimand. Bernard Heuvelmans also criticised the story as "vague and unconfirmed," with no reference as to the size of the animal, a failing echoed by Victorian commentators.
One of the earliest alleged sightings of a plesiosaur-like sea serpent, the Fly account became one of the classic sea serpent reports of the Victorian era, being cited by Newman, Gosse, Gould, Proctor, Lee, and Oudemans. Edward Newman argued that the report was good evidence of the possible existence of a marine reptile allied to the enaliosaurs — plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs — and Henry Lee, who believed in sea serpents but argued that most sightings could be explained as mistaken identity, regarded the Fly sea serpent as one of the few which could have been an animal "having close affinities with the old sea-reptiles". Heuvelmans, who believed the longneck to be a mammal rather than a reptile, classified the Fly sea serpent as a possible marine saurian, which he believed to be a thalattosuchian or mosasaur, while Karl Shuker describes it as "one of the most intriguing long-neck reports" given the transparency of the water in which it was seen.
Selected sightings map
Notes and references
- Heuvelmans, Bernard (1968) In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Hart-Davis, ISBN 9780246643124
- "A California Mermaid," The Columbia Spy (7 March 1863)
- Coleman, Loren (8 May 2007) California Sea-Ape? cryptozoonews.com [Accessed 10 September 2021]
- Mackal, Roy P. (1980) Searching for Hidden Animals: An Inquiry Into Zoological Mysteries, Cadogan Books, ISBN 978-0946313051
- Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
- Howay, Frederic William (1990) Voyages of the Columbia to the Northwest Coast, 1787-1790 and 1790-1793
- LeBlond, Paul "Caddy: An Update," Crypto, Dracontology Special (2001)
- LeBlond, Paul H. & Kirk, John & Walton, Jason (2019) Discovering Cadborosaurus, Hancock House Publishers, ISBN 978-0888397355
- Kotzebue, Otto von (1821) A Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea and Bering's Straits for the Purpose of Exploring a North-East Passage, Undertaken in the Years 1815–1818
- Pierce, Richard A. (1990) Russian America: A Biographical Dictionary
- Podmoshensky, Gleb Dmitriyevich "The American Paradise: Schemamonk Sergius Yanovsky, An Around-the-World Adventure into Sanctity," The Orthodox Word, Vol. 26 (Spring 1990)
- Nepomnyashchiy, Nikolay & Komogortsev, Aleksey (2018) Istoki Russkogo Bestiariya
- Newman, Edward "Enormous Undescribed Animal, Apparently Allied to the Enaliosauri, Seen in the Gulf of California," The Zoologist (1849)
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
- Lee, Henry (1884) Sea Monsters Unmasked