Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Many-Finned and Cladistics

So long buddy!

My previous post formerly included a brief version of this article, although considering the unusual subject matter and unconventional analysis, I feel this is in need of a more thorough treatment.

Cladistics is a method of classification which uses shared derived characters (synapomorphies) to determine relations. For instance, amongst mammals the possession of wings in the clade of bats (Chiroptera) would be considered a synapomorphy. While cladistics was originally used for determining phylogeny (evolutionary relationships between organisms) and is generally used for that purpose today, it can be used for classification for unlikely subjects like geology and linguistics. The method of cladistics can be used for any hierarchal data set (Young 1995); thus it would appear that the trait information from purported "Many-Finned" encounters would be applicable. In the spirit of Paxton (2009), it should be warned that interpretations of this data need to be limited. The existence of a "Many-Finned" cryptid cannot be proven from this type of data or even suggested; rather, this cladistic data can demonstrate which encounters are indistinguishable from known phenomena/animals and be used to determine how accurate Heuvelmans' classification system was.

So what would the ideal form of analysis for this type of data?

I used PHYLIP as it is free, comes with a variety of programs, and is easy to use - I am not an expert on this subject, so if anybody out there has criticism and suggestions for analyses - PLEASE COMMENT!

Anyways, for my first analyses I used the PARS program as it assumes that ancestral character states are unknown (valuable since I am not concerned with phylogeny), different characters evolve independently, different lineages evolve independently, changes to all other character states are equally probable, changes are a priori improbable over the evolutionary time spans involved (this could admittedly impact the results), retentions of polymorphisms are less probable than those state changes, and rates of evolution in different lineages are sufficiently low so that two changes in a long segment of a tree are less probable than one change in a short segment. As I am unconcerned with all but the best-supported clades, I feel this this type of analysis is sufficient for the data I am striving for.

Since the number of trees recovered will be considerable, I will use the CONSENSE program to determine how frequently certain clades were recovered (out of 1.00 = 100%) in order to determine how rigorously they are supported. I'll be totally unconcerned with clades supported in fewer than 50% of trees and I'll say that 75% is fairly good support, although as these are arbitrary numbers I'll mention some "close-calls".

For the first analysis, only the 26 purported "Many-Finned" encounters will be analyzed, to observe any obvious clusters. I also added an "outgroup" where every character trait was set at "0", as any real organism would be highly speculative and contrary to my non-phylogenetic intents. This is a cladogram which utilizes unknown character states:

Click to enlarge. The only interesting placement is the vague Avalanche encounters outside all other reports.

Here is a tree which results from replacing all traits with unknown character states ("?") with an unknown designation ("0"):

Note that the tree without an unknown designation has far more clades with considerable support, and similar clades would probably also be recovered from qualitative reasoning. From now on, I will be using a 0,1 dichotomy, which is more "honest" in a way because the witnesses it taken at their word. Analyses other than PARS could be used, but they assume a known ancestral character state.

Now, some known animals and phenomena will be included. I will include a wave phenomenon (many humps), a saltwater crocodile (comparison to Vauban), a leatherback turtle (comparison to Hanoi), and several variations of a line of small cetaceans: dlphn1 (line of dorsal fins), dlphn2 (line of dorsal fins, multiple humps, visible breath), dlphn3 (Small eyes, short neck, multiple dorsal fins, pectoral appendages, multiple lateral fins, smooth skin, single hump, multiple humps, long tail, bilobate tail, uniform coloration, contrasting coloration, mottled coloration, visible breath, lateral undulations, vertical undulations). I'll also add Mola mola, which should in theory group nowhere near a "Many-Finned" encounter.

Although it is tempting to do otherwise, only clades with considerable placement should be considered to contain any usable data. It is not surprising that the Leatherback Turtle and Saltwater Crocodile grouped together (marine tetrapods which have the appearance of a dorsal crest and can display a single hump), although it is surprising that the Vauban and Hanoi sightings did not group particularly closely. The proximity of the Osbourne sighting to the marine reptiles is rather telling, and the potential identity as a leatherback turtle should probably be further investigated - I seriously doubt a Nile Crocodile could wind up being that wayward. The inexplicable grouping of the multi-humped Avalanche I encounter with sightings displaying multiple lateral fins is perplexing, although probably due to a sparsity of sampling.

So what happens when additional purported marine cryptids not considered to be "Many-Finned" by Heuvelmans (1968) are added to the mix? Note that this is in fact my first analysis and that prior ones had a number of character states that did not appear at all in "Many-Finned" encounters, although since only synapomorphies are considered this should not be an issue. For this analysis I am including the Valhalla  sighting, the Daedalus, the Mackintosh Bell, U 28, Chatham Island (a "Merhorse"/"Caddy"-like sighting), and Mr. Barry's encounter (a "Many Humped" encounter):

Although these cladograms are not meant to be taken at face-value, it can be confidently stated that "Many-Finned" encounters do not form anything resembling a cohesive group and probably represent a multitude of phenomena. It is likely that if more sightings are added, no obvious patterns would emerge except for those highly-detailed outliers. I am uncertain as to how "honest" a quality-control cladogram would be (i.e. removing sightings with a below-average amount of detail) as the vagueness and uncertainty of placement is rather telling of this body of data as a whole.

So how did Heuvelmans arrive at a 9-type classification system? It appears that the majority of his classification was done through "determining characteristics", apparently the ones that show up most frequently in a certain type of encounters. So what happens if we repeat the following cladogram with only traits that Heuvelmans considered to be determining in the "Many-Finned"? I'll be incredibly generous to this analysis and get rid of the un-detailed dolphin descriptions as well as the wave:

Since being outrageously biased towards recovering a "Many-Finned" clade does not fulfill anything resembling its goal, I think it is fair to conclude that Heuvelmans did not objectively classify the purported sightings as he claimed.

It appears most likely that he had an archetype in mind heavily influenced by Aelian/Rondelet's Cetacean Centipede/Great Sea Centipede and the Princess encounter (possibly influenced itself by Rondelet's illustration?) and forced all sightings even vaguely reminiscent into the "type". This sort of classification-as-a-qualitative-art-form approach was probably more socially acceptable in the late 60's, and was certainly a step up from the "mental gymnastics" of Oudemans and the earlier one-sighting-one-type approach by Rafinesque, but we now live in the Age of Cladistics and have a powerful tool for which there is no reason not to use.

