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Friday, 10 June 2011

Sea Wolves and Sea Apes

I received this message in my email last night and since it is as good a place as any to go over the matter again I decided to add the message here;

Dear Mr. Drinnon,

My name is --------------. I have been following your blog for a while now and find it very interesting. Your research is spot-on. I do have one question, however, about your Master-Otter writings: why do you include the "Sea Ape" in this category? While some of the physical features DO match up (pointed snout, pricked ears, etc), others definitely do not. The most notable are the creature's shark-like tail and lack of limbs of any kind. To me, these features don't sound anything like an otter to me. They do, however sound like the Tizheruk. Here's the definition from Wikipedia:
"In Inuit mythology, the Tizheruk is a mythical large snake-like creature that is said to inhabit the waters near Key Island, Alaska. This legend was first started by the Inuit. It is said to have a 7 foot head and a tail with a flipper. The local natives claim that it has snatched people off piers without them noticing its presence. It is also called Pal-Rai-Yûk. It is said to be similar to Naitaka of the Okanakanes (Ogopogo) and the Haietlik of the Nootka."
Likwise, here is an illustration of the Tizheruk (left) compared to one of the "Sea Ape" (right)

(Please tell me if the pictures do not show in the email. If they don't, here's the link to the tizheruk image: and the sea ape image:
My point is that the descriptions of both animals are very similar: limbless, with a pointed snout and tail ending in a fin. These are simply my thoughts on the subject, please correct me if I'm wrong. I am quite open to other interpretations.
Please write back,

(p.s. If you wish to use this on the frontiers of zoology blog or anywhere else, go ahead, but please remove my name and email from the text. Thank you!)

As a matter of fact this discussion is basically retracing the steps of the discussion between Dave Francazio and myself way back in 2006. Dave was basically starting out with a familiarity to Roy Mackal's Searching for Hidden Animals, in which Steller's Sea Ape was identified with the Pal-Rai-Yuk. Only the first thing we determined during that discussion was that Mackal was in error. The Pal-Rai-Yuk or Tizheruk is the Northern Dragon and more often than not represented wiith three humps on the back and six legs (the notion that a pair of legs goes with each hump is something that crops up occasionally world-wide) and there is no reason to compare it to the white man's Ogopogo or Naha-a-itkh or Water and Weather God of Lake Okanagon. Mackal is just running things together when he says that and it is too bad that the Wikipedia chooses to quote him. Mackal also prints a wrong version of a petroglyph from Vancouver Island and says it is from Okanagon. But in this he is actually only following Costello.

For the discussion please see my older CFZ blog on the subject:

In the following chart which my correspondant excerpted, Several dubious interpretations of several cryptids are stacked to represent potentially-undiscovered species of Pinnepeds (Seals)
My correspondant correctly surmised that the Pal-Rai-Yuk or Tizheruk is being represented as the larger edition of Steller's Sea Ape, both of them as peculiar Longnecked-shortnecked seals. That is inheruited from Mackal's theory and the only reason it is a popular theory is that it is on the books that way. For the record, there are basically two groups of seals; eared seals or sea lions and common seals. Among the various ways they differ is in the placement of the rear flippers-in the common seals these cannot be turned foreward and have to be dragged behind when on land (A common seal on land is a functional biped) It also happens that eared seals are the ones that have the longer necks. Mackal's version for the Steller's Sea Ape violates markers between the two types of seals when he theorises a longnecked-shortnecked and eared-earless seal. That will sound peculiar but what he has done is a most peculiar thing.

"Cryptopinnepeda Panopoly"
From Darren Naish's website and article. Unfortunately, Naish has chosen to illustrate some of the more dubious concepts in recent Sea-monster speculation, starting with Mackal's conception for the Sea Ape at the bottom and rising to something that looks very much like a reconstruction of the New Britain Migo-which turned out to be a set of crocodiles swimming in a line one after another. While I fully expect there to be such things as Long-necked seals, these drawings look nothing like what is reported by the witnesses.

Now, the situation with the NW Coast Water-Monsters is peculiar. Some authors speak of all their seamonsters as being of one type and in fact they do all tend to run together. (See my earlier blog for "Doctor Shuker's Leviathan" in the lower portion of the text,
-reposted earlier) But the fact is that the Pal-Rai-Yuk or Tizheruk is basically only the local version of the Sea Wolf (although it is also sometimes said to be two-headed like the Sisiutl) There is a further complication in that stories of the "Big" Sea Wolves and "Small" Sea Wolves are also run together although the size difference between them is so great. However, they have much the same shape-otter shaped.

In casting about for a local legendary original for Steller's Sea Ape, I was led to the conclusion that the closest thing to the report was the local "Water-Dog" or Sea Wolf. The small version of that was supposed to be in the range of six feet to thirteen feet long and it had the characteristic sharp snout and pricked-up ears. The problem with Mackal was that he did not go through the mythology very thoroughly and only had a vague idea about all of the legendary Sea-monsters in the area. But here is where we get back to the discussions that Dave and I had back then: Dave noted that otters can hold their forelimbs pressed close to their bodies so that they could not be noticed (and he produced photographs showing this) whereas he also knew of other features of the report which sounded more otterlike than seal-like and he also knew of other theorists that thought the creature Steller had seen was an otter. For my part I guessed the "Sharklike" tail could be a flanged tail such as the South American Giant otter has, possibly with the addition of a hind limb hanging down and not clearly seen through the water, to represent the lower lobe of a shark's tail. ALL of the other theories have to contend with that sharklike tail and most of the other theories don't even TRY to explain it.

But with those perked-up and peaked ears it can never be a seal, and all the people that go along repreating Mackal on the subject have never done any checking up on what he said on the subject. What he said was not only wrong, it was basically a Quack or Crank solution to the problem, one that displayed a complete ignorance about the topic he was supposed to be talking about. The reconstruction is ridiculous.

Pal Rai Yuk, Free Public-Domain Image From A Fantastic Bestiary

Extended Pal-Rai-Yuk, Redrawn from Mallory

Best Wishes, Dale D.

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