A category of Sea Monster identified by Bernard Heuvelmans. It looks and behaves like certain Freshwater Monsters in lakes and rivers around the world.
Scientific name: Megalotaria longicollis, given by Heuvelmans in 1965.
Variant name: Heuvelmans's seal. Physical description: Shape varies from serpentine to thick and bunched up. Length, 15-65 feet. Dark brown on top, with black-and-gray or whitish mottling. Underside much lighter. Skin looks smooth when wet, but up close, it appears wrinkled and rough. Small, round head with two small horns. Small eyes. Tapered muzzle, sometimes described as like a seal's or dog's and at other times like a horse's or camel's. Long, slender, flexible neck. A collar behind the head is sometimes reported. There are one to three dorsal humps, with the middle being the largest. A slight ridge along the spine. Four webbed flippers. The hind pair sometimes resembles a bilo-bate tail.
Behavior: Amphibious. Most frequently seen between April and October in the north, year-round in the tropics, and from February to April in the south. Swims with vertical undulations. Exceptional speed, 15-35 knots. The illusion of more than three humps may be caused by turbulence waves generated by its speed. Submerges vertically, as if pulled under. Does not spout. On land, it moves by gathering its hind legs up toward the front, then leaping forward with the front legs in a manner similar to that of sea lions.
Habitat: Near coasts in cold temperate regions; midocean in warm temperate regions.
Distribution: Cosmopolitan, except for polar waters. Frequently seen around the British Isles, Newfoundland, Maine, and British Columbia in the Northern Hemisphere; in the Tasman Sea, off southeastern Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, and Tasmania in the Southern Hemisphere. It may also be the same animal reported in many lakes in cold temperate regions in both hemispheres.
Significant sightings: Some time before 1846, Captain Christmas of the Danish navy encountered a long-necked animal in the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Its neck moved like a swan's until it disappeared, head foremost, like a duck diving. The part above water seemed about 18 feet in length.
In September 1893, London physician Far-quhar Matheson and his wife were boating in Loch Alsh, an arm of the sea between Skye and the Scottish mainland, when they saw a straight-necked animal moving toward them. Its neck was as tall as the mast of their yacht. It dived and reappeared every two to three minutes.
On December 4, 1893, Captain R. J. Cringle and the crew and passengers of the Natal Line steamer Umfuli watched a long-necked Sea monster for thirty minutes not far off the coast of Guerguerat, Western Sahara. It was 80 feet long and about as thick as a whale. The head and neck together were 7-15 feet long, and the body seemed to have three humps.
On August 5, 1919, J. Mackintosh Bell and others fishing for cod off the south coast of Hoy Island in the Orkney Islands of Scotland encountered a long-necked animal about 30 yards from their boat. When it swam alongside the boat at a depth of 10 feet, they were able to see its full outline, with four flippers and a total head-to-tail length of 18-20 feet. The head looked very much like a retriever dog's and was longneck 299
Big-game hunter Tromp Van Diggelen and other passengers on the Dunbar Castle saw an animal with a 12-foot neck in Table Bay off Cape Town, South Africa, in November 1930.
In 1945, Arthur Féré and others in a motor-boat saw a strange animal sticking up above the water in a bay off Canala, New Caledonia, in the South Pacific. It had a big head on a black neck marked with yellow. When the boat approached to 200 yards, the animal dived, raising a plume of water.
Robert Duncan, a beachcomber on Bribie Island, Queensland, Australia, saw a whitish-gray monster 2 miles offshore twice in September 1962. It had a swan's neck, a whale's body, and a fish's tail and fins.
Possible explanation: An extremely elongated form of Sea lion or Fur seal (Family Otariidae) adapted for a purely marine existence, according to Heuvelmans. Cladistic studies now suggest that the true seals, sea lions, and walruses all are most closely related to the bears, emerging from that family 27—25 million years ago, in the Late Oligocene. So specialized a variety most probably represents a recent evolution. Robert Cornes speculates that it may not be related to any of the existing seal families.
Sources: Philip Henry Gosse, The Romance of Natural History, 4th ed. (London: Nisbet, 1861); Alfred T. Story, "The Sea-Serpent," Strand Magazine 10 (August 1895): 161-171; Rupert T. Gould, The Case for the Sea-Serpent (London: Philip Allan, 1930), pp. 188-194, 215-220; Tromp Van Diggelen, Worthwhile Journey (London: William Heinemann, 1955); "Un monstre marin identique à celui de Hook Island avait déjà été vu en 1945 dans la baie d'Ouengho à Canala," France Australe, June 26-27, 1965, pp. 1, 4; Bernard Heuvelmans, In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 506, 557-562, 565-566; Robert Cornes, "The Case for the Surreal Seal," Crypto Dracontology Special, no. 1 (November 2001): 39-45.
Was this article helpful?