 Like any other form of analysis, cladistics has the potential to be abused - e.g. like my last example where I attempted to modify criteria to fit a preconceived notion - but if enough work is shown this should not be a problem. Additionally, cladistics should only be used to falsify, e.g. demonstrate that certain sightings cannot be distinguished from known phenomena, and any resultant cryptid-clades should be regarded with the utmost caution. For sightings with considerable detail that cannot be convincingly placed with a known phenomena, a qualitative investigation should probably be initiated, as there are other traits which are best dealt with outside of cladistics (distance, weather, duration, et cetera). I seriously doubt that any amount of data from anecdotal information could be used to demonstrate the existence of a cryptid as the most parsimonious explanation, as only a properly documented carcass can do that, but it could be used as an indicator for a potential new species that warrants further investigation and attempted discovery.


Heuvelmans, B. (1968). In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents. New York: Hill and Wang.

Paxton, CGM. (2009). The plural of 'anecdote' can be 'data': statistical analysis of viewing distances in reports of unidentified large marine animals 1758–2000. Journal of Zoology 279(4), 381-387.

Young, GC. (1995). Application of cladistics to terrane history—parsimony analysis of qualitative geological data. Journal of Southeast Asian Earth Sciences 11(3), 167-176.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Return of the Many-Finned!

One of the earliest posts on this blog discussed a bizarre marine cryptid known as the Many-Finned; after more than three years I believe it deserves a revisitation. Research on this admittedly arcane topic hasn't exactly progressed by leaps and bounds in the interim, but I believe Paxton (2009) shifted the paradigm for what can be possible in cryptozoological research. Paxton (2009) is a must read for anybody seriously interested in cryptozoology as it suggests that anecdotal evidence can be a source of data if the conclusions drawn are limited, e.g. the unexpected proximity of "Sea Serpent" sightings (most under 200 m) suggests that misidentification due to distance is not a major factor behind sightings. At the very least, read the abstract from that paper!

Inspired by that paper, I decided to go through Heuvelmans (1968) and subject his "Many-Finned" category of marine cryptid to as much statistical scrutiny as I can muster. Rather than discuss the theories behind the monster, I'll let the reports do the talking for themselves. As I can't expect everyone to pull out a Home Edition of "In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents", that meant I had to do a lot of typing...

circa 2nd century A.D. Aelian aka Claudius Aelianus
On the Nature of Animals, Book 13, Chapter 23

Cameron: This alleged encounter will not be included in any data matrices, but is included here as it has inspired some "Many-Finned" theories, and possibly even sightings. I'm very suspicious of any anecdote more than a couple centuries old and passages from Aelian's book back up these thoughts.

Guillaume Rondelet
circa 16th century A.D.
L'Histoire entire des poissons (translated in Heuvelmans 1968):
There are two species of marine centipede... one is small, of the number of those which have several sections in the body, which we shall speak of in its place. The other is a cetacean, which is called centipede because of the multitude of feet, as the land centipedes have many feet. The feet of this centipede are as oars with which it propels itself. I have a portrait of one from those who have assured me they have seen such in the Indies, which portrait is not different from the description of Aelian, who says that the centipede is a very big cetacean fish, which one cannot look at dead on the beach but with great fear. Mariners say that he rises sometimes upon the sea, and that one can see the hairs of his very big nostrils, a tail like the tail of a lobster, the rest of the body may be compared to a galley with three oars on each bench, the feet here and there like oars for swimming.

Cameron: Presumably the small marine "centipede" is a polychaete? Like Aelian's description, this report cannot be taken seriously and should only be treated as a curiosity. Please note that this era is infamous for depicting even well known animals quite fancifully (e.g. dolphins)! 

August 28, 1852. South of South Africa. Barham. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing letter from Captain Steele to the Zoologist:
On the 28th August, in long. 40° E., lat. 37° 16' S., about half-past two, we had all gone down below to get ready for dinner, when the first mate called us on deck to see a most extraordinary sight. About five hundred yards from the ship there was the head and neck of an enormous snake; we saw about sixteen or twenty feet out of the water, and he spouted a long way from his head; down his back he had a crest like a cock's comb, and was going very slowly through the water, but left a wake of about fifty or sixty feet, as if dragging a long body after him. The captain put the ship off her course to run down to him, but as we approached him, he went down. His colour was green, with light spots. He was seen by every one on board.
Anonymous officer to The Times:
You will be surprised to hear that we have actually seen the great sea-serpent, about which there has been so much discussion... His head appeared to be about sixteen feet above the water, and he kept moving it up and down, sometimes showing his enormous neck, which was surmounted with a huge crest in the shape of a saw. It was surrounded by hundreds of birds, and we at first thought it was a dead whale. He left a track in the water like the wake of a boat, and from what we could see of the head and part of his body, we were led to think he must be about sixty feet in length, but he might be more. The captain kept the vessel away to get nearer to him, and when we were within a hundred yards he slowly sank into the depths of the sea. While we were at dinner he was seen again, and a midshipman took a sketch of him, of which I will send you a copy.
Cameron: Heuvelmans could not recover the sketch. This is the only "Many-Finned" report featuring a long neck and one of the many not featuring multiple fin-like structures! The sea birds, coloration, crest, and limited movement could be consistent with a cetacean corpse, although the long "neck" and relative proximity are problematic.

July 8, 1856. South Africa. Latitude 34 56' S. Longitude 18 14' E. Princess. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing letter from Edmund J. Wheeler and Co. to the Illustrated London News:
We hand you the following extract from the log-book of our ship Princess, Captain A. R. N. Tremearne, in London Docks 15th inst. from China, viz:-
'Tuesday, July 8, 1856. Latitude accurate 34° 56' S.; Longitude accurate 18° 14' E. At one p.m. saw a very large fish, with a head like a walrus, and twelve fins, similar to those in a black fish, but turned the contrary way. The back was from 20 to 30 feet long; also a great length of tail. It is not improbable that this monster has been taken for the great sea-serpent. Fired and hit it near the head with a rifle-ball. At eight, fresh wind and fine.'

Illustration by Alika Watteau after Captain Tremearne in Heuvelmans (1968).

Cameron: Although Paxton (2009) notes a correlation between likely hoaxes and a lack of reported distance, the log books of ships are legal documents unlikely to be hoaxed. It's difficult what to make of this report. While the description is lackluster, the sketch adds the traits of visible breath, small eyes, a short neck, contrasting coloration, a dorsal crest, and shows that the twelve fins occur in two laterally placed rows pointing upwards awkwardly. It is possible that the drawing is a composite of different positions, and that Rondelet's illustration may have had some influence, albeit likely subconsciously. 

