In May 1963, a Manitoba visitor made headlines when she snapped two photos of a “sea serpent” cavorting in Mill Bay.
In 1954 it was suggested that a committee be formed of three “responsible citizens” to investigate reported, and continuing, sightings of Victoria’s renowned Cadborosaurus.
It was the serpent of Cowichan Lake that made news copy in 1959, with 81-year-old fisherman A.E. Johnston of Honeymoon Bay claiming to have battled the monster for four hours until his 60-pound fishing line snapped. Undaunted, he returned to the scene with 500 feet of three-eighths-inch manila rope and three-inch-long hooks, but was unsuccessful in staging a replay.
The northernmost sighting of a sea serpent, one that supports Alaska’s claims to having its own version of Caddy, was reported, appropriately enough, on Halloween, 1931. Salvors working on the hull of the steamship Islander, sunk in Lynn Canal with great loss of life and a reputed fortune in gold after striking an iceberg 30 years earlier, had reported a strange “sea crocodile.” Divers had seen “…huge foot tracks on the bottom about two feet apart and the mark where a great tail had been dragged along…Something was lurking in the gloom but suddenly vanished in a flash of phosphorescence…”
A salvage official said, “We found afterwards that the brute was living inside the wreck, but we never got a good look at it. It’s something like a sea crocodile.”
Apparently the creature vacated the premises as, when her hull was finally hauled ashore, there was no sign of the Islander’s mysterious occupant.
One of the least known, and most vivid sightings, is that of commercial fisherman George W. Saggers, of Port Albion, V.I. Trolling out of Ucluelet in November 1947, the fishing veteran of 20 years encountered a serpent about two miles southwest of Amphitrite Point. In his sworn statement he said, “Suddenly I had the funniest feeling. A sort of shiver went up and down my spine, and I had a feeling that I was being watched. Immediately, I straightened up and looked all around.”
He had a visitor. About 150 feet off his port side, “a head and neck” peered from the waves, its “jet black eyes, about three inches across and protruding from the head like a couple of buns,” watching him curiously. What struck Saggers most forcibly was the fact that, despite a considerable ground swell that would rock any object on or near the surface, the creature wasn’t affected; meaning that, like an iceberg, there was “plenty of it underwater”. Concluded Saggers, “I hearby swear that the above statement is a true account of my experience.”
Perhaps the greatest blow to Caddy’s prestige was the exposed hoax of May 1963. A Manitoba visitor, Nettie Ross, had innocently snapped two photos of a “sea serpent” cavorting in Mill Bay. “It was black, or a dark colour. It looked like an animal and dipped its head several times as it floated along in the bay.”
Unfortunately, old tires, inner tubes and driftwood do not a monster make. It was revealed that several residents had constructed the apparition as a practical joke on participants of an annual convention of druggists, drug salesmen and physicians. The prank received nationwide attention before it was torpedoed by newsmen.
Other provinces have claimed their own serpents. In 1957 biologist Vadim Vladikov reported to his superiors in Quebec’s Dept. of Game and Fisheries that, “without any doubt,” the monster of Lake Beheneamook was real. (With a name like that, perhaps anything could be expected.) This creature, the proud “property” of St. Eleuthere village, was variously christened “the animal of the lake,” “the monster,” “the crocodile” and the “seacow.” Generally spotted during summer months, residents agreed that it was between 12 and 18 feet long and described its back – they hadn’t seen its head – as “an overturned canoe with a saw-toothed fin down the centre”.
A similar investigation was conducted in 1961 by Prof. J.A. McLeod of the University of Manitoba, who returned from Lake Manitoba convinced that “there is something there”. He’d interviewed witnesses who reported having sighted a monster, and concluded that, “there appeared to be a beast which left a wake at least eight feet behind its head”.
Probably the world’s best known serpent is the fabulous Loch Ness Monster of Scotland, known far and wide as “Nessie.” The average depth of murky Loch Ness is 433 feet; in many places it’s much deeper. Numerous caves and strong currents near the bottom “often prevent drowned victims from floating up, hence the tradition that the loch never gives up its dead”. Or its secrets, for that matter.
The legend goes back all the way to the fifth century when St. Columbia supposedly saved a Pict from “being devoured by a monster”. But it was a newspaper reporter, John Mackay, who brought the creature to the world’s attention.
Supposedly trapped in the loch when its connection with the sea was cut off centuries ago, the monster has inspired countless “eyewitness accounts.” In 1933, innkeeper Janet Fraser said, “It had a head shaped like a snake’s, and as big as a horse’s with a long neck, in the middle of which there were two large flippers. I can only describe its eyes as being like motorcar lamps.”
In 1962 the London Observer financed an expedition to track the creature. The first attempt used a sailboat “to silently sneak close enough…to take photographs”. The second, led by two Cambridge University undergraduates, used Norwegian-made echo sounders “so sensitive they can detect a frogman swimming 500 yards away”. Neither was successful.
A former official of the British Museum of Natural History, Dr. Maurice Burton, devoted 30 years’ exhaustive research into the stories of sightings and concluded that the Loch Ness Monster was a case of mistaken identity, its reputed head and humps “a parent otter followed by pups”.
(To be continued) www.twpaterson.com