The tizheruk is a sea serpent reported from the subarctic coastal waters of King and Nunivak Islands in the Bering Sea, off the Pacific Ocean coast of Alaska. Relationships between the tizheruk and the wasgo, sisiutl, Steller's sea ape, and Cadborosaurus have been considered, and several cryptozoologists support the theory that it may be a pinniped, a northern hemisphere counterpart to the Antarctic leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx). It is usually synonymised with the palraiyuk.
Accounts of the tizheruk were collected from the inhabitants of King Island by ethnologist John White, who communicated his information to Roy P. Mackal. The locals had a taboo regarding the tizheruk, and told White that hunters had been killed by the animals. According to White, the name pal rai yuk was used for the same animal on Nunivak Island.
In 1983, Mackal referred to more recent information concerning unknown marine animals in the Bering Sea. Some Coast Guard personnel stationed nearby told him that the animals were present in the area but rare, and that the local "Eskimos," who attached mythical and religious significance to them, were afraid of them. One of Mackal's contacts reported that, quite recently, a woman had been killed by one of the animals, which had capsized her boat.
The islanders claimed that only the head and neck, and occasionally the tail, of the tizheruk, have been observed. Its general form is therefore unknown, although it can allegedly rise out of the water to a height of 7–8 ft (2.1–2.4 m). Its head is snakelike, and its tail is flippered. The tizheruk was usually reported from bays, less commonly from the open ocean. The islanders feared the animals, but claimed to be able to attract them by tapping on the insides of their boats. The tizheruk has also been described as a giant caterpillar- or worm-like animal.
Based on reported sea serpent sightings and local ethnoknowledge, Mackal believed that there were two distinct types of unknown marine animal in the Bering Sea, one of which he argued could be a zeuglodon (~45–33 MYA), the other a long-necked eared seal analogous to the leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) of the Southern Hemisphere, one of the few southern pinnipeds which apparently has no northern counterpart. This northern leopard seal would be larger than the southern, with forelimbs which have either disappeared, or, as in the leopard seal, are kept close to the body, and thus rendered invisible. Mackal felt that there were not enough details regarding the tizheruk to assign it to either category, but he strongly erred towards the northern leopard seal. It is known that leopard seals can be attracted by tapping on the gunwales or thwarts of boats, just like the tizheruk. Bernard Heuvelmans wrote in support of the zeuglodon theory.
Notes and references
- Mackal, Roy P. (1980) Searching for Hidden Animals: An Inquiry Into Zoological Mysteries, Cadogan Books, ISBN 978-0946313051
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
- Swords, Michael D. "The Wasgo or Sisiutl: A Cryptozoological Sea-Animal of the Pacific Northwest Coast of the Americas," Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1991)
- Woodley, Michael & Naish, Darren & Shanahan, Hugh P. "How Many Extant Pinniped Species Remain to be Described?," Historical Biology, Vol. 20, No. 4 (December 2008)
- "From Nessie to Mokele Mbembe -- A Leading Cryptozoologist Discusses His Thoughts and Findings," The ISC Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn 1983)
- Mundkur, Balaji (1984) The Bicephalous "Animal Style" in Northern Eurasian Religious Art and its Western Hemispheric Analogues
- Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)