May 13, 1872. Gulf of Mexico. St. Olaf. MF
Heuvelmans citing report from Captain A. Hassel to the Graphic:
Two days before arrival at Galveston, at about 4:30 P.M. on May 12, weather calm, smooth sea, lat. 26° 52', long. 91° 20', I saw a shoal of sharks passing the ship. Five or six came under the vessel's stern, but before we could get out a line they went off with the rest. About two minutes after, one of the men sang out that he saw something on the weather bow, like a cask on its end. Presently another one called out that he saw something rising out of the water like a tall man. On a nearer approach we saw it was an immense serpent, with its head out of the water, about 200 ft. from the vessel. He lay still on the surface of the water, lifting his head up, and moving the body in a serpentine manner. Could not see all of it; but what we could see, from the after part of the head, was about 70 ft. long and of the same thickness all the way, excepting about the head and neck, which were were smaller, and the former flat, like the head of a serpent. It had four fins on its back, and the body of a yellow greenish colour, with brown spots all over the upper part and underneath white. The whole crew were looking at it for fully ten minutes before it moved away. It was about six feet in diameter. One of the mates has drawn a slight sketch of the serpent, which will give some notion of its appearance. 

Cameron: The only known instance of a flat head reported for a "Many-Finned". The illustrations arguably add the trait of multiple humps to this sighting, which are suggestive of a row of small cetaceans. The time and distance are problematic for the mundane explanation, although not enough to wholly discount it.

June 2, 1877. Cape Vito, Sicily. Osbourne. MF?
Heuvelmans (1968) citing Hayes:
On the evening of that day, the sea being perfectly smooth, my attention was first called by seeing a ridge of fins above the surface of the water, extending about thirty feet, and varying from five to six feet in height. On inspecting it by means of a telescope, at about one and a-half cables' distance, I distinctly saw a head, two flappers, and about thirty feet of an animal's shoulder. The head, as nearly as I could judge, was about six feet thick, the neck narrower, about four to five feet, the shoulder about fifteen feet across, and the flappers each about fifteen feet in length. The movements of the flappers were those of a turtle, and the animal resembled a huge seal, the resemblance being strongest about the back of the head. I could not see the length of the head, but from its crown or top to just below the shoulder (where it became immersed), I should reckon about fifty feet. The tail end I did not see, being under water, unless the ridge of fins to which my attention was first attracted, and which had disappeared by the time I got a telescope, were really the continuation of the shoulder to the end of the object's body.
 The animal's head was not always above water, but was thrown upwards, remaining above for a few seconds at a time, and then disappearing. There was an entire absence of 'blowing' or 'spouting.' I herewith beg to enclose a sketch (A) showing the view of the 'ridge of fins,' and (B) of the animal in the act of propelling itself by its two fins

The Times:
The Osbourne was steaming westward at 10 1/2 knots an hour, and, having a long passage before her, could not stay to make minute observation
The fins were progressing in an eastwardly direction, and as the vessel more nearly approached them, they were replaced by the foremost past of a gigantic sea monster. Its skin was, so far as could be seen, altogether devoid of scales appearing, rather to resemble in sleekness that of a seal. The head was bullet-shaped, with an elongated termination, being somewhat similar in form to that of a seal, and was about six feet in diameter. Its features were only seen by one officer, who described them as like those of an alligator.
Cameron: The distance is greater than usual (278 m) and judging by the illustrations, visibility was rather poor even with a telescope. The relation of the ridge of fins to the turtle-like object is perplexing, are they necessarily even the same object? It could be possible for the turtle-like object to have actually been a very exaggerated large sea turtle, although there don't seem to be any associated phenomenon that would produce a ridge of fin-like structures.

December 1878. Suez or Aden, Red Sea. Poonah. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing letter from Robert P. Greg to Oudemans, regarding sighting by one Mrs. Turner:
She says it almost exactly resembled the marine animal seen by the officers of the Osbourne... only it had no flippers (being motionless); and she saw both the head and 7 or 8 fins of the back, all at the same time being in a line. She cannot remember exactly how many dorsal fins there were, but they were large, slightly curved back and not all the same size. She did not notice any eyes or mouth, seeing for such short a time, and being so surprised at its size and a glimp. The head looked 4-6 feet diameter, like a large tree trunk say at 150 feet. The head was very glumsy and thick, and very like the butt end of a cannon, as shown in Lieut. Haynes drawing... and without the flippers, which at once very strongly reminded her of the animal she saw. The colour was nearly black like a whale. The whole length appeared considerable, perhaps as long as an ordinary tree, or moderate sized ship! The fins were very large.

Cameron: The factors of not being mentioned in a ship log, not mentioning a distance, and having knowledge of a prior sighting speaks strongly against the credibility of this encounter. It is curious that the description states that the fins are curved back when the illustration has them curved frontwards like the "Princess" sighting. The estimated size makes it highly unlikely that the illustration is to scale, making it possible that this is in fact the product of unusual cetacean behavior. The limited duration of the sighting also supports the mundane contention.

March 30, 1879. Geographe Bay, Western Australia. Reverend H. W. Brown, et cetera. MF
Heuvelmans (1968:
...Rev. H. W. Brown... was riding home from Lockville along the beach when he met two friends, C. McGuire and his wife, walking in the opposite direction. soon afterwards he saw 'what looked like a log of wood in the water a stone's throw from the shore'. It seemed to be moving towards Lockville, leaving a wake behind it. He turned his horse and followed it until he had caught up with McGuire and could attract his attention
Heuvelmans citing Brown:
 Just as I met him the fish again came to the surface, showing gradually more and more of his length, till, when he was almost at rest, and all was apparently in view, I estimate the length to be 60 feet, strait and taper, like a long spar, with the butt end, his head and shoulders, showing well above the surface.
I can only describe the head as like the end of a log, bluff, about two feet in diameter; on the back we noticed, showing very distinctly above water, several square-topped fins... I saw no lateral fins and no fish-tail.

Cameron: The worst illustration in all of Sea Serpent-dom combined with one of the most vague units of measure possible! It could be a wave phenomenon of some sort considering how few animals have square-topped dorsal fins.

1883. Coast of Amman, Vietnam. Tran Van Con. ?
Heuvelmans (1968) citing letter from Dr. A. Krempf to Professor Abel Gruvel:
Here is some information which although it smacks of the marvellous [sic], cannot fail to interest you. I have received it at sea from the coxswain of a Customs launch, a 56-year-old native called Tran Van Con.
38 years ago (that is to say in 1883, 14 years before Lieutenant Lagresille's account), this Annamite saw and touched the so-called sea-serpent. Here is his account, faithfully translated: the animal was washed up and dead: it was a carcase in a very advanced state of putrefaction. The head had gone. The body alone was 60 feet long by 3 feet wide.
The animal was formed of successive segments all alive one another. Each segment was 2 feet long and 3 feet wide and had a pair of appendages 2 feet 4 inches long.
The teguments were of a remarkable consistency and rang like sheet-metal when hit with a stick. The colour of this tegumentary envelope was dark brown on the dorsal surface and light yellow on the ventral surface.
The stench that arose from this prodigious animal was such that even the Annamites would not go near it, and it was decided to tow the remains out to sea and sink them.
The name given to this animal by my informant is con rit, or 'millipede'. It is thus, according to its name and from all the description that I have given you, an Arthropod... unless it is all a dream, and certainly it is very detailed, and as another theory about the sea-serpent can do no harm, I have thought fit to send you this information, but ask you to await further details before doing anything about it.
 This event occurred at Hongay in Along Bay 38 years ago, and I have confirmation of it from a 30-year-old Chinese who had heard the tale from his father.

