The following is a list of alleged and descriptive 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).
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a hunting excursion to a cove in Clayoquot Sound, was recorded by the ship's clerk, John Hoskins (1768 - 1824), in his unpublished narrative of the voyage.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 (Hydrodamalis gigas), 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
- 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)
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
- 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)
- Mackal, Roy P. (1980) Searching for Hidden Animals: An Inquiry Into Zoological Mysteries, Cadogan Books, ISBN 978-0946313051
- 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