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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Some More From the Mailbag II


I was surfing the web recently when I cam across an article on about the sea-serpent seen from the S.S. Umfuli in 1893. Here is a copy:

Strange Encounter
Posted in Oddities by Greg Ross on March 6th, 2010

Passing south of the Canary Islands on Dec. 4, 1893, the S.S. Umfuli passed “a monster fish of the serpentine shape, about 80 feet long, with shining skin, and short fins, about 20 feet apart, on the back; in circumference, about the dimensions of a full-sized whale.”

Neither captain R.J. Cringle nor his crew had ever seen anything like it, but they were certain of what they saw. The sea was like a mirror, “and this thing, whatever it was, was in sight for over half an hour.”

Cringle said it was rushing through the water at great speed, throwing water from its breast, and he saw fully 15 feet of its head and neck on three separate occasions. The body, which was not scaly, showed three distinct humps and was much thicker than the neck: “I should not, therefore, call it a serpent.” The Umfuli’s wet log shows that the chief officer observed the creature through his glass and saw an enormous mouth with great rows of teeth.

“I have been so ridiculed about the thing that I have many times wished that anybody else had seen that sea-monster rather than me,” Cringle said. “I have been told that it was a string of porpoises, that it was an island of seaweed, and I do not know what besides. But if an island of seaweed can travel at the rate of fourteen knots [an hour], or if a string of porpoises can stand 15 feet out of the water, then I give in, and confess myself deceived. Such, however, could not be.”

The sighting seems to be a fairly typical long-neck sighting except for one feature: the "fins" on it's back. In the sketch provided by the witnesses, the back is shown above the surface as three somewhat misshapen humps, and the fins are depicted as a crinkled ridge along the back. And this immediately brought to my mind your edited version of the Valhalla SS drawing.

Compare the corrected Valhalla creature (left) to the one seen by the Umfuli (right).
In both cases, the creatures described had a crinkled "fin" or ridge down the back. And Heuvelmans, too, noted this feature in his long-neck. And then, after reviewing his types, I was realized that both the male merhorses and female long-necks have this feature. However, in the merhorses, it is exaggerated into a serrated ridge on the back, following the mane.

Sketch of Caddy after F. W. Kemp (left, inset) and a cartoon of Caddy from (right).

I apologize for not being able to find better images for the discussion, but these at least give an idea of the serrations or crest seen in Merhorse reports.

I began to realize that, in the reports which clearly are long-necks, such as the Valhalla and Umfuli creatures, the ridge was described as a short, crinkled ridge or "fin," while the merhorse sightings specifically described the ridge as saw-toothed or serrated. So, my theory is that what witnesses are seeing is a ridge of fur on the back, which is short and stiff in the females, but extremely long and matted in the males, who also have the characteristic mane. My opinion is that, rather than being fleshy, the mane of the males simply becomes tangled and matted together in long locks (you could think of human dreadlocks as a comparison) and that, while it is torn out by rivals, the reason it grows back so easily is because it's made of actual hair; you can see something like this on a smaller level when a person waxes or plucks a hair.

Also, I think it is quite possible that the long-necks and merhorses could be covered with short hair, and that this could explain some sightings of scaly animals; my reading of the sightings mentioning scales is that the witnesses see the creatures body when it has been out of the water for some time and become partially dry, giving the appearance of scales. The same thing can be seen in the fur of otters. Or perhaps the rough texture of the skin could be the result of battles between rival animals. The resulting scars create a rough texture that can look like scales from a distance. Male elephant seals often exhibit this feature on their necks, which are scarred from battles with rivals.

Otters showing "scaly" skin (left); scarred elephant seal (right)

Best regards,
-Tyler Stone

[Special thanks go to Tyler, I had just mentioned the "Scaly fur otters" photo and did not have it for reference in the Ponik blog entry recently. So here is a copy now. DD]

[Dale's reply]

Actually, Several of us (myself included) have noted that part about the saw-toothed ridge on the back being exaggerated in one place to form the mane on the males: it also forms another saw-toothed edge on the top of the tail. And it is irregular, males evidently pull; sections of it out and it seem to grow back after. BUT it is NOT hair: descriptions of "Hair" OR "Scales" always refer specifically to the crest. The classic description is that it has a texture like seaweed and it seems to be composed of a fleshy (not hairy or scaly) substance. And the skin on other occasions is definitely hairless and "Smooth as a skate" in more than one description, supposedly from up close enough to touch it. Against this we do have descriptions of the skin being rough, pimpled, or like the surface of granite-but once again, specifying the ridge of the back, the top near where the saw-toothed ridge is otherwise reported. so it may be shedding the exaggerated saw-toothed ridge or that section of the skin nearest regularly, perhaps seasonally. When Mackal was comparing the Loch Ness Monster to a longnecked newt, he said that the crest would be growing and diminishing seasonally, in accordance to hormonal triggers. It has also been suggested that the colours intensify in concert with the crest-the ordinary female colouration being a neutral brownish grey but the males in breeding finery in much stronger colours of reddish or greenish brown (The greenish merhorses are distinct enough and common enough worldwide that they should NOT all be mistaken impressions due to the colour of the water)

Male Merhorses are always distinctly larger in dimensions than the female Longnecks and the two can be sorted out statistically by size and colour. Moustaches and beards such as in the Corinthian case are reported occasionally but there is no reason to throw them out as being suspicious: the conformation is nothing like a seal's moustache and it is obvious that they are made out of the same material as the mane (whatever it is) and the beard and moustache are frequently compared to those shown on a Chinese Dragon. Furthermore, they are also green, as often as not, and once again compared to seaweed.

Merhorses with whiskers are actually reported only very rarely. They also feature prominently in reports which otherwise seem to be hoaxes (such as when the Merhorse is supposed to be well over 1300 to 1800 feet long....!)

Best Wishes, Dale D.

