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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Little Lithuanian Dragons

I thought this was interesting: an internet art-collector's site was advertising this dish as being a piece of Lithuanian Folk art, depicting "Dragons and other legendary monsters"
Except for the addition of the uselessly short stubby wings, the two larger creatures shown on the plate seem to be pretty good representations of giant salamanders such as are known to live in Japan and China. From some descriptions of "Small (2-foot-long to 4-5 foot-long) four-legged dragons" we had already come to suspect the presence of giant salamanders as water monsters and legendarily as dragons in and around Lithuania (Smij, Ukis / Pukys / Puhkis / Puk / Puuk /Pisuhand / Puik and Tulihand in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Karelia, said to bring luck if they live on your farm but they can bring disaster if displeased. They can deliver material goods to the farmer's benefit, but the goods will have been stolen from neighbours. Source: Giants, Monsters, and Dragons)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Biofortean Review Article: Did a Sea Serpent Kill a Man?

BioFortean Review, (May 2007, No. 11)

Did a Sea Serpent Kill a Man?

Craig Heinselman

Lord of the Sea in Madagascar, what Europeans call a Leviathan

"I never saw a set of people so prone to sea serpent yarns as the New England coast fishermen and sailors. Those chaps have a sea serpent tale to spring with the advent of each season, and there are generally two or three of them who agree on the one story, which arrangement sort of gives the tale standing before the public. Now, if all these sea serpents, real or imaginary, that have appeared from time to time along the New England coast were corralled and placed out there in this fine river of yours there wouldn’t be room for the shipping to get to the docks. But I’m not throwing stones at the New England sailors or attempting to cast reflection upon their veracity, for I have a sea serpent story myself to hand out, and if you care for the narrative I’ll let you have it.” So begins the story of one G.H. Hight, a “promoter, mining engineer, prospector, and globe trotter…” one night in late February of 1909 in the lobby of the New Denechaud Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In the fall of 1889, Hight was in Madagascar looking over some plantation property. During his stay he traveled the area, and for several weeks stayed in a town called Majanga (Mahajanga) located at the northern end of the Bambataska Bay (Bombetoka Bay). It was in that location that Hight and two companions, an Englishman, Cane, and a Frenchman, Laselle, encountered a serpentine creature in the bay. Their story, as relayed by G.H. Hight is as follows.

One morning the village was thrown into a state of great excitement. Several natives came to the government house, where Cane and I sat on the broad gallery with Laselle, and began to jabber away at a terrible rate in their queer lingo. Laselle understood the language as well as he did his native tongue or English, and we saw at once that he was very much interested.
"The native who acted as spokesman had a fund of very eloquent and expressive gestures. He repeatedly motioned toward the sea, and , with his arms extended, worked his hands up and down, and curved and twisted his body with the skill and ease of a contortionist. The whole village gathered around to hear the statement, whatever it was, that was being made, and as the spokesman crossed his arms, making a hideous face at the same time and emitting from between his clenched teeth a sort of bellow, several women in the front row of the crowd howled dismally, fell to the ground, rolled over and over, beat their breasts, and tore out their hair. "With an imperious sweep of his hand and a few guttural words, Laselle dismissed the villagers and then, turning to us, said in French, “Serpent de mer!” He saw that we were still in the dark, having small knowledge of the Johnny Crapaud talk, and resorting to his excellent command of English, gave us an astonishing bit of information. The natives have seen a great serpent down in the bay, he said, and the monster overturned a boat and gobbled up one of the fishermen.

From the statement made by the villagers it seems that four of them were out in the bay fishing in one of their long bark canoes. They were a quarter of a mile or so from shore, and were just about to head in toward the beach when the water at the stern was violently agitated, and above the surface was thrust an awful serpentine head about the size of a hogshead.

"The head had rounded sides, but was inclined to flatness at the top, and there was a bony ridge, like a crest, extending from the point between the eyes to the neck. About five feet of the neck and body of the serpent protruded from the water, and the horrible-stricken natives were close enough to see that the monster was a dark greenish shade and was covered with scales with size of a silver dollar. The eyes of the snake were set far apart and were glazed over like the eyes of a fish, and on the whole he was a most fearsome sight "The fishermen with one accord plunged their paddles into the water and sped their light craft toward the shore, but as they did so the serpent lowered its head, plunged beneath the sea and came up in an instant in hot pursuit of the boat. The waters of the bay were violently agitated as the huge coils of an undulating movement appeared and disappeared above the surface, and to the frightened eyes of the natives the snake looked to be a hundred feet in length and thicker than a large barrel.

"When the boat was still some distance from the sloping beach the serpent overtook it, and, seizing its frail stern in its foam dripping jaws, raised it clear of the water and sent its four screaming occupants floundering in the bay. The natives as they struck the water heard the cracking of the bark as the sides of their canoes were ground to pieces in those terrible jaws.
The men were all good swimmers and raced through the bay as thought water was their natural element, but, the awful presence behind them steadily lessened the slight lead the fugitives had, and in a moment a scream of agony was heard as the serpent claimed a victim. The native who had told the story to our party was in the lead at the time, and his feet were just beginning to touch the sloping sandy shelf. He instinctively turned and saw a sight that he will never forget. The serpent’s head reached eight or ten feet above the water on an arching neck, and struggling in his jaws was one of the unfortunate boatmen. The cruel teeth had fastened in his flesh and blood in solid streams dripped from the snake’s jaws. Even as the first native looked the victim seemed to double up, his head met his feet and his whole body disappeared in the cavernous mouth of the monster, drawn inward by some powerful suction in the serpent’s mouth.

"The monster, after its disgusting meal, shook itself violently, remained motionless for a moment, as though its appetite was satisfied, and then darted in after another victim. But the brief pause the monster made had given the three survivors the bare time to gain the shallows and run up the beach. The snake paused when it encountered the bottom, emitted a bull-like bellow from its blood-dripping jaws, turned in a sweeping circle and sped out to sea. That was the substance of the story the native told, and the motions he went through were descriptive of the movement of the serpent and the struggles of the victims. The women who had made the display of grief were the wife, mother, and sister of the dead man.

"Well, the whole village went down to the beach and followed the sandy stretch for a mile or more in the direction of the channel, vainly scanning the waters for a glimpse of the serpent. We three white men, each with an improved elephant bore rifle in the bellow of his arm, led the procession, and for a time we were greatly disappointed at not getting a glimpse of the serpent.

