Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology
List of sea serpent sightings in the Pacific Ocean (1848-1891) >>

(CC BY-SA 4.0)

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).[1]

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 object when seen near by, resembled nothing more than a monkey. It leaped out of the water and jumped back again, with its hands moving very quickly, and then looked us in the face; floating in the water as in an attude [sic] of sitting, until a bird disturbed it, when it dived down again and came up on a short distance from us; we saw it for more than an hour. Its lively appearance and strange manner almost made us believe we had seen an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, (Our Lady,) for we saw it on all sides. At this place we also saw in the water great numbers of live snakes of bright colors, and looking like rattlesnakes.

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).[2][3]

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).[4] Bernard Heuvelmans supported this theory, while also suggesting that the sea ape could have been a young zeuglodon.[5] George Eberhart alternatively suggests a juvenile longneck identity.[6] 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.[5]

Columbia Rediviva (Clayoquot Sound, 1791)

The first possible Cadborosaurus sighting was reported from Clayoquot Sound (CC BY-SA 3.0).

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.[7]

The 16th I went out in a canoe which Captain Kendrick purchased of the natives and made me a present of shooting I left the ship [Columbia] early with an intention of seeing the village of Okerminna [in Clayoquot Sound] it was noon before I arrived at Inistuck ... before which is a clever snug cove in which there were many geese, ducks and teal sporting here I landed in order to get a shot at them one of the people that was with me who also landed in creeping along the edge of the bush saw an animal which I conceiv'd to be an alligator the man was so agitated as not to be able to give any description of what he had seen than that it was a huge animal very long with a large mouth and teeth the neck about as thick as his thigh and so tapered of to the tail with a black back and light yellow belly I immediately repaired to the place where this animal had been seen but could not get a sight of him from this circumstance I was induced to think it was only a burnt log (of which there are many about here) which the man's imagination had formed into a most frightful monster

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.[7]

I have since informed the natives of what was seen who inform me there is an animal which from the description of them as they are painted on their canoes as also one they drew with chalk on board the ship as they are pretty good imitators can't be far from the thing and are very different from the alligators found in the southern parts of our side of America these having a long sharp head something like a hound with a good set of teeth the rest of the body in every other respect like a serpent it is called by the natives a Hieclick and by them much reverenced they tell me this animal is very scarce and seldom to be seen living principally in the woods they offered me twenty skins if I would procure them one for they have such a superstitious idea that if they should have but the least piece of this animal in their boat they are sure to kill a whale which among them is deemed one of the greatest honors indeed a piece of this magic animal insures success at all times and on all occasions

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.[8][6] 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.[9]

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).[10]

Kriukoff's description of a sea animal that pursued him at Beering's Island, where he had gone for the purpose of hunting, is very remarkable; several Aleutians affirm they have often seen this animal. It is of the shape of the red serpent, and is immensely long; the head resembles that of a sea-lion, and two disproportionately large eyes give it a frightful appearance. It was fortunate for us, said Kriukoff, that we were so near the land, or else the monster might have destroyed us; it stretched its head far above the water, looked about for its prey, and vanished. The head soon appeared again, and that considerably nearer; we rowed with all our might, and were very happy to have reached the shore in safety. If a sea-serpent has been really seen on the coast of North America, it may have been one of this frightful species.

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.[11][12]

Seeing some remarkable thing swimming, we at first thought it was a whale, but suddenly about 50 sazhens away it reared up vertically and raised its head. Oh, horror! The monster was as thick as a large sea barrel, 1 1/2 arshins in diameter. The head looked sort of like that of a horse; its jaws were open. We were paralysed with fear. It sank back down into the water and began to chase us. We thought that we were about to perish, but to our good fortune a whole pod of [killer whales] appeared. Whales and all large animals fear [killer whales] ... The monster saw the killer whales, turned and quickly left us. Thus the Lord preserved us.

Heuvelmans identified Kriukov's sea serpent as a possible sea cow (William Rebsamen).

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.[1] 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,[4] 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.[13]

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.[1] 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...[1][14]

... the sea being perfectly calm, he saw at the bottom a large marine animal with the head and general figure of the alligator, except that the neck was much longer, and that instead of legs the creature had four large flappers, somewhat like those of turtles, the anterior pair being larger than the posterior: the creature was distinctly visible, and all its movements could be observed with ease: it appeared to be pursuing its prey at the bottom of the sea: its movements were somewhat serpentine, and an appearance of annulations or ring-like divisions of the body was distinctly perceptible.

The Fly report was one of the earliest alleged sightings of a plesiosaur-like longneck (CC BY-SA 1.0).

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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[15] 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.[1]

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".[16] 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,[1] 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.[15]

Selected sightings map

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Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Heuvelmans, Bernard (1968) In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Hart-Davis, ISBN 9780246643124
  2. "A California Mermaid," The Columbia Spy (7 March 1863)
  3. Coleman, Loren (8 May 2007) California Sea-Ape? cryptozoonews.com [Accessed 10 September 2021]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mackal, Roy P. (1980) Searching for Hidden Animals: An Inquiry Into Zoological Mysteries, Cadogan Books, ISBN 978-0946313051
  5. 5.0 5.1 Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
  7. 7.0 7.1 Howay, Frederic William (1990) Voyages of the Columbia to the Northwest Coast, 1787-1790 and 1790-1793
  8. LeBlond, Paul "Caddy: An Update," Crypto, Dracontology Special (2001)
  9. LeBlond, Paul H. & Kirk, John & Walton, Jason (2019) Discovering Cadborosaurus, Hancock House Publishers, ISBN 978-0888397355
  10. 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
  11. Pierce, Richard A. (1990) Russian America: A Biographical Dictionary
  12. Podmoshensky, Gleb Dmitriyevich "The American Paradise: Schemamonk Sergius Yanovsky, An Around-the-World Adventure into Sanctity," The Orthodox Word, Vol. 26 (Spring 1990)
  13. Nepomnyashchiy, Nikolay & Komogortsev, Aleksey (2018) Istoki Russkogo Bestiariya
  14. Newman, Edward "Enormous Undescribed Animal, Apparently Allied to the Enaliosauri, Seen in the Gulf of California," The Zoologist (1849)
  15. 15.0 15.1 Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
  16. Lee, Henry (1884) Sea Monsters Unmasked