[Tyler's reply]

That does remind me, there was a sighting of a merhorse noted by Bernard Heuvelmans in which the mane was described as looking like it was made of warts. Perhaps it had been partially torn out? Or maybe it was simply an elephant seal - I can't decide which.

And that leads me to another theory: perhaps they actually do possess some scales or rough skin on the back. If the merhorses are ripping each others manes out, then it would seem that the general style of attack is directed toward the head, neck, and shoulders. Perhaps the merhorses have rough skin or scales as a form of protection during these battles?

Best regards,
Tyler Stone

[Dale's Next Reply]

Yes, there was the one report that said warts: not too far from saying they are spines, though. Yes, I think the area near the crest is cornified, for that reason, and it gets thickened and rougher in the adult males. I also think I have a couple of clear reports where one Merhorse has bitten another on the head and neck and left bitemark scars on each other. They also seem to threaten human observers by an open-mouthed threat gesture, at which times the observation is almost always made that the inside of the mouth is a bright red colour. Possibly that is to accentuate the threat: in the "Salamanders", for example, the inside of the mouth is pale or "White" I assume Longnecks have an escalating scale of threats between males where just showing the open mouth is one stage. making threatening gestures with the neck is the intensification, and then actual grappling is the last resort.

Females in general seem much more common than the males, going by statistical assortment by size and colour. That might be giving a false impression by including immature males in with the females. But they do not seem to mate except in pairs, they do not ordinarily make up harems. I have one or two sigthings of what might be courtship behavious in which the two animals make longitudinal passes past each other, head to tail, and evidently either sex gets aroused by proximity of the snout to the other's genitals. Only rarely do you get more than pairs of creatures acting this way, although some Native Americans have said that they can do this "Mating dance" in bunches of four or five at a time. That may be mistaken or it might be due to unusually high population density in the animals in some times and places: this is a reference to the "Horned Serpents" of the Southern USA, presumably deriving from the Gulf of Mexico. Horned Serpents are equivalent to Plumed Serpents and Plumed Serpents include the "Merhorse" variety.

Best Wishes, Dale D.

From: TS to: DD
Sent: Thu, June 30, 2011 4:34:56 PM
Subject: Re: The Umfuli and Valhalla Sea-Serpents and their "fins" and fur

As a general question, do you think it's possible that, should they turn out to be plesiosaurs, modern long-necks could represent a new family? Certainly, they seem very different from all known fossil plesiosaurs, including the post-Cretaceous ones. Fossil plesiosaurs had extremely stiff necks; while they could have held them horizontally, they wouldn't have been physically able to lift their necks any higher. Likewise, their anatomy suggests they were very slow swimmers. This completely contradicts the data on modern long-necks, which are fast swimmers with flexible necks that can be held at about a 90 degree angle to the body. If the manes and other structures are anything to go by, then they are very visually oriented. If a long-neck was eventually caught and found to be a plesiosaur, I'd be very interested to know what kind of pressure would cause it to change so fundamentally from the original fossil form.

On a side note, I am still having issues with my computer and am unable to join the FOZ Group on Yahoo. I'll keep trying, but if I can't join do you know of any other way I would be able to view some of the information and photos in the group? I would be very interested in seeing the information if you would allow me too.

And speaking of the group, I found this and figured you might find it worth adding. Behold! The S.S. Hillary Sea Serpent!

Did I say Sea-Serpent? I meant basking shark....
[This pic is Dale's substitution for Tyler's illustration, which did not make it through...]
Cheers and best regards,
Tyler Stone

[Dale's Next Reply to Tyler}

[Illustration from a scientific paper meant to describe flexibility in a Plesiosaur's neck. Most American scientists think this interpretation is much too liberal]

Actually the matter of Plesiosaurian neck flexibility is one example of one extreme opinion taking hold over all competing models in scientific theory and then insisting it is the only scientific model there is. In point of fact, studies of Plesiosaur neck flexibility quoted by L. Sprague deCamp in my 1985 edition of The Day of the Dinosaur allow that the flexibility of the neck in Plesiosaurus would just about the specifications given in the reports of Long-Necked Sea-Serpents and in Elasmosaurus it would be about twice as flexible. Of course the book did not make the comparison to Sea-serpent reports, I did, it just so happens the figures match. L. Sprague deCamp also remarks that the length and flexibility of a Plesiosaur's neck, and the Plesiosaur's speed, are all necessarily interrelated due to physics. The end result is that Elasmosaurus with its long flexible neck could not have moved very fast and very likely could not move its nech much above the surface of the water vertically (the reason for that is the length of the neck itself: the neck makes up so much of the length that the creature could not balance out much vertical emergence of the neck unless the whole body section started rising tail-end-first as a consequence. Underwater, paradoxically, the neck had a much greater range of vertical movemant) However, Plesiosaurus and other moderate Plesiosaurs could have been much faster and perhaps as fast as sea turtles or sea lions could be.(pages 151-153). So there is a problem with blanket statements being made too generically: not all Plesiosaur necks were equal, not all necks were of equal flexibilty and not all Plesiosaurs swam at the same speed. Otherwise, what was the possible use of an adaptive radiation?

Best Wishes, Dale D.

I do understand that differences in body type equal differences in lifestyle. I was simply going by the information available to me, and all the literature I have states that long-necked plesiosaurs had very stiff necks. So again, do forgive me for not doing enough fact-checking. And I apologize as always if I caused or do cause any offense; that is quite the opposite of what I wish to do.

BTW, if it some point you get a reply from Dr. Shuker on my invitation to continue the Gambo discussion, can you forward it to me? Thanks!

-Tyler Stone


In this case, I named you my source. L.Sprague deCamp, The Day of the Dinosaur, 1985 edition, pages 151-153 (which wraps around a section of the plates): I own a copy.

If I put this up on my blog, I'll quote you the whole passage. But surely you can see there has to be a range of different levels of performance (and corresponding different behaviours) with the wide range of body plans?

