For years, the people of Canada's Queen Charlotte Islands had told tales of a giant sea creature that supposedly inhabited the frigid waters off Naden Harbor.
Most accounts were dismissed as old wives tales until the morning of June 15, 1937, when the body of a giant sperm whale was brought ashore and cut open.
Inside were the mutilated remains of a long-necked creature that fit most descriptions of Cadmosaurus -- or Caddy, as the legendary monster is more commonly known.
Although the ingested animal was decomposed, photographs revealed it to be about 12 feet long, with forelimbs, a large camel-like head and a long, serpentine body. A fringed taillike section at the end of its body apparently contained a pair of hind flippers.
Unfortunately, the strange-looking carcass was thrown away because the fishermen feared it would bring them bad luck. "This was nothing less than a great tragedy," said Ed Bousfield of the Royal British Columbia Museum.
Dr. Bousfield and other researchers believe that what the fishermen had found inside the whale was the body of a juvenile Caddy. Had the corpse been turned over to scientists, the mystery might have been solved long ago.
Like many other North American lake monsters, the existence of Caddy has long been debated, starting with Chinook Indians, who referred to it as the hiachuckaluck. It wasn't until 1933, however, that the creature became universally famous, thanks to a local newspaper editor, Archie Wills, who dubbed it "Cadborosaurus."
Since then, hardly a year has gone by without several sightings.
One of the most intriguing took place on July 14, 1993, when two pilots spied a pair of the monsters in Saanich Inlet. When they landed their plane on the surface of the water to investigate, the two Caddys flexed their bodies into vertical hoops -- rather than solid humps -- and swam away rapidly.
According to Dr. Bousfield, it is possible that the pilots disturbed a Caddy mating session.
On April 20, 1995, Dr. Bousfield and fellow researcher Paul LeBlond from the University of British Columbia published a formal account of Caddy in the scientific journal Amphipacifica. In the article, they christened the creature Cadborosaurus willsi and provisionally categorized it as an "undetermined but highly specialized" species of reptile.
Very few reptiles, however, have ever been able to flex their bodies vertically when swimming. In contrast, the serpent-like zeuglodont whale could have achieved this, leading many cryptozoologists to believe that Caddy might be related to this long-extinct maritime animal.
Another famous creature reportedly sighted on the coasts of the United States comes from Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. It first attracted international attention in 1978 when 30 eyewitnesses claimed to have seen a snake-like monster in the Potomac River, which was soon dubbed "Chessie" by reporters.
On the evening of May 21, 1982, Chessie was videotaped for three minutes by Robert Frew from his home at Love Point, overlooking the bay, at a distance of 200 feet. His wife and two friends saw it too, as it dived and resurfaced near a group of swimmers.
According to Mr. Frew, the creature was about 35 feet long, but less than 1 foot across, with a series of humps. His film showed three principal surfacings, revealing a head or foot projecting at the front end.
In August 1982, the Smithsonian Institution analyzed the film but reached no conclusion as to the identity of the creature. Seven scientists who viewed the film, however, are convinced that it showed an unknown living object.
Author and syndicated columnist Randall Floyd can be reached at Rfloyd2@aol.com.
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