Merhorse

A category of Sea Monster identified by Bernard Heuvelmans.

Scientific name: Halshippus olaimagni, given by Heuvelmans in 1965.

Variant names: Hippokampos, Maner.

Physical description: Elongated, with smooth, shiny skin. Length, 15-100 feet, though rarely exceeding 60 feet. Dark-brown or steel-gray to black in northern regions; mahogany in warmer regions. Skin is smooth and shiny, possibly with short fur. Wide, flat, diamond-shaped head, described as similar to that of a horse, camel, snake, or hog. Head, 3 feet long. Wide mouth, perhaps edged with light-colored lips. Has whiskery bristles like a mustache. Enormous, forward-pointing, black eyes. Slender neck, 10 feet long or more. Often, a long, flowing, reddish mane hangs down its neck. Jagged crest on the back. Pair of frontal flippers. Possibly a hind pair of flippers that form a false tail; alternatively, a fanlike tail.

Behavior: Swims with pronounced vertical undulations. Rapid speed. Hisses. Feeds on fishes and possibly giant squid.

Habitat: Semiabyssal depths of 50-100 fathoms in the daytime, coming to the surface at night. Frequents coastal areas in temperate regions and moves further out on the continental shelf in warmer zones.

Distribution: Nearly cosmopolitan, except for polar seas and the Indian Ocean. At various times, it has been seen regularly off New England and Nova Scotia, the British Isles, Norway (especially More og Romsdal and Trande-lag Counties), British Columbia and southeastern Alaska, Portugal and the Canary Islands, southern California, La Plata in Argentina, the coast of South Africa, and in the Coral Sea.

Significant sightings: A description of this type of animal was first published in 1554 by the Scandinavian archbishop Olaus Magnus, who wrote that it was frequently seen in the fjords around Bergen, Norway. He mentioned the visible mane, large eyes, and elevated head and neck as prominent features.

In the spring of 1835, Captain Shibbles of the brig Mangehan reported an animal with large eyes and a long, maned neck 10 miles off Provincetown, Massachusetts.

In the summer of 1846, James Wilson and James Boehner were in a schooner near the western shore of St. Margaret's Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada, when they saw a 70-foot animal with a barrel-sized head and a mane. George Dauphiney spotted a similar animal near Hack-ett's Cove about the same time.

Officers and passengers of the British mailpacket Athenian observed a 100-foot, dark-brown sea serpent between the Canary and Cape Verde Islands in the North Atlantic on May 6, 1863. Its head and tail were out of the water, and it had something like a mane or seaweed on its head.

A "sea-giraffe" was observed by the crew of the steamer Corinthian east of Newfoundland, Canada, on August 30, 1913. It first appeared as a large head with finlike ears and huge blue eyes, followed by a 20-foot neck. It appeared attached to a large, seal-like body with smooth fur colored light brownish-yellow with darker spots.

Sports fisherman Ralph Bandini saw a maned animal about a mile west of Mosquito Harbor on San Clemente Island, California, in September 1920. Its neck was 5-6 feet thick, and the eyes were 12 inches in diameter.

Around 1938, some 100 yards off the coast of Skeffling, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, Joan Borgeest watched a huge, green creature with a flat head, protruding eyes, and a long mouth that opened and closed. When she called out to other people in the area, it dived and did not reappear.

George W. Saggers watched a head and neck with huge black eyes off Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, in November 1947. Its dark-brown mane looked like a bundle of warts.

Possible explanation: An elongated Seal (Suborder Pinnipedia) adapted for a semiabyssal marine existence.

Sources: Olaus Magnus, A Compendious

328 merhorse

History of the Goths, Swedes and Vandals [1554] (London: J. Streater, 1658), pp. 225, 227, 231; "A Sea Serpent," American Journal ofScience 28 (1835): 372-373; "The Great Sea-Serpent," Zoologist 21 (1863): 8727; John Ambrose, "Some Account of the Petrel—the Sea-Serpent—and the Albicore as Observed at St. Margaret's Bay," Transactions of the Nova Scotia Institute ofNatural Science 1 (1864): 37-40; "Sea Monster's Bonny Blue Eyes," Daily Sketch (London), September 25, 1913, p. 6; Ralph Bandini, "I Saw a Sea Monster," Esquire 2 (June 1934): 90-92; George W. Saggers, "Sea Serpent off Vancouver," Fate 1 (Summer 1948): 124-125; Bernard Heuvelmans, In the Wake ofthe Sea-Serpents (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 459, 552-557, 566.

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