I am in no way offended because I understand what a complete mess Plesiosaurian anatomical scholarship is in and it is a matter I have been following for many years. I have been trying to get the point across to the establishment types that I have just tried to get across to you, for literally decades. And it is not that there is only one opinion on the matter, the situation is only presented as if the one opinion is the only one discussed in scientific circles. Actually it is not: you will find that "Science" is a good deal broader-minded and more flexible than the smaller-minded skeptics make it out to be, across the board and in nearly all categories. In this country what we have is a shortage of unattached researchers and a majority of scientists who make their livelihoods TEACHING-and they need to have their students taught the same basic facts uniformly, with definite yes or no answers to everything, basically just to make it easier grading papers. So you get the unified presentation of solidarity among the "Experts"-when of course that is about as far from the reality of the situation as it could be represented.

But the basic plain fact is that Plesiosaurs are not all the same and issuing any one statement saying that they are all the same is verging on lunacy. And there is little agreement about Plesiosaurs in such basic matters as how they swam and how they used either set of flippers in the swim cycle, whether the backbone was rigid or whether it "bowed" up and down with the flipper strokes. how the tail was used and so on.And there is little agreement about the flexibility of their necks or even which way they would have bent while catching fish-to the sides, from above striking down or from below striking up.

If I ever do hear anything back from Dr. Shuker back on the matter I shall most assuredly forward a copy on to you...

Best Wishes, Dale D.

L. Sprague deCamp, The Day of the Dinosaur, the pertinent passage starting bottom of page 151:
"There has been some argumenrt over the speed of Plesiosaurs in the water. Some Paleontologists insist that they moved slowly, on the theory that an animal that swims by... flippers like a sea turtle, is bound to be slower than an animal that sculls itself along by wagging its tail.
Sea Lions, which also have flippers, manage to move very fast indeed, as anyone who watches a tankful at feeding time in the zoo. One of the authors spent a morning at the Philadelphia zoo watching a large male California sea lion and four females.When it is in a hurry, a sea lion's main propulsion is by means of its fore flippers, with the hind flippers held stiffly rearward and used only for steering..
.[Big sea turtles such as the Leatherback have also been clocked swimming at speeds over 25 miles per hour, which is quite respectable and at least as fast as the sea lions, for which see the Guiness Book of World's Records-DD] Plesiosaurs, which like modern sea lions pursued swift prey, flapped along by means of flippers but could doubtless move along swiftly enough to suit any but their victims.

The speed of a Plesiosaur, the flexibility of its neck, and its method of fishing are all interconnected. The earlier Plesiosaurs had moderately long necks, neither very limber nor very stiff. Some Paleontologists who have studied their neck bones, believe that these Plesiosaurs could could bend their necks around sideways in a complete circle. up and down they could bend them much less-no more than half a circle...they could not assume the graceful swanlike curves shown in the earlier restorations. It is common among reptiles-snakes for instance, for the vertebrae to bend more readily in horizontal than in vertical movement.

We may also assume that these early Plesiosaurs were quite fast: not so fast as an Ichthiosaur, perhaps, but quite lively. The slower fish they could overtake: the faster ones they would catch by swimming up alongside of them and siezing them with a quick sideways jerk of the head. That is how alligators fish today. Undoubtedly, Plesiosaurs fed on whatever meat they could catch. The stomach contents of onefossil Plesiosaur contained the remains of a fish, a belemnite (A squidlike cephalopod) and and even a piece of a dead pterosaur"
The stiffness of the neck as described in Plesiosaurus is about what is described in Longnecked Sea-serpents: that vertical half-circle curve also translates into the typical stretched-s or "Periscope" position, as opposed to a swanlike full-s-curve. And if these Plesiosaurs were eating such things as squids and pterosaurs, they had to be quick. DeCamp then goes on to explain how the later shortnecked and longnecked plesiosaurs diverged from the basic pattern with the Pliosaurs focusing more on speedy pursuit of prey and the Elasmosaurs relying more on the flexibility of the neck. The same scientists that studied the early Plesiosaur necks as mentioned in deCamp's passage also measured the neck of Elasmosaurus and estimated it to be twice as flexible. Which therefore implied that it had to be a much more careful and slower swimmer because the long flexible neck would be that much more difficult to manage. And there is still some stiffening to their necks because without that stiffening, and froward movenent would be impossible. Swim too rapidly with too flexible of a neck and you risk breaking your neck. This is a simple fact of Physics which also applies to Heuvelmans' model of the LongNecked Sea-serpent: the neck cannot be too flexible and it can't be too speedy or it would break its neck. Therefore I assume that the Longnecked sea-serpent is moderately speedy with a moderately flexible neck, comparable to Plesiosaurus-otherwise, going by Heuvelman's description too literally, it is an animal doomed to suicide by literally swimming at breakneck speeds.

Incidentally the chart illustrated above is showing a good deal more flexibility than I would need or allow to make the model work. I added it primarily because it is different from the usual representaion but it is still a valid scientific opinion. A minority opinion but that is not the point.

DeCamp finishes his passage on page 153 with the paragraph " At any rate one can see that the crucial factor in determining the animal's speed is not whether it flaps along with paddles or wags a tail behind it, so much as the food it eats and the speed it must attain to get that food" In his footnotes, deCamp also refers to the work of Dr. C. Ray (footnote 2 on 296) mentioning that Ray had reached similar conclusions independantly but working from observations on earless seals and walruses.

Some More From The Mailbag I

Tyler Stone sent me a drawing he had made of a Many-Finned Sea-Serpent and I wrote back that I liked his drawing but there was just no way you could make any one reconstruction to adequately illustrate the type. After which he sent this reply which I thought was worth passing on:

Thank you, I'm glad you liked it.

