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Monday, September 28, 2015

Sea Serpent Carcasses - Or is There a Simpler Explanation? Examining Some Undoubtably Odd Remains

Following my recent post about a mysterious picture of a strange looking carcass supposedly found at Loch Ness, but which turned out to be nothing of the sort, I am going to take a look at some other supposed sea serpent carcasses.

Lots of carcasses said to be those of "sea serpents" have found over the years, but many have turned out not to be from something unknown. (Sometimes, though, previously unknown creatures wash up on beaches.) And a few still defy explanation.

Some of these carcasses appeared many years ago, but some have been found in more recent times. A few have caused quite a stir in the scientific community, a stir that usually ends in some scientist(s) being humiliated because they thought they found a real sea monster.

Now, lets take a look at some sea serpent carcasses, or, should I say "supposed" sea serpent carcasses!

THE NADEN HARBOR CADBOROSAURUS

This carcass is one that many people believe to be a genuine carcass of a Cadborosaurus.
Photo of the Naden Harbor Carcass

Retrieved from the stomach of a sperm whale in Naden Harbor, in BC in 1937, the carcass has a serpentine body and a had that looks like a camel's. Workers where it was found thought it should be documented, so it was laid out on a table and boxes with a white sheet covering them and was photographed. Several photos were taken, one appearing in a book, Whalers No More, labeled as "a sea oddity." The photo was obtained from a folder of 38 (not all of Caddy) attributed to G.V. Boorman. It and the other photos had this description:

"The remains of a Sperm Whale's Lunch, a creature of reptilian appearance 10 ft 6 in in length with animal-like vertebrae and a tail similar to that of a horse. The head resembles a large dog with features of a horse and the turn down nose of a camel."

The Naden Harbor carcass is said to have been packed up in salt and sent for study. No one has seen it since, though.

Whatever the creature is in the Naden Harbor photos, it does not resemble any known animal. What it does resemble, though, are descriptions of Caddy the sea serpent. The creature in the photo is considered to be a Caddy by many, and even has been given the scientific name Cadborosaurus willsi. 
Another photo of the carcass

The Naden Harbor carcass is one of a real unknown animal. But, as we shall soon see, most other sea serpent carcasses turn out to be nothing of the sort.

THE CAMP FIRCOM CARCASS - ANOTHER CADDY?

The Naden Harbor carcass is not the only one of a supposed Cadborosaurus. Another turned up in Camp Fircom, but, as we shall see, it is not as mysterious as the other Caddy carcass.

In his most recent book, A Manifestation of Monsters: Examining the (Un)Usual Suspects, Dr. Karl Shuker had an entire chapter on this "Caddy carcass," but it turned out to be something totally different.

There were two photos, with the information "Postcard depicting an unusual marine carcass, possibly a Caddy,  that was found on the beach at Camp Fircom, British Columbia, on 4 Ocotber 1936. That is, a year before the Naden Harbor carcass was found in the stomach of a sperm whale.

Caption says "Caddy Comes to Camp Ficom,
Oct. 4 1936."
Another view of the "Caddy"

The pictures appear to show something with a long, serpentine body, flippers, and a large head. Shuker had been sent these pictures by Janet Bord of the Fortean Picture Library back in the 1990s while working on his book The Unexplained, but due to deadlines for when the book had to be finished, he couldn't include them.

After showing the pictures to some other cryptozoologists, and after many years of only getting little (if any) attention, it was discovered that the picture was definitely not a Cadborosaurus. Some thought it might be a shark. It turned out to only be an assortment of debris made to look like a sea serpent.

A sea serpent that turned out not to be a sea serpent. And it isn't the only one.

A DEAD MONSTER AT LOCH NESS? NO, AND NO.



In 2010, my grandma got me a book called Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Creatures of the Deep. It is not about sea monsters as cryptids, but is about prehistoric creatures that lived during the Mezozoic Era, or the Age of the Dinosaurs. It does, however, have four pages on Nessie. And, on one of these pages is a picture that has bugged me for five years. All the information on it is a caption that says "A mysterious carcass washed ashore at Loch Ness."
Picture I took of the photo in Sea Monsters

I had an earlier (September 20) post on this blog devoted to that picture (see it here), and on September 22 sent an email about it to cryptozoologist Karl Shuker. On September 23, he replied with an answer to the mystery.