Cameron: By far the least reputable "Many-Finned" sighting. It should be thrown out because not only are people highly prone to bizarre interpretations of corpse morphology, something like a memory is going to change a great deal after 38 years - but there is an interest in this case from some cryptozoologists anyways. Instead of a giant arthropod (with uncharacteristically unarticulated appendages!) or a mega-polychaete, it could have been a cetacean spinal column with only transverse processes (or maybe even ribs) remaining which morphed into a centipede-like creature when combined with local folklore.

After June 1, 1893. Along Bay, Vietnam. La Mutine. MF
Heuvelmans (1968):
...a big long black animal in Along Bay 'swimming with vertical movements'.
Cameron: Not exactly very useful information!

Mid-July, 1897. Fai-tsi-long, Vietnam. Avalanche. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing Lieutenant Lagresille:
In the month of July last [1897] the Avalanche saw for the first time, off Along Bay, two animals of weird shape and large dimensions; their length was reckoned at about 65 feet and their diameter at 6 to 10 feet. The feature of these animals was that their body was not rigid like that of the known cetaceans, but made undulatory movements similar to a snake's, but in a vertical direction. A revolving gun was loaded and fired at 600 yards, at slightly too short range. They immediately dived, breathing loudly and leaving a wash on the surface like breakers. They did not reappear, but we thought we saw their heads, which we judged to be of small dimensions.
Cameron: Considering the distance of this sighting and the vagueness, it is probably not distinguishable from some sort of standing wave phenomenon.

February 15, 1898. Fai-tsi-long, Vietnam. Avalanche. MF
Heuvelmans (1968), continuing Lt. Lagresille:
On 15 February of this year [1895], when crossing the Bay of Fai-tsi-long, I saw similar animals again. I at once gave chase and had the revolving guns loaded. Several shots were fired at one of them, at ranges of between 300 and 400 yards, and at least two shots reached them without seeming to do them the least harm, the shells bursting on the surface. I also tried to reach them with the bow of the ship, but their speed was greater than that of the Avalanche. Each time, however, that this animal came into shallow water it turned back, which enabled me to gain upon it and confirm its great size. It frequently emerged, and always one noticed its undulatory movements. Each emergence was preceded by a jet of water, or rather water vapour made by a loud breath, unlike the ordinary Blowers which inhale water and blow it out to a certain height [sic].
The colour of the animal was grey with several black fins. Its trail was easily followed by the release of its breath which formed circles of 4 to 5 yards in diameter of the surface of the sea, which was then perfectly calm. At one moment I thought I had reached it. The chase went on without success for an hour and a half and had to be abandoned as night was falling.
Cameron: It seems unlikely that somebody would chase a wave for an hour and a half without success. It is frustrating that the plane of undulation is not mentioned and it is especially frustrating that the fins are mentioned so vaguely. While the English word "several" implies more than two, this may not be the case with the word it was likely translated from (plusieurs - somebody please correct this if necessary!), so there is a chance it could have been pectoral and/or pelvic fins rather than numerous dorsal or lateral fins. As such, I'm forced to leave this trait unclassified.

February 24, 1898. Fai-tsi-long, Vietnam. Avalanche and Bayard. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing Lt. Lagresille again:
We gave chase to one of them for thirty-five minutes [reported Lagresille], and at one particular moment we saw it clearly about 200 yards on the beam, floating horizontally. It had three undulations without a break, which ended with the appearance of its head, which much resembled a seal's, but almost double the size. We could not see whether it had a neck, joining it to the body, of relative much greater dimensions: this was the only time we saw the undulations appear without a break. Until then we might have thought that what we took for them were humps appearing in succession; but from the testimony of all the witness doubt it no longer permissible, for, before they appeared, we saw the animal emerging by the same amount all along its length. Two of the officers present possessed a camera: they ought to have been able to use it then, but they were so surprised by what they saw, that when they thought of aiming their cameras the animal dived, only to appear much further away in much less clear conditions unfavourable to taking a photograph.
 To sum up, the animals seen by the Avalanche are not known. Their length is about 65 feet (minimum), their colour grey and black, their head resembles that of a seal, and their body is subject to undulations that are sometimes very marked: finally their back is covered with a sort of saw-teeth which, removes any resemblance to known cetaceans; like the latter they reveal their presence by blowing noisily, but they do not spout a jet of inhaled water like the whales; it is, rather, their violent respirations which cause a sort of vaporization of water which is ejected in drops and not in a jet. Undoubtedly these animals, known and feared by the Annamites, must have provided the idea of the Dragon, which modified and amplified by legend, has been, if I may so term it, heraldized into the national emblem.

Cameron:  The "camera will not function" trope is severely worn out in these stories - were they really unreliable to the degree of having a 0% success rate in capturing unexpected animals? It is also frustrate that none of the French encounters in Vietnam have any sketches, although it could be possible that they exist in some archived document. It is difficult to find a potential mundane explanation for this encounter.

July 11, 1898. Along, Vietnam. Vauban. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing merchant captain Jean-Baptiste A..:
I was looking at the sea at the bottom of the ladder, when my attention was attracted by a strange beast which passed at about ten feet from the bottom of the gang-ladder making undulations like those of a snake in the fore-and-aft direction of the boat.
The animal measured about 35 to 40 feet long and seemed to be about 16 to 20 inches in diameter at the middle of its body. It bore scales the size of a turtle's; the neck was much thinner than the body, and the proportion of the head to the body was as in a snake; the tail ended in a point. The eyes appeared to be a little higher in the head than in an ordinary snake; two very conspicuous holes were to be seen a little way back on the nose. The colour of the animal seemed to be greenish grey, but no doubt this was due to the colour of the sea and the reflection of the sky. It was about 5 to 6 feet below the surface.
Cameron: Despite the rather svelte proportions, the large scales, size, high-set eyes, and pointed end of the tail suggest a crocodilian. Saltwater crocodile distribution maps show that they do not range as far north as Ha Long Bay, but that is no reason to discount this as a possibility.

May 21, 1898. Cape Falcon, Algeria. H.M.S. Narcissus. Whales? MF?

The most important Many Finned sighting. If you are skipping the others, read this one!