I do understand that the problem with drawing a many-finned is that there is no way of making an accurate composite without drawing different kinds of animals to fit the reports. I think a good example would be in Tim Morris's art for this type:

Heuvelmans's Many-Finned (left) and Champagne's Many-Finned (right) by Tim Morris

The basic types described are supposed to be the same basic creature, but they look completely different from each other. So there is no accurate composite. My drawing was based off of the Coleman and Huyghe version. So the illustration I used was most likely inaccurate for the reports already, at least compared to other versions.

I have other cryptid drawings I can send if you wish. I hope you enjoyed my many-finned sketch. Personally, no matter how redoubtable the type is, I think there will always be something charismatic about the Many-Finned.

Yours truly,
-Tyler Stone

The "Charismatic" part is probably due to the attempt to make this creature a union of opposites: a sort of walrus-faced waterbug or a whale crossed with a centepede. Or as in the Ogopogo song "His father was an earwig and his mother was a whale" And then beyond that you have to contend to fantasies meant to depict something described with such an enormous variance of features that it can have four to twelve fins on a side, be three feet broad and sixty feet long with a row of three-foot fins, or fifteen feet broad and sixty feet long with side fins probably ten to twelve feet long as well. FEW artists have tried to draw the extremes, which of course look nothing like the usual reconstructions seen in print and nothing like each other. And I am afraid that there is a great deal of variance in the degree of "Charisma" between a long noodle 20X as long as it is wide, with fins of about equal width on either side, or a broad wedge 4X as long as its greatest width with two rows so side fins making the width even more exaggerated. IMHO, the mass appeal ascribed to the creature in this case is due to a careful selection of what to show and what not to show.
There is a similarly exact selection process in which images meant to depict "Dragons" are shown nowadays. Any more the "Dragons" have been certified as Dungeons & Dragons fantasy versions with four legs and wings, armour and horns, of an enormous size and breathing fire. Traditional dragons are a great deal more varied than this and most of their depictions in historical documents are not nearly so "Charismatic"

Another message I recieved this week concerned a continuance of the Giant Beaver attributed to Lake Okanagon, the Ogopogo lake. My correspondant in this matter suggested that the 1989 Chaplin photo of "Ogopogo-and explained away as a beaver smacking its tail on the water-would instead be a Castoriodes because it seems much larger than an ordinary beaver and more especially because the tail seems to be the wrong shape. So if this is true we have our first identifiable photo of a surviving Giant Beaver.

Best Wishes, Dale D.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Lake Monster Potpourri

BTW, I had mentioned to Tyler that there were some sightings of what seemed to be shorter-necked Plesiosaurs represented at different freshwater locations at different times. This is an illustration of one such from a site describing a Russian Lake Monster: unfortunately, no reports or specific details were given to go with the illustration so it is difficult to gauge how much like the reports the illustration might be. It is not a well-known Lake Monstter location and in fact there might not be anything substantial to the allegation.

An early depiction of "Cadborosaurus" looking suspiciously very much like a Chinese Dragon.

This is another one of those SeaMonster illustrations which looks as if it might be based upon a moose's head.

I have no doubt that the head shown in this illustration did not come from this witness' account but was supplied from other sources. In this case the antlers are shown with definite brow-tines (a couple of which are shown at the end of the nose) and then the palmate part at the back of the head. In the moose, the palmate part can dissolve into another set of tines and in some populations that is the more usual pattern. There are depictions of "Ogopogo" which also show the antlers as divided into the brow-tines and the palmate part: often the palmate portion is shown as a large "Fin" at the back of the head on either side. Sich depictions are known from Scandinavia, Mongolia and South Siberia, and then on to include Manchuria, Korea and Northern China, and in many of the depictions the resemblance to moose (elk) antlers is very striking. The "Cadborosaurus" here also has the lop-eared look mentioned in some of the reports, and the beard (bell), both of which were features regularly ascribed to "Ogopogo" in the early years reports were made.

The elongated body is once again mistakenly assumed from the appearance of the wake.

This case the illustration is meant to go to might even be a legitimate case: I rather suspect that it actually IS. But the illustrator made a composite using other reports and in doing so it seems he let on what those other reports actually WERE a bit more than he would have liked to.

This is a representation from Wikipedia meant as a scale depiction of one of the giant eels from Crescent Lake, Newfoundland, to one of the witnesses. The article under "Cressie" only speaks of the eels as being about as long as a human being is tall: this drawing is showing a type of eel 20-30 feet long, a foot to 18 inches in thickness and with a head approximately a yard long.
I Have done a little cleanup of the wikipedia drawing to make the lines of the eel creature smoother and more consistent in width. The original was a little crude. Below is a map showing generally where freshwater reports of giant eels seem to be better substantiated (grey areas). These freshwater reports correspond to the smaller category of "Megaconger" as seen at sea, and on the whole "Megacongers" are seen closer to the continents and in shallower waters associated with the continental shelves.

Giant Eel Candidates Range Map For North America.

Dark line in Gulf of Mexico indicates an unlikely secondary type. Dubious reports of a giant green moray eel in the region probably have no relevance to reports made further inland.

Scale Mockup showing "Megaconger" type giant eel and LongNecked Sea-serpent types as shown at the same scale. Both the maps and the pasteups are my own work.

Two very definite LongNecker reports with some similarities between the two: the first is from a different Crescent Lake, in the state of Washungton and just off of Puget Sound, and the other depiction is from Lake Selwin and represents "Selma" in an extremely close encounter with two men in a rowboat.