"Finally one of the natives called out attention to the commotion in the water about a third of a mile from shore, and snatching Laselle’s strong glasses from his hand, I trained them on the spot. The bay was very calm, but at the spot where my gaze rested the waters were tossing and tumbling about as though over a volcano. ‘There’s something there!’ I cried; and hardly had the words left my mouth when something rose above the surface and the water eddied and boiled like a maelstrom. The something was the head of an enormous serpent and as I passed the glasses back to Laselle and raised my gun I said, with a catch in my breath, ‘The n****r didn’t exaggerate’. The serpent was very plain, even to the naked eye, and all the natives set up weird cried, and, running back and forth on the beach waved their fists at the monster, cursing it in their strange jargon and some few even hurled javelins at it in their impotent fury.

"The snake must have heard the noise, for it started in our direction, and then, to our unspeakable surprise, lowered its head and swam closer to shore, evidently intending to attack us. It came to within several hundred yards of where we stood, coil after coil of its great length rising and falling on the water, looking for all the world like some fabled dragon of antiquity. Its course was stopped, however, at the shallows, and it contented itself with lashing about in the water and bellowing furiously like a great bull.

Gentlemen, I am not drawing on my imagination one iota when I tell you that the head of that animal, fish, or reptile, call it what you will, was as big as a hogshead, just as the natives had described the thing to us. Once or twice it opened its mouth and we saw four great pronglike teeth, and a smaller row of grinders, which convinced us that the thing was large enough to swallow a man easily. I noticed one thing that the native, in his fright, had overlooked. Attached to the monster, several feet from its head, were thick bristles in two rows that might have served for fins.

We were able to get a good idea of the serpent’s size as it tried to navigate in the shallows, and it tried to navigate in the shallows, and it could not have been less than 100 feet in length. I was about to fire at the thing, but seeing it coming in toward shore waited for a closer range. The natives for the best part fled like sheep before a leopard upon the snake’s approach, and only Laselle, Cane and myself were close to the water’s edge.

We could see that the serpent was endeavoring to feel its way up the incline beneath the water, and as it curved and splashed about churned the bay into foam. It was then our time, and raising our rifles simultaneously we fired. The huge bulk made a splendid target for our guns and our shots must have connected. But to our astonishment the serpent only splashed and struggled more to get through the water to us, and it seemed altogether unhurt. Had we been aiming at a rhinoceros the beg beast would have certainly toppled over, but the sea snake had a shot proof hide, and nothing short of an eight-pound shell would have fixed its clock.

"We stood there for an hour or more watching the serpent and wasting shot on it, and finally the monster, as though despairing of ever reaching is, turned about and raced madly out to sea. We could see it diving and circling as it went, and we watched it until it was only a speck on the distant horizon.
"I left Majanga a few days later, and the next year I received a long letter from my friend Laselle. The serpent, he wrote, had been seen in the bay twice after my departure, and a week or so later it made its appearance at the southern end of the Mozambique Channel. Whether it ever was seen again I cannot say. Yes, gentlemen, I am one of the few men who have used a sea serpent for a target, and if you doubt my word just pen a line to Laselle in far off Majanga; he will corroborate every word I have said.

"Why should we doubt sea serpents, I’d like to know? The seas cover two-thirds of the earth, and they are big enough and deep enough to hide any number of mysteries."

A fanciful tale of newspaper fiction aimed at drawing it the readers during popularized times of the sea serpent? Or perhaps a real life encounter embellished for flavor? That is the question one must ask after reading such a story which includes elements of travelers tales, pulp adventure and specific anatomic details.

Pulp adventures, so named based on the inexpensive paper they were printed on, started in the late 1800’s, and ran strong for over 50 years. Authors as diverse as Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Robert W. Chambers flourished in this new medium of creativity, each in turn creating new realms and lands. The stories from this period in literary history were a mix of love, war, western, mystery, horror and science-fiction; they touched on the changing world and the culture it was breathing life into. Explorers searched the globe for new wonders, and tantalizing mysteries from the far corners of the globe beckoned the romantic zoologist or explorer. Pulp fostered stories of exploration, mystery and the unknown lands and animals present.

Such a story as detailed by G.H. Hight fits within the definition of a pulp story. We have the exotic land and locales, the intrepid explorer and hunter who has traveled the world, and the solid and steady calm of a military man. Mix in a comrade and others like himself, and an extraordinary event, and the story reads like a first-person narrative written by any number of classic pulp authors. The reader is propelled, and feels as if they are there in the hotel in New Orleans hearing it first hand, the sections transfer smoothly and the end result is a captivating tale of wonder.

But, is this a short coming to exclude the tale from the annals of sea-serpent evaluations? After all, any number of stories and tales can be read in such a manner: compelling and narrative in form. The entry in The Washington Herald for Sunday, March 7, 1909, is not attributed to G.H. Hight, rather an unnamed correspondent out of New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 6, 1909. Is it therefore a mix of reality and fallacy?

In order to view the story's potential reality, a characteristic review omitting the romanticism must be done. Then, a comparison to other reports or historical anecdotes can be further reviewed. Therefore, as extracted from this 1909 newspaper account:

•Length of approximately 100 feet
•Rounded sides to the head with flatness at the top
•Bony ridge, like a crest, extending from between the eyes to the neck
•Dark greenish color
•Scales the size of silver dollars
•Far set eyes
•Glazed over eyes, like a fish
•Undulating motion
•Thicker than a large barrel
•Arching neck above the water (reaching eight to ten feet)
•Pronglike teeth with smaller grinding teeth also present
•Thick bristles in two rows several feet from its head
•Bullet-proof hide
•Consumed meal whole (human)
•Bellowing like a bull

  Those descriptions when reviewed alone offer some tantalizing behavioral and anatomic appearances, matching nothing known in nature. They present a chimera appearance, a mixture of characteristics from different animal groups, yet aspects are similar in description to other serpentine reports throughout the years: a long thick body undulating through the water with visible coils, potential fin-like appendages at the front, arching neck with the ability to be held above the water’s surface.