Heuvelmans (1968) citing Lieutenant Boothby:
Observed a sea monster on the port bow, certainly over 150 feet in length; apparently propelled by large fins, and lying very low in the water.
Plenty of sailors were on deck while the monster swam for half an hour on the same course as the ship. When a journalist asked one of them, a signalman, if he was sure it was not a school of porpoises, he replied:
We saw some porpoises just after and their motion was not the same. You could see the porpoises jump or tumble over, but this creature lay steadily on the surface, gently gliding through the water... The monster seemed to be propelled by an immense number of fins. You could see the fins propelling it along at about the same rate the ship was going. The fins were on both sides, and appeared to be turning over and over. There were fins right down to the tail.
 The signalman also said that the head could not be seen because of the waves it was making, and added:
Another curious thing was that it spouted up water [sic] like a whale, only the spouts were very small and came from various parts of the body. [Empasis mine]
Cameron: Not only is this one of the few "Many Finned" reports which clearly states that the fins are oriented laterally, but is the only one to state that they are used to propel the animal. Despite the eyewitnesses having seen "porpoises" earlier, Heuvelmans, the man who believes in a Cetacean Centipede, considers the possibility that the animal in question may have been "a strangely close-knit collection of several cetaceans". Why Heuvelmans does not consider this a possibility for any other sighting with multiple fins is a real mystery.

July 13, 1902. Ram Head, Victoria, Australia. Chillagoe. MF
From Heuvelmans (1968):
...It was reckoned to be 30 to 35 feet long and had four fins 4 to 5 feet high and about 6 feet apart. Its head was like a seal's but bigger, being about 2 feet across. When the ship came within a hundred yards of the monster it raised its head, stared at the ship, and disappeared. The  captain added that, 'All agree that it resembled the serpent seen by those on board the Princess, illustrated in the Strand Magazine, the only visible difference being the fins, which seemed more angular than those in the magazine.
Cameron: Due to the familiarity with a previous sighting, with report should be viewed with suspicion. Despite the proximity, the details are sparse to the degree that it cannot be distinguished from a pod of cetaceans.

December, 1903. Tourane, Vietnam. Charles-Hardouin. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing anonymous mate:
15 to 20 yards from the ship a double mass appeared, the length of each part must have been about 25 feet and the distance between them about 18. The bulk of each of these coils could be compared to that of a big half-hogshead barrel: a spiky crest gave the coils quite a singular appearance.
 It all undulated like a snake in motion, and its speed was markedly greater than that of the ship, which was then doing 9 knots so far as I recall. The colour was 'dirty black'. A few seconds later the animal dived horizontally, churning the water violently.
Cameron: The horizontal dive would seem to suggest that lateral fins are not present.

End December, 1903. Along, Vietnam. Gueydon. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) mentions no details.

February 12, 1904. Along, Vietnam. Chateau-Renault. MF
Heuvelmans (1968):
[Lieutenant] Peron was making soundings that morning from a steam-launch in the west of Crapaud (Toad) Roads, with an old native fisherman pointing out the submerged rocks for him, when he was surprised to hear the sailor in the bow cry out: 'A rock dead ahead!'
Heuvelmans (1968) citing witness:
I stood up and stopped the engines, then I saw, not very far ahead, a grey mass shaped like a turtle's back, which we reckoned to be more than 12 feet across; almost at once it disappeared. I supposed it was a sperm-whale. The launch still having way on her, we came near where it had surfaced, and I saw that there was a big patch of oil on the water.
I still remained stopped, and am glad I did; soon afterwards we heard the water churning to the west, and we saw, almost touching the nearby shore a little south of Chandelier [Candlestick] Rock, two huge coils which I supposed must belong to a monstrous eel at least 3 feet in diameter. I saw to my great surprise that the skin of this beast and the rocks on the shore were the same colour; dark grey with patches of dirty yellow. From the distance that I was the skin seemed smooth and even. It appeared briefly, the two coils disappeared with a repetition of the noise we had already heard.
 Once again we looked all around us; there was not a breath of wind, the surface of the water was very smooth; in the end we saw ripples rather far away in the direction of the Crapaud. We could not see clearly, for we were too low down. All the same I got the impression that the animal was just awash and moving by vertical undulations.
Cameron: The turtle-like object turning into a multi-humped one certainly is an interesting repeated occurrence in these reports as it is not a very mundane phenomenon. Note how small the diameter is in this report compared to many others, except Vauban.

February 25, 1904. Along, Vietnam. La Decidee. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing a letter from Lieutenant L'Eost to Rear-Admiral de Jonquieres:
Sir, On the afternoon of 25 February last, when steaming out of Along Bay, La Decidee met, off the 'Noix' ['Nut'] Rock, a strange animal apparently of the same species as that seen in the same locality in 1897 and 1898 by Lieutenant Lagresille on board the Avalanche, which observations were published in the Bulletin de la Societe Zoologique de France (1902), which I had no knowledge of until after I made my own
I first saw the back of the animal at about 300 yards, on the port bow, in the shape of a rounded blackish mass, which I took first for a rock and then, seeing it move, for a huge turtle 12 to 16 feet in diameter.
Shortly afterwards I saw this mass lengthen, and there emerged in succession, in a series of vertical undulations, all the parts of the body of an animal having the appearance of a flattened snake, which I reckoned to be about a hundred feet long and the greatest diameter 12 to 16 feet.
 The animal having dived, I did not observe it again, my attention being distracted by handling the ship.
The observations which follow were gathered from various members of the staff and crew.
The animal appeared a second time about 150 yards away and dived beneath the ship just aft of the gangway. Its back, on this second appearance, was all that was visible at first. It was semi-circular in section, not at all like that of the cetaceans (Dr Lowitz). Its skin was black, showing patches of mottled yellow (Able Seaman Sourimant); according to Seaman Leguen, it was dark yellow and quite smooth. 
The back then disappeared, leaving big ripples, and the head alone appeared near the gangway. Here are the observations of Leading Engineer Pinaud, who was in this position. All the other seamen prevent have confirmed every detail.
 When he heard voices on the bridge he looked out and saw waves like the sea breaking or a rock awash, or like those made by a submarine diving. He turned to call his mates, and they all came and watched.
The head and neck came out of the water only 40 yards away. The head was the colour of the rocks in the bay (greyish, white mixed with yellow). It was like a turtle's; the skin seemed rough, and this roughness seemed due to scales rather than hair.
The witnesses' estimates of the widest diameter of the head vary between 15 and 30 inches; it was slightly greater than that of the neck.
The head blew two jets of water vapour. The rest of the body appeared a fleur d'eau. It undulated in a horizontal direction. The animal moved at a speed estimated at 8 knots.
When it was almost alongside, the head dived, and a series of vertical undulations were seen running along the body, just out of the water.
 The animal at once reappeared near the ship's starboard quarter. Marine Lecoublet and Seaman Le Gall were there.
The body moved forwards in vertical undulations. In its whole length there were 5 or 6 marked undulations. This length is estimated by these two witnesses as more than 30 feet. They describe a head wider at the back than the front and longer than a seal's.
The body seemed to them to be almost of the same dimensions all along its length. They compare it to a 'Blower's'. This estimate, together with what seems to me much too small a figure for the length, makes me think these witnesses only saw part of the body.
The skin was smooth. Nobody saw fins. The animal did not blow at this time.
It dived again and appeared some way astern. One could now only make out a long blackish body, with moving curves and jets of water vapor.
From what the witnesses at the gangway saw, the animal breathes through its nostrils rather than through the top of its head.
Nobody observed the head in detail. 
Cameron: It deserves to be noted that while the Lieutenant may not have known about the Avalanche encounter, he may have been influenced indirectly by the other sightings earlier in the month. The contradictions are exceptionally noteworthy (coloration, plane of undulation, smooth vs. scaled skin) and either show that the purported animal varied in different parts of its body (highly unlikely) or that eyewitness observation of these traits is highly unreliable. Regardless, it is difficult to say what animal could possibly have been misidentified at only 40 yards and considering the highly unlikely situation of a hoax, this stands as one of the most intriguing sightings of a cryptid.