This is a map illustrating the locations where there is more likelihood that some of the reports could legitimately turn out to be LongNecked Sea-serpents gone inland. The presence of longnecked reports is actually very rare and should not be assumed lightly. Therefore a report of a "periscopoe" only 3-4 feet tall is not sufficient to assume that the creature actually IS Longnecked-but reports of necks as long as 10 to 20 feet certainly are. In this case, nearly ALL of the verifiably Long-Necked reports hug the coast and otherwise only go inland by way of the really big rivers. The Native reports of the "Great Horned Serpents" follow this pattern likewise except that I have a feeling some of the Natives were also fooloed by reports of swimming moose, since the annals of later reports DO have similar reports derived from swimming moose sightings as made either by White Men or Red Men. Which is not to say that "Great Horned Serpents" never existed as cryptids, only that the mistaken view due to sightings of swimming moose was always a factor in the descriptions. On the other hand, I do not doubt that the majority of hunters that were actually experienced with swimming moose were not prone to making the same mistake!

Finally here is an illustration from the Patagonian Monsters site which shows how an unidentified petroglyph might be an attempt to portray a surviving giant groundsloth. To the contrary, it looks as if it might be a stick-figure attempt at portraying a "Patagonian Plesiosaur" since South America is a place where some VERY Plesiosaur-shaped petroglyphs are known, and some of them are very old indeed. However there are other petroglyphs which could mean to represent represent giant ground-sloths either on all fours or standing erect, as rather odd-looking "Anthropomorphic figures"

Best Wishes, Dale D.

Ponik of Pohenegamook (Mocking Lake)

At one time, the creature at Mocking Lake (Lake Pohenegamook) would have been considered one of North Americas best-established Water Monsters. That status has subsequently faded away somewhat. Some sources give the name of the lake as Lake Ponhenegamook and some give the English translation as Mocking Lake, which is of course the same as to say Echo Lake. Some of the lists give both names and do not understand there is only one lake involved. The problem probably arises with Costello but it is repeated by many others that recycle his information

The name given to the Monster of the Lake is Ponik, taken to be a diminuative of the Lake's name in the same tradition as "Nessie." the name for the Monster of the Lake in French is Water Horse or Water Cow, and in many European languages Ponik means Pony, and so can be understood as Water-Pony. This is rather unfortunate because the descriptions and illustrations of Ponik are a distinctively different type and it is useful to call the creature a secondary type and then to call that type Ponik for convenience.

Quebec is one place where Water-Horse reports abound and even under the name of Water-Horse or Horse's Head, or the French equivalents. And it is also true that people sometimes tend to think of Ponik as being a typical Water-Horse or typical Lake Monster in general, especially when they describe it as 35 to 40 feet long, or even 50 to 60 feet long, and that much is including a long wake. One photograph is said to show an animal with "Golden Horns" and Eberhart mentions its tracks are hoofprints (Round). Eberhart even gives the first alternative for identity as being a "Swimming deer or moose"

Yet not only are the depictions of Ponik distinctive, they also hearken back to a distinctive Native and even PreColumbian prototype: Ponik is a Water Panther or Mishipizhiw. This is immediately obvious because of the long, low body with a spiked ridge along the spine, long tail and short legs with definite clawed feet on them. Horns are sometimes noted on the head and traditionally shown on Water Panther depictions. Furthermore, other Water Monsters in the Great Lakes district are also identified as Water Panthers or Mishipizhiws (and as the same type of creature as shown on the petroglyphs) As far away as around Lake Superior and Wisconsin especially. And Water Panthers in this part of North America are most likely the same as the Master-Otters in the British Isles.

{Winnebago Medicine Animal, a typical Mishipizhiw variation]

The information from Peter Costello, In Search of Lake Monsters, starts on page 228. 'Reports of a Monster in Mocking Lake, also in Quebec, have been seriously investigated by a scientist. There had been occasional sightings over many years. In 1958, the Director of the Quebec Department of Game and Fisheries, Dr. Vadim Vladikov, went out to the lake to make a private investigation.
"I have questioned a great many people in Saint Eleuthre (the local village) and they all tell me the same thing- an animal 12 to 18 feet long, brown or black in colour, with a round back two or three feet wide asnd a sawtooth fin down the centre. Any time anyone approaches close, the animal slithers away and sinks below the lake's surface." '

The "Sawteeth" on the back are elsewhere explained by Heuvelmans as locks of hair sticking together along the spine, and that explanation fits well in this case also.Occasionally, the creature is said to have come out of water and its legs were said to be 18 inches long: the feet were said to be clawed and webbed. In the water or out, there is said to be a very long and powerful tail which has been estimated as five or six feet long (the tail alone)

Brazilian Giant River Otter: Probably closest "Known" analogue for Ponik. In Ponik's case the fur on the back is partially dry and roughed up a bit to look "Scaly". Others have noticed that otter fur can have this appearance.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

A Whale Of A Tale About A Chinese Sea Monster Carcass

This item hit the news serices on the 23 of June:

Fishy business: Mysterious 55ft ‘sea monster’ washes up in China

By Ted Thornhill

Last updated at 8:11 AM on 23rd June 2011

You’d need a big portion of chips to go with this.

A gigantic sea beast measuring 55ft has been discovered washed up on a beach in Guangdong, China.
It was found wrapped in fishing lines, leading locals to suspect that fishermen cut it free from their nets because it was too big to haul in.
Sea-ing is believing: Locals gather around the monstrous corpse
The creature is too badly decomposed to be positively identified by sight, but it’s thought to have weighed around 4.5tons.

Despite the carcass’s extraordinary smell, it’s proved to be quite a big draw for people living in the area.

Three marine biology experts — Scott Baker of Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute, Bill Perrin, from the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Bob Brownell, from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration's Fisheries Service – were all shown photographs of the creature by Live Science.
Coasting along: This map shows the area where the monster was washed up
Their conclusion is that, based on its throat grooves, the creature is a whale.

Mr Baker told the journal: ‘Judging from the reported size of 55 ft, it’s maybe a fin whale. From the photo, however, it does not really look to be 55 ft, and so might be a smaller balaenopterid, like one of the “Bryde's” whales.’

He added: ‘We all hope somebody collects the bones and a tissue sample for genetic analysis as recovery of whale carcasses is rare along the coast of China.'