[This is a pretty good description of the really big Mosasaur, the Sea Dragon, Whale-eater or Leviathan type, and we can also furnish the additional detail that the head being held ten feet above the water is something like six feet thick and fifteen feet long. The description of the teeth as "Grinders" is inappropriate and does not match the usual reports of the type, where the teeth are often compared to those of a crocodile. In this case, I am treating the account as an ordinary sighting of the Sea-Serpent coupled with some wild local rumours that the creature had eaten a native, and that the report was only one step removed from Folklore.-DD]

The other portion of the cursory review is a connection to other accounts or anecdotes from the region or elsewhere. There is in fact a tale from Madagascar of a creature called the Tompondrano. Now the Tompondrano is a folkloric creature, and is the final step in the transformation of a worm according to the stories. Bernard Heuvelmans broke this down in his In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents as follows:
“The family tree of the tompondrano (or Lord-of-the-Sea) is more complicated. The worms that eat the entrails of a man of high caste turn into a special kind of snake, fananina. These grow to a prodigious size, and when they are too big to move on land, they dive in the sea where they become tompondrano.” [This is essentially the same origin as told for dragons in several parts of the world, leaving off the "high-caste" part-DD]
Dr. Georges Petit in his L’Industrie des Peches a Madagascar outlines the Tompondrano further and postulates a connection, perhaps, to an unknown sea-animal in the area. The description provided to Dr. Petit is as follows, again taken from Heuvelmans’ In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents.
“The Lord-of-the-Sea appears rarely. But he shows himself, whenever the time may be, by always moving against the wind. He is 70 to 80 feet long, and his wide flat body is covered with hard plates, rather like the bony armour on the back of a crocodile, but bigger. The tail is like a shrimp’s tail with its terminal flap. The mouth is ventral, the animal must turn on its back to attack. A sort of hood which the animal may raise and lower at will protects its eyes which look forwards but are placed well to the side. The head is luminous and shines light as it comes to the surface. It moves in vertical undulations. [There is an eyeglow under the right conditions and the wake can form the "String-of-buoys" effect. It is also said to blow like a whale sometimes when surfacing.-DD]

“Some Malagasies say the animal has no legs. Others say it has front flippers like a whale’s. Finally the body is striped in a longitudinal direction, with stripes of different colours, white, red, green or darker. It has no smell….”

While the accounts may not correspond completely between Dr. Petit’s Tompondrano description and GH Hight’s, they do have some intriguing similarities. Both describe a long, wide animal that moves with undulations. The Tompondrano is described as having an armor like that of a crocodile, while GH Hight notes that his bullets did not penetrate his serpents tough hide. Both have a description of off-set eyes, and a hood or crest in the area of the eyes. GH Hight describes potential fin-like appendages, while the Tompondrano is sometimes noted as having fins like a whale.

Circumstantial, granted, yet it does spark the idea that what GH Hight reported was the locally-named creature, Tompondrano. Some aspects can be fleshed further and supposition allowed to run a bit off its leash, yet without more data this becomes purely speculative.
The final piece of the puzzle falls in the realm of prey. GH Hight’s serpent consumed at least one man and appeared to be intent on consuming more men during the event in question. A severe sign of aggression, which is rare if unheard of in the realm of “sea-serpent” reports, yet not isolated completely. Edwin McCleary reported in an article within the May 1965 issue of Fate Magazine a first-hand account of a sea-serpent attack.
According to McCleary,...[Account excised as unreliable and irrelevant-DD]
G.H. Hight relayed an entertaining tale, and the author of the newspaper account should be congratulated for writing it up in such an eloquent manner. Was G.H. Hight real, and did the event occur, for now that must be set aside and we must simply remember the closing passage of that very same newspaper account:
"The seas cover two-thirds of the earth, and they are big enough and deep enough to hide any number of mysteries."

•Bille, Matt, Death by Sea Serpent?, Cryptomundo Blog, February 3, 2007
•Champagne, Bruce, A Classification System for Large, Unidentified Marine Animals Based on the Examination of Reported Observations, in Elementum Bestia, Crypto, Peterborough, New Hampshire 2007
•Champagne, Bruce, A Preliminary Evaluation of a Study of the Morphology, Behavior, Autoecology, and Habitat of Large, Unidentified Marine Animals, Based on Recorded Field Observations, in Dracontology Special Number I, Crypto, Francestown, New Hampshire, 2001
•Coleman, Loren and Hughe, Patrick, The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep,Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, New York, New York, 2003
•Eberhart, George M., Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, California, 2002
•Heuvelmans, Bernard, In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, Hill and Wang, New York, New York 1969
•Mangiacopra, Gary, The Great Unknowns of the 19th Century, Of Sea and Shore, 1975-1981
•Sea Serpent Eats Man, The Washington Herald, March 7, 1909
This article is reproduced under the terms of Fair Use and the mere reprinting of this article for educational purposes does not exceed the terms of Fair Use.

Kraken or Colossal Octopus=Colossal Squid

There has been some controversy about the giant squid as compared to the colossal squid as soon as it started becoming evident that the colossal one was the much larger of the two. The Colossal squid is most often found as an inhabitant of the southern oceans, a comparison of two kinds of squid from below is from the Wikipedia (Links added lower down page) I believe a confusion between the two has been going on for a long time: in particular, Denys de Montfort' Poulpe Colossal (Giant Octopus) seems to draw from the Colossal squid based on the comparison I made up above. The ship under attack was based on a report made in Angola, southern Africa and not far off from the Colossal squid's usual range around Antarctica (see map at bottom of this page.)

"Giant Octopus" supposedly attacking a ship in British service in the Indian ocean. The Colossal octopus was supposed to be larger and more aggressive than the giant squid and to fight with whales more often, and to be a more dangerous opponent. The carcass of a "Record octopus" found cast  ashore at Natal, South Africa, in 1924, was more than likely a colossal squid (Bernard Heuvelmans, In The Wake of The Sea-serpents, p. 73)  and therefore I wonder if the other record Thimble Tickle squid off Newfoundland in 1878 was not also a Colossal squid of a heretofore-unsuspected Northern population (Thimble Tickle squid in Heuvelmans, pp.63-65) The northern population would also have been the reason for the unusually large squids reported by Olaus Magnus in 1555 and at Arnarnaesvick, Iceland in 1790. (ibid, illustration p.59) and therefore it would be a mistake to say the giant squid was the origin for the myth of the Kraken. The Northern Colossal squid would be, but of course "Kraken" might have been vague enough to contain both species in casual references. Nonetheless, I do think we have evidence that points to at least the former existence of a Northern Colossal squid and that the myth of the Kraken was a reference to it (See map at the bottom of this article)
There are a few experts I am aware of that are willing to consider at least the former existence of a northern species of colossal squid but as yet nobody seems to have made a formal declaration of it, even as a Cryptid.