Here's what he said:

"Re the carcase above: Everhart is mistaken - this carcase wasn't found washed ashore at Loch Ness at all. Instead, it was found washed ashore at Girvan, on the coast of West Scotland, on 15 August 1953, and was found to be a decaying basking shark. I am attaching herewith a much clearer version of the photo of it. Hope this helps."

Help it did! Thank's Karl!
A Girvan basking shark, not a Nessie!
Thanks to Karl Shuker for this clearer photo.

So, after five years I have an answer to this mystery - the carcass of a "Nessie" was not a Nessie at all, and wasn't even from Loch Ness. It didnt come as a surprise, though.

A SEA SERPENT IN RUSSIA - OR NOT

In early July, I had a post on here about a "sea serpent" carcass that was found in Russia.
Is this a "sea serpent" in Russia?

The remains of the thing looked decidedly odd, and it is no surprise that people thought it was a sea monster! The Siberian Times website described the carcass:

"Judging from the remains the creature was giant and about twice the length of a human, and it had a huge nose like a bird's beak."
Another photo of the carcass

Photos of the carcass, which also seemed to be covered in "hair," caused quite a stir on cryptozoology websites. Theories for what it may be ranged from a dolphin of some sort, and others thought it was a beaked whale. Cryptomundo commenter Cryptokellie said this:

"This is the remains of a large beaked whale, perhaps Bairds Beaked Whale or some other similar species. The 'hair' of course is the fibrous structure when the skin and blubber break down and decompose. This would be a small specimen since the largest beaked whales can reach over 40 feet in length and weigh over 12 tons. No mystery here." 
Beaked Whales

Cryptokellie, you're absolutely right. No sea serpent here, just a whale!

GLOBSTERS

"Globsters" is the name given to unidentified remains, lots of times supposed "sea serpents", found around the world. Some Globsters have bones, while others do not, some have tentacles, flippers, eyes, or other things.
St. Augustine Monster, 1896

Most of the time, Globsters have been thought to be from giant octopuses, but they always turn out to be something different, like masses of whale blubber or something of the sort. There are many notable Globsters throughout the years, including these, which are listed on wikipedia:


  • Carcass at Santa Maria del Mar, Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Stronsay Beast (1808)
  • New River Inlet Carcass (1885)
  • St. Augustine Monster (1896)
  • Trunko (1924)
  • Dunk Island Carcass (1948)
  • Gulf of Alaska Carcass (1956)
  • Melbourne-Hobart Carcass (1958)
  • Tasmanian Globster (1960)
  • Hamai Beast (1963)
  • New Zealand Globster (1968)
  • Tecoluta Carcass (1969)
  • Tasmanian Globster 2 (1970)
  • Mann Hill Beach Globster (1970)
  • Gambo (1983)
  • Bermuda Blob (1988)
  • Godthaab Globster (1989)
  • Hebrides Blob (1990)
  • North Carolina Globster (1996)
  • Nantucket Blob (1996)
  • Bermuda Blob 2 (1997)
  • Four Mile Globster (1997)
  • Newfoundland Blob (2001)
  • Chilean Blob (2003)
Some Globsters are found to be decaying sperm whales or something of the sort, but some still go unexplained. Many more will probably be found in the future.

New Zealand Globster, 1968.
30 feet long and 8 feet high
The Chilean Blob, 2003.
Weighed 14 tons and was 39 feet across.
DNA from it matched a sperm whale.


MONTAUK MONSTER

A strange carcass very unlike all of the others featured in this post washed ashore in Montauk, New York, in July 2008. On July 23, a newspaper, The Independent, reported the discovery of the remains, found on July 12 by Jenna Hewitt and three friends. Hewitt described how they found it:


We were looking for a place to sit when we saw some people looking at something... We didn't know what it was... We joked that maybe it was something from Plum Island." 
The Montauk Monster

The news article speculated that the remains could be of a turtle or a mutant experiment from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. It turned out to be neither of these.

The East Hampton Natural Resources Director, Larry Penny, concluded that the carcass was that of a raccoon with its upper jaw missing.

Things weren't solved, though. Soon after it was reported, the carcass was gone. Jenna Hewitt said that "a guy took it and put it in the woods in his backyard." She would not say who took the carcass or where it was taken. Another anonymous resident said the animal was the size of a cat and had decomposed so nothing remained but the skeleton by the time the press covered it.

