While pondering the indicated size and shape of the classical Hippocampus and looking for a possible pinniped to match the descriptions, I came to the conclusion that the best match was with an elephant seal nce again, which makes some bit of sense since the similar water-goats and water-leopards included in make the category sound as if it is the equivalent of the Makara. Basically it was the shape of the fins, especially the rear flippers, that swung the identification in that direction. The size was also a factor-depictions seemed to indicate a length generally in the range of 15-20 feet long, and the long nose of the male could make it look "Horsefaced" (A consideration encountered before in the "Cadborosaurus" cases) This could also be the source for reports of the Campchurch.
Combining the Mediterranean range with the Caribbean range and suspected reports in the North Atlantic yields the following composite map. I do not maintain that such creatures hold all this range currently, but in the earlier part of the historical period they held this range):
Source:Hubert Howe Bancroft, Races of the Pacific States of North America
This also seems to be the same as the
Freshwater Monster of the West Indies.
Etymology: Huilla is a common name for the Anaconda (Eunectes murinus) in South America.
Physical description: Serpentine. Length, 25–50 feet. Scaly. Horselike head.
["Undulates vertically" and the length is exaggerated by counting in the wake as well as the body.]
Behavior: Amphibious. Swims swiftly by flexing its body into arches. Migrates from one body of water to another. Emits a high-pitched whistle. [Eats primarily fish but will eat offal. A snake cannot feed on such things as dumped entrails and blood, which is what the recent accounts allege]
Distribution: Ortoire River, Trinidad.: Orinoco River, South America
Sources: Edward L. Joseph, History of Trinidad (London: A. K. Newman, 1838); John O. Brathwaite (letter), Strange Magazine, no. 18 (Summer 1997): 2.
Several such reports also occur around Florida including the "Normandy Nessie" still ongoing. My first inkling there were elephant seals in these waters came from Thomas Helm's 1943 report. (This was incidentally about the same time as the "3-Toes" reports began to show up in Florida, which followed reports from Cuba, which followed reports from British Honduras, which are apparently the same as the tracks traditionally attributed to the Huilla and which go back into the 1800s in South America)
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Zoological oddity: Thomas Helm's sea creature
Helm's description and drawing of the face remind me a bit more of a manatee more than a pinniped, but it seems an impossible error to describe a nearly-neckless manatee as showing four feet of neck of smaller diameter than the head. There is no question this was a mammal - not only did it have fur, but definite whiskers. Helm thought the head was about the size of a basketball.
Helm insisted in his book Monsters of the Sea that, prior to the incident, he gave no thought to "sea serpents" of any kind. He asked local commercial fishermen if they'd seen anything like his animal, and they had not (though he noted almost all had their own tales to tell of odd sea creatures.) Neither they nor scientists he approached could tell him anything useful.
Well, there it is - and there it rests. We have a solid witness (accompanied by another adult) and a description not only impossible to reconcile with a known animal but with any of the "sea monster" sightings I can think of in which the head was described. Dr. Roy Mackal has suggested for some sea and lake monsters a kind of long-necked sirenian (a member of the group made up of the manatees and dugongs.) IF such an animal exists - and the evidence is scant - then Helm's animal could reasonably be placed in that category. As with so many cryptozoological sightings, this tale resides in a most unsatisfying limbo. It may be there forever.
Front on the face of a female Elephant seal is indeed flat and like a cat's
rather than long and pointed with the eyes at the side as Helm had presumed.