The Lord Geekington weighs in on giant, supergiant and Cryptid giant squids in the following article:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ludicrous Giant Squid Claims

Dear Constant Readers,

I imagine you thought the previous post [*Appended-DD] was a bit short, didn't you? This was originally the second half of my previous post; but because of divergent tone and topic, I felt obliged to split it up. Giant squid size, though controversial, is still in the realm of Zoology. But now we're going to go on a little adventure into the fringe world of Cryptozoology. Bernard Heuvelmans, the founder (of sorts) of Cryptozoology wrote a book on the giant squid; a condensed form of which appeared in his In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents. If you thought the reported giant squids bigger than O'Shea's likely maximum of a 2.25 m (7'5") mantle length were a little out're in for something.

Heuvelmans did indeed recognize that there was a disrepancy in the size of "modern" giant squid washing up and those that were reported from Newfoundland, and mentioned that some scientists considered the earlier reports to be exaggerated. Heuvelmans, however, thought he had a more modern account of a squid in the same size class. On October 25, 1924, a Mr. White and Mr. Strachan was a "record octopus" (with 10 appendages) laying on the beach near Baven-on-Sea, Natal, South Africa. White made an illustration, but admitted that the nature was poor. The illustrations have it a total width of 24 feet (7.3 m) outstretched, a total length (including mutilated tentacles) of 28 feet (8.5 m), a tentacle circumference of 8 feet (2.4 m), and a body width of 9 feet (2.75 m). Judging from the illustration it appeared the entire mantle fell off and the arms reduced to stumps, but Heuvelmans judged the total length to be...115 feet long (35) including outstretched tentacles! He himself admitted that it was mutilated and possibly not an Architeuthis. He didn't seem aware of Mesonychoteuthis, but a severely mutilated, wayward, and exaggerated specimen of that could account for this report, assuming it has a basis in reality. This report doesn't appear to be officially recognized anywhere.

It appears that in Newfoundland, there were some unofficial specimens that dwarfed even the Thimble Tickle specimen. A fellow named Alexander Murray was the source of some of these reports. He had a firsthand account of a squid that washed up near St. John's, Newfoundland in November 1873 with a 7'9" (2.35 m) body and head. Since this made it on the official Architeuthis list, this demonstrates the he's at least reliable. Then he went on to make some genuinely alarming claims. He related a story from a Mr. Pike who saw a gigantic squid that measured...gulp...80 feet (24 m) from beak to tail. That's not counting tentacles, that's the beak and head! Could it have been a typo for 8 feet (2.4 m) or an exaggerated account including outstretched tentacles? A second story related by one Mr. Haddon mentioned a squid 90 feet long. Even if that's measuring extremely outstretched tentacles, it is still far beyond O'Shea's proposed maximum normal length of 13 m (37 feet)! Suffice to say, no scientist has included this unverified tales in their dossier, and probably for good reason. Whatever truth may have been behind these rumors has probably been extremely diluted.

Even less convincing than vague size reports are mentions of very large sucker scars on sperm whales. Heuvelmans cited a Mr. L. Harrison Matthews who wrote that sucker scars commonly reach 10 cm (4 inches), which Heuvelmans thought would imply squids with a head and body of more than 30 feet (9 m). Ivan T. Sanderson, another "founder" of Cryptozoology, wrote in his book Follow the Whale that sucker marks have been known to reach 18 inches (0.45 m) in diameter. And Heuvelmans then goes on to mention that Willy Ley, a proto-Cryptozoologist of sorts, talked about sucker marks 2 feet (0.6 m) in diameter! Heuvelmans fortunately thought this to be a typo of sorts, and I'll agree. So assuming that there were suckers marks that big in the first place, the normal explanation is that they're the result of scars on a young individual growing as they do. Of course, these sucker marks may not be from Architeuthis, but perhaps from a species with proportionally larger suckers. Perhaps they came from another source, such as lamprey bites. Heuvelmans appears to find these explanations less likely than absolutely gargantuan squids hundreds of feet long, demonstrating a skewed idea of probability that Cryptozoologists often have.

To try and make the gigantic sucker sizes seem more rational, Heuvelmans mentions a handful of tales of squid arms measuring up to 45 feet long and 2'6" thick. He reasons that instead of being tentacles (which could theoretically stretch that long), they were in fact the shorter arms. Since the arms are often shorter than the mantle length, he estimates squid with lengths excluding the long tentacles up 54 to 90 feet long (16.5 to 27.5 m) long. He then proposed that with the long tentacles they could reach 100 to 240 feet (30 to 73 m) if male, and up to 300 feet if they were female (91.5 m). Holy crap! He seems to be using a rather outdated size model, and using O'Shea's drawing of a giant squid (he of course actually studies them), I'd still figure that it would have to be 130 feet (39.5 m) long with 45 foot arms tops. Of course, in all likelihood these probably were just tentacles, and exaggerated ones at that. Heuvelmans rationalized that since so many of the Newfoundland squids were described on anecdotal evidence, that these reports should be just as good. Of course, he overlooked the obvious explanation.

So despite looking like he was overlooking historical evidence, Dr. O'Shea was in fact just ignoring bad evidence. Sure there were probably a few Architeuthis specimens in the past that exceeded his limit, but they're simply not the super-gigantic monsters that is so commonly imagined. Even with the larger Colossal Squid, I still don't think Architeuthis is an unimpressive animal at all...even if it isn't 300 feet long.



Please note that Heuvelmans actually proposed giant squids over 100 feet as a cryptid (i.e. unknown) species on his checklist from 1986. Apparently somewhere along the line he realized that the claims of ridiculously large size clearly don't reconcile well with Architeuthis. There is a sighting of a very large squid reported at night during WWII by one A. G. Starkey off the Maldives. He was of course alone on deck and saw a squid laying alongside the 175 foot (53 m) boat, taking up most of the length. He said the arms were 2 feet wide (0.6 m) and that the beak was visible. That last detail is rather odd, and I'm inclined to think that the whole story is either an extreme exaggeration or an outright fabrication.