Theory: Some marine experts believe the carcass could be that of a fin whale, pictured here

[Nobody seems to have mentioned that a live fin whale would weigh at least ten times the listed 4.5 tons: evidently this corpse is mostly an empty bag of blubber, as so many others are-DD]

Read more:

Friday, 24 June 2011

"Australian Nessie"

I am including this primarily because the striking petroglyph matches others in Australia and New Zealand, including the example posted here earlier under the title "Plesiosaurian Taniwhas"(A reposting of earlier CFZ blogs) The Petroglyph above appears to be genuine and it comes from the website:
The caption to it reads:
This 3,000 year old Aboriginal rock engraving, discovered by Rex and Heather Gilroy at Brisbane Waters near Gosford NSW, depicts the Mirreeulla, or “giant water serpent” of Hawkesbury River/Brisbane Waters Aboriginal folklore. The reptilian monster’s features parallel those of the Plesiosaurs of Cretaceous times [66-144 million years BP]. Photo copyright © Rex Gilroy 2003.
But the story does not end there. Across the Tasman in New Zealand, the Maori people for centuries before the arrival of European settlement produced cave paintings as well as rock and wood carvings of the "Taniwah", giant water-monsters that inhabited the lakes and estuaries of New Zealand. Also, in Papua New Guinea, the Melanesians preserve wood art of the giant water-dwelling monster known as the "Kureea" which they say inhabits coastal waters, harbours and rivers.

The site contains a series of reports from the Hawkesbury River around Sydney, Australia and the creature is a very special sort of a "Bunyip." Sightings of a Plesiosaur-shaped animal have been made there periodically since the 1930s and continuing sporadically up to the present.
This seems to be exactly their local equivalent of the "Yarru."

Nessie Lives in a Sydney River
That a form of marine reptile from the age of dinosaurs could still survive in the Hawkesbury River must, understandably, seem absurd to many people. Yet, when one considers the often enormous widths, the great depths, the length of the river (up to 120 kilometres) and its many branches snaking off in all directions, there is more than enough room for such creatures to have survived and bred undisturbed for centuries, as the following case histories suggest.

Hawkesbury River Bridge - August 1979

“I was not seeing things. It was right there in the water, out there in the middle of the river with its snakelike head moving from side to side, four feet above the water.” That was how Miss Rosemary Turner, a young bushwalker, described the horrible reptilian creature that surfaced nearby as she stood on the bank of the Hawkesbury River, a few kilometres west of the Hawkesbury River Bridge, one August day in 1979. Rosemary had been resting during a hike in the surrounding bushland on the Sydney side of the river.

The water was calm on a sunny afternoon around 3 pm, she later recalled-when, suddenly, a dark shape began to appear in the water ahead of her. "All of a sudden this large, shiny, scaly, black pair of humps rose two feet out of the water to a length of about 20 feet. I could clearly see two long flippers, at least a few feet in length, moving below the surface. At this moment a head appeared 15 feet ahead of the humps. The animal appeared to be facing an east-west position. Four feet of head and neck rose above the water and I could partly make out the tail just below the surface some feet east of the body.

The head of this monster reminded me of a snake-ugly, and about two feet in length (by now she was observing the creature with her binoculars hastily snatched from their case)-but it quickly sank beneath the waves, the tail rising out of the water in a quick flip as the monster plunged into the depths, leaving a great wake in the water." All this time, Rosemary stood petrified watching the creature, still not sure what it was. All she could tell me some months later was that the animal was at least 45 to 50 feet in length.

May 1979

The above report is similar to that of another woman, Judy Morgan, of Sydney, who saw a huge animal in the same region at about 4 pm one Sunday in May 1979. Here is her story.

“I had been watching water-skiers from the top of a 50-foot bank (Sydney side of the river) with my binoculars. Soon after the skiers had passed up the river in the direction of the Hawkesbury River Bridge about four miles to the east, I observed from about 300 feet out in the centre of the river a large pair of humps rise out of the water up to three feet.

"From where I stood I could clearly see two sets of long paddle-like flippers just below the surface, and these may have extended out at least several feet from the body. I also spotted a tail partly visible below the surface, and this rose to the surface after about a minute before submerging again. So far the creature's head had not appeared; but this suddenly also rose out of the water, snakelike, and on the end of a long, thick neck several feet above the surface.

I estimate the animal could have been a good 40 feet in length, at least!"

The proportions are a pretty good match for the Loch Ness Monster Plesiosaur-shaped reports where the average reported creature of 40 feet long would be expected to have a head two feet long and a neck 15 feet long and a foot thick at the end.

The main index of Rex and Heather Gilroy's site is at the following link:

The reports indexes are on pages

Best Wishes, Dale D.

Water Horse Continued: New Zealand Moose

From Tony Lucas' NZ Cryptozoology blog:

Moose - Alces alces andersoni, were imported from Saskatchewan Canada, into the South Island by the New Zealand Acclimatisation Society as a sporting animal along with red deer in the early 20th century.

These animals supposedly failed to establish, and yet sightings persisted and evidence of their continued presence continued.

The initial introduction occurred in 1900 when four animals from Canada were released in Hokotika. The initial release was supposed to have been fourteen animals but ten died on the voyage from Canada.

Out of these four animals only one was a cow, and was said to wander the streets of a local settlement until 1914 when it was no longer seen.

These animals were presumed to have not survived and a further release was planned.

This occurred on the 6th of April 1910, when six female and four male, ten month old calves were released in Supper Cove in Dusky Sound.

It was believed these animals died out due to the competition from Red Deer - Cervus elaphus, however a small number must have persisted as reports of physical traces and sightings continued. These sightings became quite prevalent between 1929 and 1952.

Herrick Creek was one spot where a bull moose was reportedly shot by one Eddie Herrick in 1934.

This was one of a dozen animals reportedly shot between 1910 and 1952.

