Multifinned Sea Monster

A category of Sea MONSTER identified by Bernard Heuvelmans.

Scientific name: Cetioscolopendra aeliani, given by Heuvelmans in 1965.

Variant names: Elian's sea centipede, Cetacean centipede, Con Ri'T Many-finned sea monster, Tompondrano.

P^hysical description: Elongated body with peculiar lateral projections that look like forward-pointing fins, only four to twelve of which are usually seen above water. Length, 30-100 feet, with a probable average of 60-70 feet. Skin is smooth like tanned leather. Brown with dirty-yellow speckles or greenish gray. Covered with large scales or bony plates that form segmented armor. Round head, said to look like a walrus, seal, or calf. Small but prominent eyes, placed high on the head. Wide mouth like a turtle's. Visible nostrils, surrounded by hairs. Short, slender neck. An apparent saw-toothed crest along the spine, probably formed from the body armor. Pectoral flippers sometimes reported. Flat tail, possibly trilobate and only slightly spread horizontally.

Behavior: Seen throughout the year. Swims in vertical undulations. Turns by rolling to one side, making its lateral fins visible. Can reach a speed of 10 knots. Spouting or breath is almost always seen.

Distribution: Tropical and subtropical waters worldwide.

Significant sightings: This animal was apparently first described by the Roman rhetorician ^lian of the third century A.D. as a "sea centipede."


On August 28, 1852, Captain Steele and the Ninth Lancers regiment, on the British ship Barham in the Mozambique Channel, watched a green animal with the head and neck of an enormous snake. Its head was 16-20 feet out of the water, and it had a huge, saw-shaped crest down its back. It spouted water a long distance away from its head.

On July 8, 1856, about 50 miles south of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, Capt. A. R. N. Tremearne and the crew of the Princess saw a large fish with a walruslike head and twelve forward-pointing dorsal fins. Someone fired a rifle at the animal, hitting it in the head.

Lieutenant Lagresille and the crew of the gunboat Avalanche observed two 65-foot, undulating animals in Halong Bay, Vietnam, in July 1897. They dived after the crew fired on them. The Avalanche chased two similar animals for ninety minutes on February 15, 1898, but they outpaced the boat. A similar incident occurred on February 26, when the officers and crew of the Bayardwere also on board. The animals had seal-like heads and three large bodily coils with saw-tooth crests.

A monster with an "immense number of fins" was seen in the Mediterranean by the crew of the HMS Narcissus off Cape Falcon, Algeria, on May 21, 1899. It was more than 150 feet long and swam by means of an "immense" number of fins on both sides of its body. It spouted water like a whale from several points.

In July 1920, off the Florida coast between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the captain and crew of the merchant ship Craigsmere watched a large sea animal with several porpoiselike dorsal fins.

In 1935, Lt. W. C. Hogan of the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Electra saw a 40- to 50-foot animal with six fins on its back off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. Each fin was 2 feet high and 2 feet 6 inches wide at the base. The crew fired at it unsuccessfully.

Possible explanations:

(1) An archaic whale, possibly a basilosaurid, with heavy, armored scales, suggested by Bernard Heuvelmans.

However, scales found with these fossil whales are now known to come from other animals.

(2) A giant crustacean of an unknown type, suggested by Karl Shuker, especially for the Con Ri't

Sources: ^lian, De natura animalium, XIII. 23; Guillaume Rondelet, Libri de piscibus marinus (Lyon, France: Matthiam Bonhomme, 1554); "The Sea Serpent," Times (London), November 17, 1852, p. 6; Edmund J. Wheeler, "The 'Sea-Serpent' Again," Illustrated London News 29 (1856): 347-348; "Sea Serpent at It Again," Daily Mail (London), May 31, 1899; Bernard Heuvelmans, In the Wake ofthe Sea-Serpents (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 463-464, 550-552, 567-568; Paul H. LeBlond, "A Previously Unreported 'Sea Serpent' Sighting in the South Atlantic," Cryptozoology 2 (1983): 82-84.

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