Another outrageous story, also told in the citation-free There are Giants in the Sea by Michael Bright, was told by a Canadian fellow named Charles Dudoward, supposedly to Paul LeBlond and John Sibert in "Observations of Large Unidentified Marine Creatures in British Colombia and Adjacent Waters". In 1892, Dudoward's grandfather was assisting in the moving of a 100 foot (or 30 m) log bloom when suddenly it stopped. It apparently squished a squid bigger than the bloom itself which had an arm over 100 feet (or 30 m) with suckers ranging from saucer-sized to basin plate size...and the end had a hook! Dudoward himself encountered a squid like this in 1922 when on washed up near "Roberson D. Rudge's Port Simpson Hotel". It had arms 50 feet (15.2 m) long and a surviving tentacle 100 feet (30 m) long. The tentacle ended in a hook 10" (25 cm) wide and 12 in (31 cm) long. It was eventually towed out to sea. I've never heard of a cephalopod with a giant hook instead of tentacle clubs (any teuthologists out there know of any?) and I'm incredibly suspicious of these stories to say the least. Didn't anybody save the giant claw or at least take a photo? If it was based off anything, it was probably Onykia "Moroteuthis" robusta, a nearly Architeuthis-sized species which has hooks on its tentacle clubs. Actually, the clubs apparently look somewhat hook-like themselves too. More on that species later...

I was initially hesitant of including this information because of the poor citations and apparent non-Architeuthid (and hence not a giant squid) nature of some of the subjects. But heck, it wasn't going to fit in anywhere else. If anybody else knows of any outrageous gigantic cephalopod stories, let me know. Even though squid are apparently the most highly exaggerated animals on the planet, these stories do have a certain appeal.

Further Addendum:

And why not just make a long post even longer?

Oh, how could I resist photo mock-ups of just how big Heuvelmans' giant squid propositions are? And no, please do not think that these are serious in any way. I don't care if any of my images are reproduced...I do care if they show up on some Cryptozoology website presenting them seriously! I am seriously questioning how Heuvelmans got a doctorate degree anyways after realizing how absurd this stuff is...

Using Dr. O'Shea's Illustrations, this is how big the owner of 45 foot arms would be. I have no idea how Heuvelmans got a figure of up to 200-300 feet. Above this monster is me (at an alarming 5'8.5" or 1.74 m) and the actual record size for an Architeuthis. Please pay attention to the very large 60 foot (18 m) bull sperm whale below. The arms supposedly came from the stomach of this sort of whale...but how could the above squid possibly end up inside the whale? Did it just eat an arm or something? How could the whale possibly survive an encounter with something this big, even with its fancy sonar gun nose.

Here is the implication of Mr. Pike's giant squid with a head and body 80 feet long. Mind you, these aren't just any sea creatures surrounding it, but gigantic freaks themselves that are the largest of their respective kinds. I, of course, deviously re-used them from this previous post. This squid even beats out the super-gigantic dinosaur Amphicoelias fragilimus who's very (probable) existence I find deeply troubling. I suppose an animal as large as this squid could theoretically support itself in water, but squids of course have a "grow fast, live hard, die young" sort of lifestyle. I find it incredible that such fast growing creatures (with a lifespan of only a couple years) can get as big as they do.

And our finishing piece. Here you can see the two previous super-gigantic squid entries and the Thimble Tickle squid flanking the hypothetical uber-Cephalopod Heuvelmans proposed from 18 inch sucker marks. His proposition did recognize that a squid this size was problematical, but he did little to deny it. The building in the back is, of course, the Empire State Building which stands 1250 feet (381 m) to the roof and 1454 feet (443 m) to the top of the antennae. I was thinking about having the Hindenburg in the background, but thought that might be too ridiculous.

Alright, I'm definitely done with addendums now.
That earlier posting over again

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How big is the Giant Squid anyways?

Dear Constant Readers,

After writing a recent blog about Mighty Mesonychoteuthis, I began wondering again about how big the giant squid itself got. I was somewhat surprised a few years ago when Dr. Steve O'Shea said that "Architeuthis is not known to exceed a mantle length of 2.25 meters" on his fact sheet. He had examined himself over 100 specimens of the genus, so obviously his word carries a lot of weight. The record weight was 275 kg (600 lbs) and the length was 13 meters (42 feet) according to him as well. There does seem to have been a lot of exaggeration concerning the overall length of the squids because of the stretchy nature of the tentacles.

Using this list of published records by Michael Sweeney, however, we are able to see that there are a number of reports exceeding the mantle length and weight:

November 30, 1861. Canary Islands: 15-18 foot (4.5 to 5.5 m) body length.

October, 1871. Grand Banks, Newfoundland: 15 foot (4.5 m) body and weighing around 2000 pounds (~900 kg). The jaw was preserved and used for the syntype for Architeuthis princeps by Verrill.

1872. Coomb's Cove, Newfoundland: 10 foot (3 m) body.

December 1872. Bonivista Bay, Newfoundland: Estimated 14 foot (4.25 m) body.

October 26, 1873. Conception Bay, Newfoundland: 10 foot (3 m) body. A photograph accurate enough for measurements was taken.

December, 1874. Fortune Bay, Newfoundland: 12-13 foot (~3.75 m) body and head length.

October, 1875. Grand Banks, Newfoundland: Weighed 1000 pounds (450 kg).

November 21, 1877. Trinity Bay, Newfoundland: 11 foot (3.35 m) head and body.

November 2, 1877. Thimble Tickle, Newfoundland: 20 foot (6 m) head and body. Once regarded by Guinness as the world's largest invertebrate.

December 2, 1878. Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland: 15 foot (4.5 m) head and body.

November 1, 1879. Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland: 9 foot (2.75 m) body.

May 23, 1879. Lyall Bay, New Zealand: 9'2" (2.8 m) mantle length.

June 30, 1886. Cape Campbell, New Zealand: 8'3" (2.5 m) mantle length.

1930? Goose Bay, New Zealand: 11 foot (3.35 m) body length.

1945. Pahau River Mouth, New Zealand. >1 ton (>900 kg)

August, 1961. Azores: 2.4 m (7'11") mantle length.

May 14, 1993. Morne Brabant, Mauritius: 4.5 m (14'9") mantle length, 240 kg (530 lbs)

It should be noted that there were at least a couple hundred other squid size records exist and the average size is certainly nowhere near these sizes. So what on earth is happening here? Perhaps some of them can be dismissed as being incorrectly typed (mantle length might be total length for the last one) or exaggerations, but I don't think that they can all be explained this way. Judging from these records, it would appear that Newfoundland experienced a very odd series of extremely large Architeuthis squids in the late 19th century. Is there some sort of connection between the stranding frequency and the very large size? I will say that O'Shea's maximum size, while not the historical maximum, is a lot more appropriate for the type of animal likely to be encountered. Who knows if we'll see an Architeuthis with a 4 or 5 meter mantle again...if anybody actually ever had before.