[Only two of these were actually licensed hunts. Afterward the restriction was lifted and any moose that were killed did not require any license for hunting them-DD]

The last one sighted and shot in 1952 was presumed to have spelt the end of the establishment of a moose population in New Zealand, in fact it would have been the only population of wild Moose in the Southern Hemisphere.

Nothing more was heard of the Moose apart from rumour and speculation until a possible sighting in 1971 sparked a hunt for a possible surviving population of these enigmatic animals.

More physical proof came to light in 1972 when an antler, definitely moose was found.

Ken Tustin was charged with finding out if they still existed on the insistence of the New Zealand Forest Service in 1972.

Research conducted by Mr Tustin suggested that a small population may have inhabited the Dusky Sound area.

This was based on prints, droppings, antler casts and signs of grazing.

No actual sightings of the animals were however forthcoming.

The thick bush in the area kept them well hidden.

Mr Tustin did not give up the search and in 1995 a picture was taken of a possible female at Herrick Creek. A single frame from a video clip showed what appeared to be the retreating figure, regrettably the image was not a clear one due to the video being in time-lapse mode which causes some distortion to the picture.

The outline and stance of the animal however were quite convincing.

A hair sample was found in 2000 and subjected to DNA testing. The test confirmed it was definitely Moose hair

Further evidence of their continued existence was found in 2001 when two hunters came across some more hair.

This sample came from Shark Cove on the southern side of Dusky Sound and was again confirmed as Moose hair.

Another hair sample was found by Mr Tustin in October 2002, snagged at waist height on some tree bark, this too was subjected to DNA testing and proved to be of Moose origin.

The hairs were collected opposite Oke Island.

Though no actual sightings have occurred since the 1971 one, there is plenty of physical evidence for the existence of these animals.

These animals seem to be confined to the Dusky Sound area.

Bedding spots and physical evidence suggest up to 20 animals may live there ( Otago Daily Times 06.10.05).

Although the population is small these animals seem to be holding their own, though regrettably they have not been granted protection and are still able to be subjected to the hunters gun.

If these animals are to survive they need the protection to establish a stable population, which could be possible considering the number taken by hunters early in their introduction.

The area in which they live is heavy bush and this has impeded visual sightings, but the evidence is there that this species holds on in their remote piece of Fiordland.

However there is also evidence of earlier introductions of moose into New Zealand, probably from unrecorded agents. Quoting Charles Fort in Lo!

"The volcano Rotomahana was a harsh, black cup that had spilled scenery. Or the sombre thing was a Puritan in finery. It had belied its dourness with two broad decorations of siliceous deposits, shelving down to its base, one of them the White Terrace and the other the Pink Terrace. These gay formations sloped [103/104] from the bare, black crater to another inconsistency, which was a grove of acacias. All around, the famous flowering bushes of this district made more sinful contrast with a gaunt, towering thing. Upon the 10th of June, 1886, this Black Fanatic slung a constitutional amendment. It was reformation, in the sense that virtue is uniformity that smothers variation. It drabbed its gay Terraces: the grove of acacias was a mound of mud: it covered over the flowering bushes with smooth, clean mud. It was a virtuously dismal scene, but, as in all other reformations, a hankering survived in it. A left-over living thing made tracks in the smoothness of mud. In the New Zealand Herald, Oct. 13, 1886, a correspondent writes of having traversed this dull, dead expanse, having seen it marked with the footprints of a living creature.(5) He thought that the marks were a horse's. But there was another story that was attracting attention at this time, and his letter was an allusion to it. Maoris were telling of a wandering animal, unknown to them, that had appeared in this desert of mud. It was a creature with antlers, or a stag, according to descriptions, an animal that had never been seen, or had never before been seen, by Maoris. "
The animal the size of a horse was more likely a moose, and this was twenty years before it is admitted there was a plan to introduce moose into New Zealand for hunting.

I need hardly point out that all of this situation regarding the continued survival of introduced moose outside of the public eye is exactly the sort of thing as I am proposing for introduced moose in Scotland: at the time the moose was introduced into New Zealand for hunting, enthusiasts were also targeting Scotland for the same plan with the same goal in mind. And please notice that the New Zealand moose were hunted for many years but only two licensed trophy hunts for moose were counted officially: In Scotland ALL of the other kills would have counted as "poaching." So it is easy to see how most of such incidents would have been hushed up. (Some famous trophy mooseheads do adorn some Scottish hunting-lodges as well)

There is also a possibility that Loch-Ness-Style Water Monster reports had begun in the Fjordlands as a result from the introduction of moose into the area. Ivan Sanderson had indications of typical string-of-buoys reports in the Fjordlands lakes (albeit without elaboration in his files and basically going on the say-so of newspaper collectors of reports) and when I discussed the matter with Tony Lucas, he said there were indeed such reports, but with vague details and as unverified reports so far as he knew. In the 1950s and 1969s, reports were still coming in uncommonly, but in the 1970s the monster "Lakey" had a brief flap of reports, according to the Wikipedia entry on Lake Monster reports in general. The links above in referring to the New Zealand moose often place it on a par with Ogopogo or the Loch Ness Monster, as seen by the skeptical local community, but it seems in fact that the New Zealanders inadvertantly introduced Ogopogo and Loch-Ness-Monster type string-of buoys reports as a consequence of their introductions of the Water Horse, ie, the moose.
The same passage in Lo! just happens to include another report of a New Zealand Water-Monster, Which is taken to be an unusually aggressive Waitoreke on some of the Cryptozoology websites which mention it, in effect the New Zealand Master-Otter. Not what we were discussing here but worth a mention by the way:

New Zealand Times, May 9, 1883 -- excitement near Masterton -- unknown creature at large -- curly hair, short legs, and broad muzzle.(4) Dogs sent after it -- one of the dogs flayed by it -- rest of the dogs running away -- probably "with their tails between their legs," but the reporter overlooking this convention.

