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Summer's coming, will serpent Caddy come too? Conclusion

In January 1852, the Yankee whaler Monongahela captured a creature more than 100 feet long and 50 feet in diameter in the South Pacific after a two-day battle.

Those who scoff at the existence of the Loch Ness Monster have yet to explain the

experience of the trawler Rival when crossing fabled Loch Ness in December 1954.

The vessel's electronic echosounder, used for charting schools of fish, outlined a 50-foot-long creature swimming beneath them. The chart, carefully inspected by authorities, was declared to be authentic. They agreed that the Rival had encountered something unknown to science; just what, they couldn't say.

For all of the disbelievers, the monster has many advocates, including scientists, journalists, photographers and tourists who flock to the Scottish Highlands each summer in hopes of sighting the legendary serpent.

The chance discovery many years ago of a ship's nameplate on an Aleutian Island's rocky shore wrote the final, unanswered chapter of one of the greatest puzzles involving sea serpents. The plate was all that ever was recovered from the New Bedford whaler Monongahela which vanished in 1852 - after capturing a sea monster.

In January of that year the Monongahela had come upon a strange creature floundering in the South Pacific. More than 100 feet long, and 50 feet in diameter (larger than the whaler which killed it after a hectic, two-day battle), the animal was beyond belief. Fortunately for history, another ship, the Rebecca Sims, arrived on the scene and witnessed the monstrosity.

The Monongahela's crew signed a drawing of the creature made by one of the crew and gave it to the homeward-bound Sims. Before the whalers separated, the captors chopped off the 10-foot-thick head and preserved it in a large pickling vat.

The Rebecca Sims later docked safely and handed over the unusual document to authorities. But the Monongahela carried her weird trophy into oblivion.

A mysterious carcass driven onto a Tasmanian beach during a violent gale in 1960 drew worldwide interest and questions from the Australian Parliament. Flown in by helicopter, government scientists examined the unknown creature. A year later, all they could agree upon was its size.

Years before, "Tubby, the Toothless Sea Monster" had excited Delake, Ore., residents when its rotting corpse washed ashore. Described as "hairy, four-tailed and long dead," Tubby was not only monstrous in size but grotesque in appearance. He, she, it was "about four feet

across with four hairless, tapering tails, ranging from three to 16 feet long". Its "globe-like" body appeared to be covered with hair but officials were most intrigued by a reference to its underside as being covered with "feathers".

Scientists rushed to the scene but their conclusions, if any, weren't reported.

Farther north, near Aberdeen, Wa., another strange creature drifted onto the beach at Point Brown, Grays Harbour. Almost 24 feet long, this monster had a "lengthy neck, a body equipped with flippers and a vertebramarked tail". Again, State Fisheries Dept. officials investigated and, again, their conclusions weren't reported.

Although the Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (the studies of fish and snakes) went on record, in 1963, as declaring all sea serpents to be "myths," one renowned biologist emphatically disagreed. In fact, Dr. Robert J. Menzies of the University of South California not only believed they exist, he has fished for them. It's his theory they're to be found in the great ocean trench south of the Isthmus of Panama and along the Chilean coast.

Financed by a $23,500 National Science Foundation grant in 1961, he trolled for the elusive serpents from his little craft, El Nino. On one expedition, he dropped a sturdy steel hook almost two feet long, and baited with squid on a three-mile-long line. The resulting "strike" jolted his vessel and straightened his hook!

The sighting by HMS Fly in the 19th century is one of the more improbable yet most authentic. Capt. the Honourable George Hope reported to the Admiralty that he'd spotted a monster in the clear waters of the Gulf of California. In describing the creature in vivid detail, he upset the accepted facts of the science of his day. Experts incredulously conceded that Capt. Hope had described an ichthyosaur - which lived in the age of the dinosaur and became extinct more than 100 million years ago.

In 1938, a lungfish (latimera) was dredged up off the South African coast. As with the ichthyosaur, this fish is believed to have been extinct for aeons.

Which, of course, makes Capt. Hope's experience and the lungfish impossibilities - like the coelacanth that was caught off Mozambique in 1964. According to the experts, it, too, vanished from existence, 50 million years Giant oarfish may explain many sightings ago!

Getting back to our very own Caddy whose sightings have been unkindly attributed to conger eels, humpback whales, elephant seals, basking sharks, pipefish and sea lions. There's one plausible possibility. The giant oarfish, aka King of Herring (Regalscus glesne), can reach 17 metres in length, weigh up to 300 kg and sports a "red mane" (which matches some eyewitness reports) on its head and back which resembles the head and mane of a horse.

"They're long and silver and they undulate like a serpent would as they swim through the water," says H.J. Walker of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography which has several oarfish in its collection.

Of the nine purported carcasses of sea serpents recovered in B.C. waters, 1930-1963 (including a 24-footer with flippers, frozen in the ice near Valdex, Al.), several have been formally identified as basking sharks, a fetal baleen whale, a Baird's beaked whale and an elephant seal.