The story continues here.

The record sized specimens of Architeuthis (left) and Mesonychoteuthis (right) flank the enormous alleged specimen from Thimble Tickle. While that specimen has been considered the official largest squid specimen for some time, it should be noted that it is supported only by anecdotal evidence.
[Dale D Adds: Thimble Tickle recast as Mesonychoteuthis -
All of the beached squid were dead by the time they were discovered except the largest of them all - which remains the largest ever officially recorded - a monster still alive and flailing when three fishermen came across it at Thimble Tickle Bay on November 2, 1878. The men managed to hook the dying beast, which had ran aground in the shallow waters of an ebb tide, with a grapnel and then tied it to a tree to keep it from washing back out to sea. The squid’s carcass was measured at seven metres long (20 feet), with [an]11-metre (35-foot) tentacle... The miraculous scientific discovery was then promptly chopped up and turned into dog food.
In this report what we are given are primarily lengths and not proportionate widths. The tentacle section was not reported and is imaginary, hence gray in my version above. The one longer arm reported could well represent one of the longer tentacles of the colossal squid: it is disproportionately short for an Architeuthis. The body and mantle lengths are plausible enough for an unsuspected species of Northern Colossal squid, which is what I propose was its actual identity.-DD]

Colossal squid map from Wikipedia, amended. A is the attested range for the known colossal squid in the southern seas around Antarctica. B is the range of the hypothetical Norther counterpart Colossal squid, presumably the origin of the myth of the Kraken and also represented by a couple of unusually large squid carcasses which are known historically.

Suspected 'monster' appears in Tianchi Lake

Suspected 'monster' appears in Tianchi Lake

By Lin Liyao July 30, 2013

A picture of the "monster"provided by Wu Chengzhi. []

A volcano monitoring station worker in Jilin was measuring water temperatures when he saw some kind of "monster" swimming around Tianchi Lake, according to a local media report.
Around 5 a.m. on July 27, the worker named Wu Chengzhi arrived at the northern slope of the Changbai Mountains and together with his colleague began conducting their routine measurements of Tianchi Lake's water temperatures.
While they were collecting their samples, Wu spotted a V-shaped ripple appear on the lake's quiet and calm surface. At the forefront of the ripple, a "black point" came peeking out of the water and swam forward at relatively high speed.
Wu immediately got out his camera and shot some pictures of the unidentified object.
As seen from one picture provided by Wu, the thing sticking out of the water looks very much like a "monster's head," with an outline similar to that of a fawn's head and neck.
Tianchi Lake, or Heaven Lake, is located in the southeast of Jilin Province and in fact is a crater-lake perched atop the Changbai Mountains. Believed by many locals to be a holy lake, various legends state there are monsters living in the deep of the lake, just like the Scottish legend of Loch Ness.
[Lake Tianchi is a lake where earlier sightings were also suspected to have been swimming deer or moose-DD]

Monday, 29 July 2013

Kong's Brontosaurus

The following matter takes an unexpected detour from our regular way of looking at things:

TITLE: Skull Island, Canada
March 2008
Skeptic;2008, Vol. 14 Issue 1, p12
The author reflects on the legend about sea monster called Cadborosaurus in Victoria and the prehistoric dinosaurs appeared in the film "King Kong." He talks about the story of the two civil servants named Langley and Kemp who were told the newspapers in Victoria in 1933 that they have seen huge sea monsters. He shows that the dinosaurs appeared in the fictitious Skull Island in the film could have influenced or inspired the legend.
 above main image: a still from the film King Kong. above inset image: A sketch made from Kemp’s description many months after his sighting. © 1933 RKO Pictures Inc., © 2005 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Skull Island, Canada

The 1933 and 2005 versions of King Kong share many rich details, and a moral. There are those who suggest that moral must be something about the power of love, but I suggest the moral is this:
“Never, ever go to Skull Island.”
Skull Island, the setting for the second act of King Kong, is an utterly nightmarish place. A steaming jungle packed with prehistoric beasts and crawling with unlikely monsters, it is a place where even the insects can drag you away for dinner.
It’s not surprising that this exotic, terrifying place awed Depression-era movie audiences. When Kong opened in 1933, no one had ever seen anything like it. The revolutionary special effects, the scope of imagination, the depth of immersion in another world — all these created a blockbuster experience that still echoes in the popular imagination today.
My story begins on another, sleepier island: Vancouver Island, off the western coast of British Columbia, Canada.
At the southern tip lies the provincial capital city of Victoria, a bustling tourist destination with a busy cruise ship port. Today it bills itself as “the City of Gardens,” but in 1933 it enjoyed worldwide fame for something altogether more mysterious — nothing less than an 80-foot sea monster, called Cadborosaurus.
According to legend, an awesome, primeval monster — a huge serpent with flippers, a mane, and a head something like that of a camel or horse — slides undetected through the frigid waters off British Columbia and Washington State. Could a living dinosaur, a monster out of time, lurk here beneath the waves?
That question hinges on a moment in history.
Imagine yourself in 1933 for a moment. The Great Depression was causing tremendous hardship at home, while daily newspaper headlines carried ever more bad news about Adolf Hitler. As tensions continued to mount between the new Nazi government of Germany and the rest of Europe, war seemed increasingly likely.
The news featured one bummer story after another, and people needed a pick-me-up. In Victoria, that came in the form of headlines proclaiming, “Yachtsmen Tell Of Huge Serpent Seen Off Victoria.”
Two civil servants, named Langley and Kemp, told the Victoria Daily Times that they’d each independently seen huge sea monsters. According to Langley, he and his wife were out sailing when they heard “a grunt and a snort accompanied by a huge hiss,” and then “saw a huge object about 90 to 100 feet off,” of which “[t]he only part of it that we saw was a huge dome of what was apparently a portion of its back.” It was, he said, only visible for a few seconds before diving.
What strikes me about Langley’s monster — and contemporary critics were quick to point this out — is that it swam like a whale, it sounded like a whale, and it looked a whale. Now, whales definitely live in the area: Humpbacks, grey whales, sperm whales, and others. Even today, boatloads of whale-watching tourists leave Victoria’s downtown Inner Harbour every few minutes. Given that we have no data here except a momentary, unsubstantiated, undeniably whale-like anecdote, the Langley sighting seems to me to be a completely trivial case.
But the Kemp case was more interesting. It was his sustained daylight sighting that fueled a Cadborosaurus media frenzy in Victoria and across the continent, inspiring a rash of copycat sightings — and launching an enduring legend.
According to Kemp’s 1933 story, he and his family were picnicking one afternoon in the previous year, on a group of tiny islands just off Victoria, when they saw something extraordinary. A huge creature swam up the channel between Chatham and Strongtide Islands leaving an impressive wake. Kemp recalled, “The channel at this point is about 500 yards wide. Swimming to the steep rocks of the island opposite, the creature shot its head out of the water on to the rock, and moving its head from side to side, appeared to be taking its bearings. Then fold after fold of its body came to the surface. Towards the tail it appeared serrated, like the cutting edge of a saw, with something moving flail-like at the extreme end. The movements were like those of a crocodile. Around the head appeared a sort of mane, which drifted round the body like kelp.”
Kemp estimated the animal was over 60 feet long. Although it was indistinct with distance — it was at least 1200 feet away, maybe 1500 — this was no fleeting sighting. According to Kemp, they watched the monster for several minutes before it slid off the rocks and swam away.
What was it? It sounds to me like a group of sea lions among the distant kelp, viewed at too great a distance and remembered with too great a dollop of imagination. But the interesting question is, “Whose imagination?”
Kemp’s description gives a clue. Despite copycat sightings describing literal “sea serpents,” and despite the serpentine image of Cadborosaurus now popular among cryptozoologists, it’s striking that neither of the original eyewitness reports described serpents at all!
Langley described something like a whale; Kemp described something like a dinosaur. His monster, he said, “gave the impression that it was much more like a reptile than a serpent….”
Responding to the Kemp sighting, one letter to the editor offered an opinion that Caddy might be a sauropod dinosaur called diplodocus. This writer noted Caddy’s long neck and long tail, and called it “probable that it has legs with webbed feet with which it propels itself.”
Kemp seized on this dinosaur idea with enthusiasm, and produced an eyewitness sketch consistent with a sauropod. He agreed, “Diplodocus describes better what we saw than anything else. My first feelings on viewing the creature were of being transferred to a prehistoric period when all sorts of hideous creatures abounded.” He said the creature’s movements “were not fishlike, but rather more like the movement of a huge lizard.”
This combination of elements — a swimming sauropod dinosaur, and the notion of being transported to a prehistoric world full of terrible monsters — sounded very familiar to me. I was reminded of another sauropod, filmed swimming in a primal environment teeming with hideous creatures: Skull Island, as depicted in the blockbuster film King Kong! Comparing Kemp’s description and sketch with stills from the film, the parallels are striking.