March 1904. Along, Vietnam. Gueydon. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) only mentioned that this sighting had over 100 eyewitnesses. Presumably it had similar morphology as the other encounters.

June, 1908. Along, Vietnam. Hanoi. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing Ouest-Eclair inquiry from unnamed Captain (possibly P. Merlees):
In June 1908 I was captain of the steamer Hanoi belonging to A. R. Marty of Haiphong and at about 6 in the morning was about 5 miles east of the Norway islands which lie at the entrance to the Along Bay (Tongking), and I was steering to pass between these islands and the land when I saw it.
I saw, some way ahead, a black mass which at first I took for a capsized boat. On approaching and examining it with binoculars, I found it had a strange shape. This resembled a framework over which sail had been tightly stretched. The ribs were very marked. Seen from the side and from some way off it would certainly look indented, for the ridges were very sharp. I had a three-quarter view which enabled me to make a rough estimate of its size.
The colour was black; the length about 16 feet and the width about 5 feet. It was quite motionless.
 As I wondered what it could be I kept coming closer and clearly distinguished all its features. When I reached some thirty yards away a huge head emerged some 4 or 5 yards from what I could see, and therefore nearer to me.
Although surprised by this sudden apparition, I could observe it very well, and it was very like the head of a turtle, but longer and certainly 2 feet wide by 3 feet long; it had two very bright black and white eyes and large nostrils. It was blackish like the rest. I could not see the jaw, the mouth being shut, but the mouth was clearly marked on the sides of large dimensions.
 The head turned to look at the ship, blew noisily without spouting water and at once dived, the rest following and making a big wash. 
When I reached where the animal had been I could see nothing but the wash in the water, and that was all.
Given the dimensions of this animal it could not possibly be confused with a turtle. For one thing it certainly had no scales, of that I am sure. The skin was more like old tanned leather, and with my binoculars I could see it very well.
 The head appeared for a few seconds only, and I did not look at it with my binoculars, but it was very close, perhaps 25 yards away, and what struck me most were the eyes. The turtle has only very small eyes, veiled by a membrane, and not big bright eyes like these. And so far as I know there are no turtles of this size.
From the head to the end of the visible part was a good 30 feet; so it was indeed an extraordinary animal. 
From the disturbance of the water at the moment when it dived and from the part of the body that I saw, the shape of the body must be: a very long and flexible neck, indicated by the distance of the head from the visible part of the body, and by the head which turned without the middle part moving; then a much broader part in the middle, the part that I saw; and finally a fairly long tail which did not show above the surface, but was clearly marked by the disturbance of the water.
Observation was hindered by the fact that the sun was partly hidden behind small clouds and made a white reflection on the surface which prevented one from seeing to any depth.

Cameron: Leatherback turtles do have fairly prominent eyes, and I cannot help but consider the possibility that the eyewitness exaggerated the size and extent of the neck and misremembered the details of the ridges. Heuvelmans (1968) used this sighting to propose that the Many-Finned had armadillo-like armor and segments, a trait very rarely actually observed. It was not supposed to be contradictory with the possession of smooth skin, somehow.

1912. William I. Cook. Westward Ho!, Devon, England.

From the Standard, July 1, 1912. Available in NABR #7 (p. 23)
An attempt has been made to photograph the sea serpent. This puts to rest any doubts about his having really arrived, decorously dressed in seaweed, as all self-respecting sea serpents should be. But now come the disquieting question: How many of him are there?
He was last heard of as having put to flight a considerable portion of the British fleet of the Lowestoft coast, or, as the lady witness of the event put it, "at the moment I saw the sea serpent the battleships were disappearing in the opposite direction."
 Now the sea serpent has been surprised of the Devon coast, near Westward Ho! The gentleman who enjoys the rare experience of stalking a sea serpent unawares was Mr. William I. Cook, of Alexanda House, Instow, and his description of the awful monster at Westward Ho! tallies in many respects with that given by Miss Rider Haggard of the awful monster at Lowestoft.
Mr. Cook was boating with some ladies, and saw ahead what appeared to be a reef of rocks; on approaching nearer the voyagers took it for a mass of floating seaweed; on approaching nearer still "we found that the thing was alive."
 Mr. Cook tried to photograph it, but his terrified boatman at once pulled for shore. This is in gratifying contract with the callous conduct of Lowestoft's longshoremen, who, as already recorded, persisted in leaning against their spanker booms, and talking of the sea serpent in tones of derision.
Mr. Cook continues: "The thing then stretched itself out in an undulating coil, lashing the water." After lashing the water made of towards Clovelly at a  fair pace, leaving a wake of foam. For several days there had been no mention of Clovelly in the world's news. In view of the above facts this silence becomes ominous. Clovelly is a small place; what stand could the marine hamlet make against a monster sixty to eighty feet long, with a body as thick as a thirty gallon cask, with black fins running along the whole of the back, and with scales. This is Mr. Cook's description.
 But to the fate of Clovelly is added another problem. Is this awful monster seen by Mr. Cook the same awful monster seen by Miss Rider Haggard? Are there two? Or was the Devon sea serpent merely the other end of Lowestoft's visitor? In short was the sea serpent shaking its head at Lowestoft and wagging its tail at Westward Ho!?
Cameron: A non-Heuvelmans account and certainly not a subtropical one like the others! If the "Many Finned" sea serpent category is based on mundane phenomenon, we should expect its distribution to roughly coincide with that of dolphins. Champagne claims that there are several other "Many Finned"-type reports in boreal latitudes, but documentation has yet to surface.

