Multihumped Sea Monster

A category of Sea Monster identified by Bernard Heuvelmans.

Scientific names: Misnamed Scoliophis atlanti-cus in 1817, based on confusion with a deformed black snake; Plurigibbosus novaeangliae, given by Heuvelmans in 1965.

Variant names: American sea serpent, Caddy Cassie, Dorsal Finner, Multcoiled Sea Monster Many-humped sea monster.

Physical description: Elongated body, with many regularly placed humps that form a conspicuous ridge along the spine. Length, 60-115 feet. Diameter, 9-15 feet. Dull green to dark brown or black on top. Throat and underside pure white. Skin is usually smooth, though sometimes reported as rough. Scales are occasionally mentioned. Ovoid head, flat on top. Large eyes, 6 inches in diameter. Broad snout like an ox's. Slender neck, with one or two white stripes on the side. Throat and underside are white. Small, triangular fin sometimes seen on the shoulder. Single pair of frontal flippers. Sometimes seen with a straight fin or fan on its back. Bilobate tail, one lobe of which sometimes appears at the surface.

Behavior: Usually appears in the summer in New England and in the spring farther north. Swims with vertical undulations that resemble a caterpillar's motion. Splashes and lashes the

Possibly the first depiction of a MULTIHUMPED SEA MONSTER in the Americas. From Johann Ludwig Gottfried,, Newe Welt und americanische Historien (Frankfurt, 1655). (Fortean Picture Library)

water. Reaches speeds of 22-40 knots. Spouting not reported.

Distribution: East coast of North America from New York to Newfoundland, with a preference prior to the twentieth century for Massachusetts Bay and the Gulf of Maine. Also seen south of Iceland and west of Scotland; elsewhere in the Gulf Stream; off British Columbia, Canada (Caddy); and elsewhere on the Pacific coast. This animal is very similar to the serpentine, coiled Freshwater Monsters seen in certain Canadian lakes, especially Ogopogo and Manipogo.

Significant sightings: Capt. Elkanah Finney observed a classic American sea serpent for about five minutes in Warren Cove near Ply mouth, Massachusetts, around June 20, 1815. It looked like a string of thirty to forty buoys, with a head about 6-8 feet long. The total length was 100-120 feet. Finney got up early the next morning in hopes of seeing it again and watched it for two hours as it dived repeatedly. This time, it appeared to be only 20-30 feet long.

On August 10, 1817, Lydia Wonson watched a 70-foot sea serpent through a spyglass for nearly thirty minutes from her home near Rocky Neck, Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts. It drew itself up in coils that looked like the buoys of a fishing net. The same day, Amos Story saw the animal off nearby Ten Pound Island. It carried its turtle-shaped head about a


foot above the surface, but he could see only about 12 feet of the body. Ship's carpenter Matthew Gaffney shot at the same sea creature on August 14, 1817, when it was only 30 feet away in Gloucester Harbor. It sank down and went directly under his boat, surfacing 100 yards away. By August 28, hundreds of residents and tourists had seen one or even two multi-humped animals, and whale fishermen unsuccessfully tried to harpoon them.

On September 27, 1817, at Loblolly Cove in Rockport, Massachusetts, Goreham Norwood and a Mr. Colbey, coming to the aid of Colbey's screaming young son, killed a deformed Northern black racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor) about 3 feet 6 inches long. The Linnean Society of New England hastily concluded that this was a juvenile sea serpent and gave it the scientific name Scoliophis atlanticus (Atlantic humped snake).

James Prince, his family, Samuel Cabot, and a large crowd of other people watched a 60-foot sea serpent with thirteen to fifteen humps not far from the beach at Nahant, Massachusetts, for more than two hours on the morning of August 14, 1819.

On June 17, 1826, Capt. Henry Holdredge and passengers of the Silas Richards saw a 60-foot animal swimming 50 yards away from the ship off Georges Bank, about 134 miles east of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

On May 15, 1833, Capt. W. Sullivan and four other members of a Canadian rifle brigade saw a sea serpent in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, as they were sailing to the fishing grounds. They described it as a "common snake" about 80 feet long, with its head elevated and leaving a regular wake. Its head was about 6 feet long and was nearly black, irregularly streaked with white.

In August 1845, two observers saw a 100-foot monster in the Northumberland Strait 200 feet off Merigomish, Nova Scotia. It appeared to nearly be run aground, as it got away with difficulty only after thirty minutes. It occasionally raised its seal-like head out of the water. It had several protuberances, which one witness thought were humps and the other thought were vertical coils. Its skin was black, with a rough appearance.

The Rev. Arthur Lawrence and others on the yacht Princess saw a strange creature on July 30, 1875, between Swampscott and Egg Rock, Massachusetts. Only its head and neck were visible, but it was distinctly dark above and white below. It raised its head several times 6-8 feet out of the water. It had a dorsal fin at the back of its neck and what appeared to be fins or flippers at the front of its throat. They followed it for two hours, taking potshots at it.

B. M. Baylis saw an animal with four or five rounded humps off the coast at Hilston, Yorkshire, England, in early August 1945.

On October 16, 1966, George and May Ash-ton were strolling near the beach at Chapel St. Leonards, Lincolnshire, England, when they spotted an animal with six or seven pointed humps skimming through the water less than 100 yards offshore.

On October 31, 1983, five construction workers saw a dark, 100-foot animal swimming toward the cliffs at Stinson Beach, California. Mark Ratto watched it through binoculars and said it appeared to be followed by about 100 birds and two dozen sea lions. He saw a head and neck that "came up to look around" and three coils or body humps.

Present status: Much rarer in the North Atlantic since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Possible explanation: An archaic basilosaurid whale or another unknown family of early cetaceans, suggested by Heuvelmans.

Sources: Linnean Society of New England, Report of a Committee of the Linnean Society of New England Relative to a Large Marine Animal Supposed to Be a Serpent, Seen near Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in August 1817 (Boston: Cummings and Hilliard, 1817); Charles Alexander Lesueur, "Sur le serpent nommé Scoliophis," Journal de Physique, de Chimie, et d'Histoire Naturelle 86 (June 1818): 466-469; Jacob Bigelow, "Documents and Remarks Respecting the Sea Serpent," American Journal ofScience 2 (1820): 147-164; "Sea Serpent," American Journal ofScience 11 (1826): 196; W. Sullivan, A. Maclachlan, G. P. Malcolm, B. O'Neal Lyster, and Henry Ince, "The Sea-Serpent," Zoologist 5 (1847): 1714-1715; Charles Lyell, A Second Visit to the

United States ofNorth America (London: John Murray, 1849), vol. 1, pp. 132-140; John George Wood, "The Trail of the Sea-Serpent," Atlantic Monthly 53 (1884): 799-814; "Saw Monster in Sea—Claim," Skegness Standard, October 19, 1966; B. M. Baylis, "Those Sea Monsters," Skegness Standard, October 26, 1966; Bernard Heuvelmans, In the Wake ofthe Sea-Serpents (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 548-550, 566-568; "'Sea Serpents' Seen off California Coast," ISC Newsletter 2, no. 4 (Winter 1983): 9-10; June Pusbach O'Neill, The Great New England Sea Serpent (Camden, Maine: Down East Books, 1999); Paul Harrison, "Loch Ness: The Tip of the Iceberg," Crypto Dracontology Special, no. 1 (November 2001): 49-54.

Monthly 20 (March 1950): 7; John E. Roth, American Elves (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1997), pp. 132-136.

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