The most famous Loch Ness monster hoax photo (top) compared with a still from the film King Kong (bottom). Both images feature small models. © 1933 RKO Pictures Inc., © 2005 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Could the film have inspired Kemp’s story? The timeline certainly works: Kong, it happens, opened in Victoria just six months before Kemp and Langley created the legend of Cadborosaurus. It blew movie-goers away, scared the socks off of people, and stuck in the memories of all who saw it. (Not coincidentally, the legend of the Loch Ness Monster was likewise created immediately after the release of King Kong, and the several key Nessie sightings seem almost lifted from the film. It’s especially notable that the infamous fake “Surgeon’s Photo” looks virtually identical to a shot from the movie.) [it is not, and it definitely has not been proven to be a small model-DD]
Is this similarity between Cadborosaurus and Kong suspicious? You bet.
Kemp’s original sighting was extremely uncertain, as he admitted, because of the tremendous distance involved (well over a thousand feet). He couldn’t make out the key details. For example, the creature’s head was just a blob. It’s likely he saw a distant group of marine mammals swimming and climbing the rocks (as is entirely typical in the area), but was unable to make out what they were at that distance. Perhaps he puzzled about it for a few months before King Kong planted a seed….
When he finally met Langley, heard his sea monster story, and compared notes, Kemp’s memories were a year old, and very probably contaminated by Hollywood.
That’s a recipe for a legend — but as scientific data, it’s a disaster.
Where does this leave Cadborosaurus? As so often in the paranormal world, it seems that the entire legendary edifice, all the sightings that followed, the books and TV programs and place in pop culture, all rests on a foundation of smoke.
Smoke, and the flickering screen of a cinema.

[According to the standard sources, the rumours of Cadborosaurus started to accumulate before the movie King Kong came out, around 1930. Loxton has overstated his case because the movie King Kong could not have been the initial motivation to report "Cadborosauruses" if the reports were already in circulation . However there is a complication as far as Loch Ness is concerned. 
Almost a full year earlier than this article, I posted an observation on the message board of the Cryptomundo site which was as follows:

"The Spicers were both groggy after a long drive and returning
home after seeing the new movie feature King Kong. They said they
saw the Brontosaurus out of that movie originally, and gave several
conflicting size estimates after the sighting. This is an
unconventional explanation, but I think they both projected the image
of the King Kong brontosaurus onto a real area–call it a
hallucination if you will."

Spicer Report, King Kong Brontosaurus
Rupert Gould incidentally drew the sketch, source
 for all such subsequent sketches, after the
witness' descriptions: this is NOT a witness' sketch.
 And a little while later I got this message in reply:
Good job with that identification. I think the photo comparison really
proves you right. The Spicer sighting was so strange that it seems
very unlikely that they saw a real creature. It seemed more like they
were describing something out of a monster movie than a real animal.

Dave F.
Posted By: Anon Sat Jun 16, 2007 9:37 am  |

Now whereas there were sea and lake monsters reported all around the world well before 1933, I will be the first to admit that something significant happened in 1933. Temporarily at least, the image of the Brontosaurus as the model for water monsters seized hold of the public imagination and it actually displaced the images of the traditional [string-of-buoys]sea serpent and the Plesiosaurian shaped Sea-serpent, the latter including Oudemans' model as well. I am afraid Oudemans may have paved the way for this because as Heuvelmans states, his model for the Sea-serpent does tend to resemble a Sauropod dinosaur because of the very long and whiplike tail.  But you do see the idea of the "Brontosaurus" as the shape the Lake Monster was in in Lake Okanogan and Lake Champlain at the same time, and as is noted in several sources, this is also a decade after the Patagonian Plesiosaur was in the news. This was undoubtedly part of the rise in popularity for Lake Monsters in general, but because of the temporary focus on the "Brontosaurus" as the model for water-monsters, the popular image was getting off on the wrong foot.-DD]