July, 1920. Miami, Florida. Craigsmere. MF
Heuvelmans (1968) citing eyewitness:
The Captain, mate on watch, helmsman and some others of the crew saw it. As I remember it they say it was long with dorsal fins somewhat like a porpoise only several in number with its head some distance ahead of the body and partly submerged.
Cameron: Should be indistinguishable from a pod of cetaceans.

February 11, 1923. Somalia. Latitude 11° 50' N., Longitude 57° 37' E. Mapia. MF?
Heuvelmans (1968) citing fourth officer, H. J. Van Nouheys:
...I was on starboard deck with the second officer, A. de Wild, when we were startled by a violent blow on the water. It was so close to the port side of the ship that we could not see what it was nor exactly where it had happened. When we dashed to port we heard another violent splash (louder even than that made by a dolphin leaping out of the water) and we saw, some 30 yards away, a colossal sea-animal disappearing below the surface. It was about 6 feet thick, cylindrical, and as far as we could see it was 8 feet out of the water. It was shining, half light grey and half brown.
Cameron: It is not clear if the "violent blow" is respiratory. What exactly is sticking 8 feet out of the water is certainly mysterious. This report cannot be distinguished from cetaceans, possibly even large sharks if the blow was not respiratory.

January 21, 1926. Tulear, Madagascar. Dr. Georges Petit. MF?
Heuvelmans (1968) citing Petit:
We had ourselves [says Dr Petit in the official plural] been witness of a fact sufficiently remarkable and enigmatic to be summarized here.
 On the night of 20 to 21 January 1926, being worried by the fall of the barometer announcing the cyclone on the 22nd, we had to leave our camp at Lavenombato, on the left bank of the Onihaly. We went back to Tulear, some thirty miles by canoe. The weather was very close; the night was very dark and the sea rough. About half an hour after midnight, as we had just passed Sarodrano and were going towards Ankilibe, my attention was drawn by some bright but fleeting and intermittent lights, a few seconds apart, which rose above the level of the water, less than a mile from our boat. Though much less powerful, they could be compared to the beam of light of a ship's searchlight. They seemed to be coming from a body rolling on its axis. Behind this source of light one could see a phosphorescent trail, the length of which was difficult to estimate in the conditions under which it was observed. The man in the bow of our canoe had dropped his paddle and turned and looked back so as not to see it. My 'commander' obstinately kept his eyes on the bottom of the boat, and the after paddler trembled in every limb. It was not until some time after the lights had gone out near the rocks behind us that we could get under way again. The fishermen told us that we had met the tompondrano, that we had been in great peril, and that back luck awaited us. They did not tail to associate our singular encounter with the storms that followed. My commander also blamed it for the death of a distant relative.
Cameron: Astoundingly, no morphology relevant to the Many-Finned was observed! Heuvelmans himself stated in the next paragraph stated that Dr. Petit's sighting should not be given much weight as the phenomenon he observed was a "fluorescent sea" (i.e. phosphorescence caused by dinoflagellates) or (much less plausibly) a "big sea-animal" being attacked by luminous fish and squid. Heuvelmans is being dishonest here because the classification as a possible "Many-Finned" relies on folklore that Dr. Petit collected:
The Lord-of-the-Sea appears rarely. But he shows himself, whenever the time may be, by always moving against the wind. He is 70 to 80 feet long, and his wide flat body is covered with hard plates, rather like the bony armour on the back of a crocodile, but bigger. The tail is like a shrimp's tail with its terminal flap. The mouth is ventral, the animal must turn on its back to attack. A sort of hood which the animal may raise and lower at will protects its eyes which look forwards but are places well to the side. The head is luminous and shines light as it comes to the surface. It moves in vertical undulations.
Some Malagasies say the animal has no legs. Others say it has front flippers like a whale's. Finally the body is striped in a longitudinal direction, with striped of different colours, white, red, green or darker. It has no smell. The most frequent appearances occur in the area of Ankilibe, at Nosy Ve, and Lanivato (Tulear province).
To avoid the dangers which the tompondrano causes, an axe and a silver ring are hung on the boat's bows.
Cameron: I'm extremely dubious that folklore of this sort has any potential data. Note the missing, and contradicted, characteristic morphology!

March 1934. Nassau, Bahamas. Mauretania. MF
From Heuvelmans (1968):
The third monster, which was a good 60 feet long, and which appeared above water as four humps, each with its fin, was seen about 600 miles east of Nassau in the Bahamas during the following March.
Cameron: Considering that this vessel claimed to have seen three "Sea Serpents" in one winter, this automatically makes the case extremely suspect. The classification as an undoubted "Many-Finned" is absurd, this sighting displays no characteristics that can't be explained by a pod of cetaceans.

August 18, 1934. Townsville, Queensland, Australia. Oscar Swanson et al. ??
From Heuvelmans (1968):
On 18 August 1934 Mr Swanson went to fish with his son Harold and William Quinn. Soon after they had left Townsville breakwater in their motor launch they saw four dark object in the water beyond the Fairway Beacon, which was half-way between that port and Magnetic Island. Puzzled, they went closer and found that it was a sea-monster. They got within 150 yards of it before it 'submerged, going down like a submarine, sinking slowly'.
Citing witness:
Then we thought it would come at us, and we turned to make for the Beacon, which has a ladder to the top on which a lamp is lit.
We were wishing that we were in a speed boat. We stowed the little fellow up forward under the bit of decking we had, and hoped for the best. I might mention that the sea at this time was smooth as glass. After about five minutes the monster arose again in the same place (coming up just like a submarine). We were about three-quarters of a mile past the Beacon; on reaching it we caught hold of the ladder and watched to see what movements the monster would make. After waiting half an hour and seeing no movements, excepting the head swaying from side to side, as if watching us, we decided to make back to town, get rid of the boy, and get a camera, as it looked as though the monster would stop there all day. On reaching the jetty wharf, I rang Mr. Jim Gibbard, sub-editor of the Townsville Bulletin, who picked up a press photographer, Mr. Ellis, and, armed with two cameras, we once more set out (without the boy).
 From Heuvelmans (1968):
But the monster seemed to have been disturbed by the S.S. Marella coming round Magnetic Island, and they saw nothing but two dark objects about 20 feet apart, which 'may have been the monster as it put its head up near a man fishing in a small dinghy just outside the breakwater at 3:30 p.m.; and he lost no time in getting home'. Mr Swanson gave Mattingley a very detailed description:
Citing witness:
 You will see, by the rough sketch submitted, what the monster was like. The head rose about 8 feet out of the water, and resembled a huge turtle's head; the mouth remained closed. the head was about 8 feet from the back of the head to the front of the mouth, and the neck was arched. The colour was greyish-green. The eye (we could see only one, being side on) was small in comparison to the rest of the monster. The other part in view was three curved humps about 20 feet apart, and each one rose from 6 feet in the front to a little less in the read. They were covered with huge scales about the size of saucers, and also covered in barnacles. We could not get a glimpse of the tail, as it was under the water.
From Heuvelmans (1968):
Mr Swanson told Mattingley that he saw neither fins nor legs. As the animal was motionless on the water he could not see how it swam. It had no mane, but a dark line along its spine. The scales shone in the sun and seemed to be 'butted and perpendicular'. Some of the barnacles were as big as soup-plates.

