Super Otter

A category of SEA MONSTER identified by Bernard Heuvelmans.

Scientific names: Hyperhydra egedei, given by Heuvelmans in 1965; modified to Hyperhydra norvegica by Lars Thomas in 1996.

Physical description: Elongated, otterlike shape but may show six to seven bends. Length, 65-100 feet. Uniform light or grayish-brown. Skin appears rough or wrinkled. Long head, flat on top and tapering toward the snout. Small eyes. Teeth often seen. Slender neck of medium length. Two pairs of webbed feet with distinct toes. Long tail that ends in a point.

Behavior: Seen in midsummer. Moves in close, vertical undulations, with a spiral component. Generates a wake that magnifies its actual length. Habitat: Along the continental shelf. Distribution: The Arctic Ocean off the northern coast of Norway; occasionally in the Baltic Sea and off western Greenland.

Significant sightings: The Protestant missionary Hans Egede saw a huge animal with two paws or flippers off Nuuk, western Greenland, on July 6, 1734. Its body was as bulky as a ship and three times longer (perhaps 100 feet). It spouted like a whale and raised its tail out of the water a ship's length away from its head and neck.

Around 1745, near Bergen, Hordaland County, Norway, a huge animal creating a disturbance in the water came close to a fishing boat. It had a head like a seal's, fur, and a pointed tail 35 feet long.

Between 1818 and 1822, an animal with large, vertical coils was seen many times off the Norwegian coast in the summer. In July 1819, it was seen nearly every day a short distance from the shore by the inhabitants of two small islands in Hordaland County. The bishop of Nordland and Finmark saw two of these animals in Trondheimsfjorden.

In the 1830s, a large sea monster was seen frequently off Kristiansund, More og Romsdal County, Norway. The merchant John Johnson said that it was blackish and about 55 feet long and that it swam with an undulating motion. It held its head only a slight distance above the water.

Its last appearance may have been in Romsdalfjorden, Norway, around 1847.

Present status: Possibly extinct since the mid-nineteenth century.

PP'ossible explanation: An archaic whale more primitive than the basilosaurids, with some vestigial limbs, proposed by Heuvelmans. Karl Shuker suggested that the ambulocetids—the oldest marine whales, found in Pakistan in the Eocene, 50—45 million years ago—might match. They had four large legs used for swimming, looked more like crocodiles than whales, and lived offshore, although they apparently swam into river estuaries to drink fresh water.

Sources: Hans Egede, Det gamle Gronlands nye perlustration, eller naturel-historie (Copenhagen: Johan Christoph Groth, 1741); Poul Hansen Egede, Continuation afrelationerne betreffende den Groenlandske missions tilstand og beskaffenhed (Copenhagen: Johan Christoph Groth, 1741); Hans Egede, A Description of

Greenland (London: C. Hatch, 1745), pp. 85-89; Erik Pontoppidan, Natural History of Norway (London: A. Linde, 1755), pp. 184-185, 195-208; Arthur de Capell Broke, Travels through Sweden, Norway and Finmark, to the North Cape, in the Summer of1820 (London: Rodwell and Martin, 1823); Heinrich Rathke, "Über der Seeschlange der Norweger," Archiv für Naturgeschichte 7, band 1 (1841): 278-288; P. W. Deinboll, "The Great Sea Serpent," Zoologist 5 (1847): 1604-1608; Bernard Heuvelmans, In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents (New York: Hill and Wang, 1968), pp. 546-548, 567-568; Karl Shuker, In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (London: Blandford, 1995), pp. 108-112; Lars Thomas, "No Super-Otter After All?" Fortean Studies 3 (1996): 234-236.

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