Intellectualism is not Democratic

This is another version of something I am always saying: Cryptozoology is not a topic where any one opinion is as good as another, the commenter has got to actually know what they are talking about or the statement is worthless. Simply having an opinion is not good enough, simply quoting somebody else's opinion is not good enough either. Somebody that knows nothing about anatomy should not be advancing arguments which call for making judgments about anatomy, and so on down the line. People engaging in Cryptozoological debates should not be just throwing any old thing out there and hoping that it will stick. A lot of discussion in Cryptozoology consists of wild guesses and no background knowledge of the sciences which actually pertain to the question. 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

"Cocodrillum" from Bestiaries

Bestiary: C is for Cocodrille

It seems that when bestiaries in Western Europe wanted to illustrate a crocodile of the Nile, thy fell back on illustrations of a different kind of animal understood as a "Crocodile" in its place. This was definitely a hairy mammal with what looked like a row of spines on its back and a head like a hound's. This was the version current in Britain, Germany, France and adjoining areas. Peter Costello's book In Search of Lake Monsters in his chapter concentrating on Ireland, mentions a creature with a fearsome reputation known as the "Irish Crocodile" which is probably the Master-Otter. One of the early sightings off of Norway and mentioned to Pontopiddian concerns a four-legged creature caught in a net by some fishermen and which he said 'must resemble a crocodile' and which is also very likely the same creature. Back in the Mediterranean, the confusion was somewhat alleviated because artists were more familiar with actual crocodiles instead.
 The bestiary illustrations usually are about a fable where the crocodile swallows a winged dragon but the dragon chews its way through though the crocodile's abdominal wall. This story is actually a hero story originally told with a human protagonist (Who dug his way out with the help of his knife) and it may actually have been native to Africa originally. It is also interesting that the "Dragon" as illustrated in the bestiaries appears to be one of those winged serpents or wyvern types.  That would also be an interpretation made in Western Europe especially. Both of these animals are represented in what passed for a realistic portrayal back then. The Master-Otter or Dobhar-Chu was sometimes also said to attack humans, and this is illustrated in the last picture at the bottom.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Osteology and Paleoecology of the Giant Otter Enhydritherium terraenovae

The Osteology and Paleoecology of the Giant Otter Enhydritherium terraenovae

(Pdf supplied by Scott Mardis)
(In this case I do not believe that the culprits in our more recent Giant Otter sightings are actually residual Enhydrotherium of the Miocene; but since the genus is Transatlantic, appearing in Europe and in North America, and on both Atlantic and Pacific shores of North America, that it was generalized enough to deal with both riverine/estuarine and marine conditions plus being better able to walk overland than the current sea otters, and that it might well be of the same stock which gave rise to both regular sea otters Enhydris and the giant Mediterranean otters of the latest Pleistocene Megalenhydris, the genus does paint a pretty accurate picture of our modern Master-Otter reports and admirably suggests how such a combination of features came about-DD)

Author(s): W. David Lambert
Source: Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Dec. 15, 1997), pp. 738-749
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Stable URL:
Accessed: 24/07/2013 14:24

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Bruce Champagne's Sailfin

The fantastic creature above was posted to his Deviant Art account by "Pristichampsus" (Tim Morris) as illustrating one of Bruce Champagne's Sea Serpent types. In order to deal with this better, we shall need to go back to the original statement Bruce had made. The summary of the type and the reconstruction illustrating the type are reproduced below:

4B Sailfin: An elongated animal of possible mammalian or reptilian identity reported from 12 to 85 feet long. It has a long neck with a turtle-like head and a long continuous dorsal fin. Cosmopolitan.

My comments were as follows:

 "4B is obviously the same as the Valhalla Sea-Serpent. I do not know why BC gives it such a wide size range nor Geographic range, although I was aware of other reports of the type (Heuvelmans calls one a "Marine Dimetrodon"). I actually do not know what it is, but with that head and neck it is presumably related to the Plesiosaurs."

Now as to what Tim Morris had said:

4B Sailfin as fish
by ~Pristichampsus
This is another interesting Bruce Champagne Sea-serpent. Said to undulate it's dorsal fin in order to locomote, it seemed most logical to reconstruct this animal as an aberrant fish, as opposed to Champagne's "mammal-like-reptile" identity.[DD-Emphasis added]

NICE. I can totally see this as a derived oarfish or even viperfish![DD-Emphasis added]
~Pristichampsus Feb 6, 2010  Professional General Artist
Yeah, definately a derived fishy of some sort.

This was also followed by:

This is an air-breathing and corrected version of the sailfin. Apparently it makes audible exhalations, so that makes an alternative to a fish necessary. Though I guess it could have been the sound of distant surf.
DD COMMENT: The audible breath is a distinctive reference to the  Soay Beast which is clearly not a sailfinned anything. I would call that an error in the classification.

Going back to the oarfish idea there is probably more to it than any of us realized before.

Oarfish are large, greatly elongated, pelagic Lampriform fishes comprising the small family Regalecidae.[1] Found in all temperate to tropical oceans yet rarely seen, the oarfish family contains four species in two genera. One of these, the king of herrings (Regalecus glesne), is the longest bony fish alive, at up to 17 metres (56 ft) in length [One of the sources cited says "over sixty feet"].[2][3]

The Oarfish have three aspects that are important here. Firstly, the back fin of the sailfin from the neck on back is much the same as the oarfish. Secondly, the geographic range is the same as the oarfish's range  and thirdly, the alleged size range is close to the alleged size range for the oarfish. In the case of Tim Morris' depiction, it struck me right off that the head of the creature even has an indication for the "Oars" of the oarfish in the "Barbels" it has, and swimming by means of wiggling the back fin is also a trait of the oarfishes. So in general I think we have a category that includes some non-standard Longneck sightings (including probably both the Valhalla and Soay SS sightings) intermixed with some mistaken reports of probably just plain oarfishes.

In other words, Longnecks plus oarfishes equals the Sailfin sightings of this Bruce Champagne Sea Serpent category:

Seen from some angles, the wiggling of the backfin in an oarfish can make it seem as if the forward section of the back is different, without a fin, and it looks like the "neck" part of the Sailfin SS  reconstruction. It is important to note that this video says that confirmed lengths of the oarfish go up to 25 feet but that the unconfirmed estimates go up to fifty feet or more, which is consistent with the statement made in the Wikipedia.[Markus Buhler also wishes for me to draw attention to this fact]