The carcass made lots of media coverage in the following days. On July 29, 2008, cryptozoologist Loren Coleman posted about it on Cryptomundo and coined the term "Montauk Monster."

So what was the monster? Some said a turtle without a shell, a dog, a raccoon, or even a sheep! Some thought it was a mutant from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Others thought the whole ting was fake. The most popular explanation is the raccoon theory.


THE ZUIYO MARU MONSTER

On April 25, 1977, the Japanese fishing traveler Zuiyo Maru caught something very strange in the trawl. The crew of the ship was convinced they had hauled up the remains of an unknown animal, but the captain decided to throw it back in the ocean so it did not spoil the other caught fish.

The crew did make sketches and took a photo of the carcass, which they were calling "Nessie" before they got rid of it. They also took skin and fin samples. They reported that it weighed 1,800 kg and was about thirty feet long. There were no internal organs, but flesh and fat remained on the carcass. It did not have a dorsal fin.
Zuiyo Maru Monster

After the crew returned, a "plesiosaur-craze" hit Japan, and other ships were sent out to try to locate the remains again. They had no luck, however, and the Zuiyo Maru carcass was lost.

Though the excitement of the thought that the Zuiyo Maru crew had hauled up a plesiosaur, this monster, like most of the others here, turned out to be a decomposing basking shark after DNA tests were done.

THE STRONSAY BEAST

In 1808, a 55-foot carcass washed ashore on the island of Stronsay, in the Orkney Islands, Scotland.
Drawing of the Stronsay Beast

Part of the tail was missing, which would have made the carcass a little longer than it actually was. The Natural History Society of Edinburgh examined the carcass and could not identify it, so they thought it was a real sea serpent. Scottish anatomist John Barclay gave it the scientific name Halsydrus pontoppidani ("Pontoppidan's sea snake") after Erik Pontoppidan, who had, a century before, published a two-volume work on sea serpents called The Natural History of Norway, in which he argued for the existence of the kraken, sea serpent, and mermaid.
Erik Pontoppidan

But, as it turned out, the Natural History Society was wrong. They did not have a Halsydrus pontoppidani on their hands.

Later examinations came to the conclusion that the Stronsay Beast was (guess what) nothing more than a decomposing basking shark. Its carcass was also made of cartilage, not bone, supporting this conclusion.
Another drawing

SEA SERPENTS, SHARKS, AND WHALES

Now that we've looked at reports of several "sea serpent" carcasses, we will look into what they really are.

Here's a list of what the "Sea Serpents" turned out to be:

Naden Harbor Cadborosaurs - Unkonwn, "Cadborosaurus willsi"
Camp Fircom Caddy - Debris positioned to look like a sea serpent
Loch Ness Monster Carcass - dead basking shark in Girvan, Scotland
Russian Sea Serpent - beaked whale
Globsters - mostly remains of sperm whales and the like, although a few are thought to be something different
Montauk Monster - most likely a dead raccoon or something of the sort
Zuiyo Maru Monster - basking shark
Stronsay Beast - basking shark


Most of the "sea serpent" carcasses discussed in this post are not sea serpents. The Stronsay Beast, Montauk Monster, Russian sea monster, most Globsters, Camp Fircom Caddy,  Zuiyo Maru Monster, and "Loch Ness Monster" carcasses turned out to be something totally different than what initially assumed to be.  I do feel that the Naden Harbor Cadborosaurus is just that - a real Cadborosaurus.

Lots of these carcasses were assumed to be plesiosaurs or something of the sort because that's what they looked like. But, if you are someone like me who has read lots of stuff on sea serpents, you'll know that a decomposed basking shark skeleton can look like a dead plesiosaur. Below are two pictures showing how this happens.

Basking shark + decomposition = plesiosaur!


Every time I hear of a new "sea serpent" carcass found someplace I always get a little excited. But, I know that it isn't going to be a sea serpent. As you've seen in this post, only one of the eight "sea serpent" carcasses is actually thought to be a sea serpent. The rest of them, well, just aren't.

Keep this information in mind the next time you see something about a dead sea serpent. Although I believe that many unknown creatures live in the oceans of the world, lots of times remains thought to be of them are something already "known to science." But, sometimes previously unknown creatures wash up on beaches. I know some whales have been discovered this way. Maybe someday one of the sea serpents sailors told stories about will be found on a beach, too. It just might happen!

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