And the same passage also mentions a Canadian-borderline Water-Monster by way of variety, only this time again it seems to have been a swimming moose AKA a Water-Horse:
New York Sun, Aug. 19, 1886 -- a horned monster, in Sandy Lake, Minnesota. More details in the London (Ontario) Advertiser -- Chris. Engstein fired a shot at it, but missed.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Re: Gambo and Ambon

Continuing with the discussion with my anonymous correspondant, the most recent one concerns my earlier posting on The Gambo carcass and the Ambon sea-serpent. I asked him if he'd rather have the credit for the piece and he gave his permission to include his name. So his submissions shall not go uncredited any more: he is Tyler Stone.


Last night I was reading your checklist of aquatic cryptids from the CFZ blog. The section I found most interesting was the one on Marine Saurians. I had already seen your blog posting on Gambo and the Ambon sea serpent, and I agree that they do seem to form a type separate from the traditional Marine Saurian. What is not clear is the identity; as you stated, it can't be a crocodile because of its smooth skin, and it can't be a whale because it has four flippers. I began doing research into other common candidates to try and find a suitable match.

It can't be an archaeocete. It has too many teeth. And aside from that, no archaeocete that I know of matches Gambo's anatomy.

Gambo (left) compared to Rhodocetus (center) and Protocetus (right). I don't include any more advanced archaeocetes (i.e. Basilosaurus) because they match even less. (All images from wikipedia)

Likewise, I am unable to find a pliosaur species that specifically matches Gambo's anatomy, especially in the shape of the head.

Gambo (left) compared to Macroplata (center) and Liopleurodon (right). Note the neck length in Macroplata compared to Gambo, and likewise compare the shape of Gambo's head to that of Liopleurodon. (Images again from wikipedia)

Likewise, it can't be a mosasaur because, even if they're body shapes DID match, we have fossils showing that mosasaurs had scaly skin, unlike the smooth skin reported in Gambo.

So what candidates DO we have left? After searching the internet for other candidates, I came across a page on wikipedia about a rather obscure group of plesiosaurs called the Polycotylidae. Here's the definition from wikipedia:

Polycotylidae is a family of plesiosaurs from the Cretaceous, a sister group to the Leptocleididae.

With their short necks and large elongated heads, they resemble the pliosaurs, but closer phylogenetical studies indicate that they share many common features with the plesiosauridae and elasmosauridae. They have been found worldwide, with specimens reported from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Morocco, the USA, Canada, the former states of the USSR and South America.[1] In 2010, Thililua was transferred to Leptocleididae.

I began searching for images of these creatures and was immediately struck by the similarity to Gambo and the Ambon sea-serpent.

The Polycotylid Trinacromerum (left) and the Ambon sea-serpent (right). Note in particular the shape of the head.

Gambo (left) compared with the skeleton of Dolichorhynchops (right) from wikipedia...

...and with a reconstruction of a living "Dolly" from National Geographic. Note the shape of the head of "Dolly" compared to the shape of Gambo's head.

Gambo by Pristichampsus (Tim Morris) at, compared to Edgarosaurus from wikipedia.

One reason why a Polycotylid would be a good candidate is their size. Dolichorhynchops grew 12 to 15 feet long; Gambo was reported as being 15 feet long. Also, Gambo was reported as having smooth skin. We know from fossils of the plesiosaur Attenborosaurus that plesiosaurids had smooth skin; it is therefore inferable that the closely related polycotylids would have also been smooth-skinned. Admittedly, tooth count is still a problem; Gambo still has twice as many teeth as fossil polycotylids do. Likewise, fossil polycotylids had nostrils located near the eyes, as opposed to the end of the snout. However, because the general anatomy of a polycotylid fits with Gambo and the Ambon sea-serpent, I am willing to dismiss these discrepancies as minor problems.

I propose, then, that the smaller Marine Saurians, such as Gambo, the Ambon creature, and the Java creature, represent a form of surviving polycotylid plesiosaur. I also propose that they are removed from the larger Marine Saurian group and are put in their own new category, one closer to the long-necked sea-serpent.

Please write back with your thoughts, criticism, and any corrections needed. I hope this may help in clearing up the identity of Gambo and kin.


Tyler Stone

To which I replied that this sounded like a very good case to call an invocation of Occam's Razor and therefore I was in favor of making the adjustments to all future versions. I mentioned that Pliosaurs were regularly included as candidates for Marine Saurian reports by other authors and that the thought that some reports could be Polycotylids had occured to me before along with the possibility that some of the larger Marine Saurian reports could be something like Liopleurodon, but I chose not to mention that on the blogs (mostly to simplify things) However in this case, I second the motions that Tyler has advanced. Against the idea we have the possible objections that the reconstructions of Gambo show the flippers too short and the tail too long to be one of these Plesiosaurs, but the reconstructions are only rough guides and not the productions of actual eyewitnesses.

Polycotylids are some of the more recent Plesiosaurs and actually an offshoot of the longer-necked Plesiosaurs like Elasmosaurs, and which became shorter-necked secondarily. By doing this, they became faster and more manoeverable, and so they gained a competetive edge. And I have heard of Freshwater Monsters that might also fit the same description: some people have spoken of them as "Nothosaurs" but up to now the best explanation has been that they were the young of the longer-necked Plesiosaur-shaped creatures, but which had not grown the longer necks. Their distribution is irregular but on the other hand they are alleged to be captured fairly often (The 4 foot long creature Sir Arthur Conan Doyle saw off Greece and called either a "Plesiosaur" or an "Ichthiosaur" on different occasions could be one, and if so, the shape would be the reason why he had a confusing use of labels for it. He said he had heard of something similar being caught in a net off Australia. That could also be useful information.)

Best Wishes, Dale D.

[PS, Pristichampsus AKA Tim Morris has granted me permission to use his images from Deviant Art. Just in case anybody is wondering about that part.]