Swanson's Sketch. Darkness of the last hump is a scanning artefact.

Cameron: A lack of movement beyond the head swaying and submerging/emerging could imply an inanimate object; the epibiontic growth and coloration also support this contention as well. The reported close proximity would argue against this. Given the reasonable array of Many-Finned-like traits, why did Heuvelmans not consider this a Many-Finned? This is especially baffling considering the following reports.

August 25?, 1934. Bowen, Queensland, Australia. Hurst, et al. MF?
From Heuvelmans (1968):
A week later the North Queensland Register reported that it had been seen near Bowen, and Dinsdale tells us that the witnesses were H. Hurst and two others, who said it was about 30 feet long and lifted a huge turtle-like head about 8 feet out of the water. Its body was like 'a huge armoured hose'.
Cameron: Note the considerably smaller size estimate in this sighting.

After August 25, 1934. Townsville, Queensland, Australia. 3 Fishing Parties. MF?
Heuvelmans (1968) citing Dinsdale:
Later three separate parties of fishermen farther north, near Townsville, reported seeing it on the same day. One man told the local newspaper: 'Its head resembled a huge turtle more than anything else, and was slightly arched. Farther along three smaller dark objects were seen, giving the appearance of a Monster of the sea with a series of humps.'
Cameron: It should not have been possible to categorize this report as a "Many-Finned" rather than a "Many-Humped" as the former is distinguished by Heuvelmans in having an ovoid head and multiple humps. Townsville and Bowen are about 100 miles apart, implying multiple objects. It could be possible that the latter two 1934 Queensland Sea Serpent sightings were heavily influenced by the first and by far the most descriptive sighting.

1935. Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Electra. MF
From Heuvelmans (1968):
[O]ff Norfolk, Virginia, half-way between Massachusetts and Florida, Lieutenant W. C. Hogan of the coastguard vessel Electra saw an animal 40 to 50 feet long with six fins on its back, each 2 feet high and 2 feet 6 inches wide at the base. When they fired at it, the strange animal made no attempt to escape.
Cameron: The third attempted slaying of a Many-Finned. It is a common trope in Sea Serpent reports for firearms to have no apparent damage, even when aimed at the head from a very short distance. This implies that either the guns are woefully underpowered, or the object is in fact inanimate.

Cryptid Characteristics:
In my interpretation of anecdotal information, here is the trait frequency:

Round head (turtle-like, seal-like) = 11 reports (14 unknown, 1 other)
Flat head = 1 report (14 unknown, 11 other)
Small eyes = 2 reports (23 unknown, 1 other)
Large eyes = 1 report (23 unknown, 2 other)
Short neck = 4 reports (19 unknown, 3 other)
Long neck = 3 reports (19 unknown, 4 other)
Multiple dorsal fins = 9 reports (17 other - too prominent to be unknown state)
Pectoral appendages = 1 report (25 unknown)
Pelvic appendages = 0 reports (26 unknown - used for other types)
Multiple lateral fins = 3 reports (23 unknown)
Armor or Scales = 5 reports (18 unknown, 3 other)
Smooth skin = 4 reports (18 unknown, 4 other)
Segmentation = 2 reports (24 unknown)
Dorsal crest = 5 reports (18 unknown, 3 other)
Single hump = 4 reports (14 unknown, 8 other)
Multiple humps = 9 reports (12 unknown, 5 other)
Long tail = 1 report (25 unknown)
Bilobate tail = 0 reports (25 unknown, 1 other - used for other types)
Pointed tail = 1 report (24 unknown, 1 other)
Uniform coloration = 5 reports (11 unknown, 10 other)
Contrasting coloration = 3 reports (23 unknown)
Mottled coloration = 9 reports (15 unknown, 2 other)
Visible breath = 8 reports (18 other - likely too prominent to overlook)
Lateral undulations = 3 reports (2 unknown, 21 other)
Vertical undulations = 3 reports (9 unknown, 14 other)
Ventral mouth = 0 reports (26 unknown - used for other types)
Head hair = 0 reports (26 unknown - used for other types
Single dorsal fin = 0 reports (26 other - too prominent to overlook, used for other types)
Mane = 0 reports (26 other - too prominent to overlook, used for other types)
Horns = 0 reports (26 unknown - used for other types)

Note that some of these traits are not necessarily contradictory (coloration can be mottled and contrasted from dorsum to ventrum) and some reports contain internal contradictions (most notable in the La Decidee contradictions about texture, coloration, and plane of locomotion).

Sighting Distance and Traits in "Many-Finned" Encounters:

Out of the 29 sightings documented in this post, we can eliminate 3 from any further analysis: the Petit sighting is vague to the point of uselessness and the Gueydon encounters were mentioned without detail in Heuvelmans (1968). The 26 remaining reports were overall very vague; the least detailed had only 1 reported trait and the most detailed had 8, the average was 3 traits and the standard deviation was 1.78 - meaning that the most detailed report was 2.8 standard deviations above the norm and the least detailed was 1.12 below.

There were 12 sightings without a reported distance which had between 1 and 8 reported traits; the average was 2.75 with a standard deviation of 1.96, meaning that the most detailed was 2.68 standard deviations higher than the average and the least detailed 0.89 below.

The 14 remaining sightings had between 1 and 6 reported traits; the average was 3.2 with a standard deviation of 1.57, meaning that the most detailed was 1.78 deviations above the average and the least detailed was 1.032 below.

Thus, it can be determined that sightings with reported distances are somewhat more detailed and consistent in detail. This is what was anticipated, although far too subtle to be considered well-supported.

Sighting distance ranged between 0 m (Tran Van Con stranding) and 548.64 m; the average was 125.79 m with a standard deviation of 147.68 m, meaning that the furthest distance was 2.86 standard deviations above the average and the nearest was 0.85 below. This is consistent with Paxton (2009), as these sightings are far closer than what would be expected.

Using Pearson's r to calculate correlation, I got an r value of -0.236, suggesting a small negative correlation between reported distance and detail. This does not necessarily support the purported cryptid identity behind these reports, as some of the reported characteristics include traits such as noticeable respiration, color description (mottled, contrasting, uniform), and even eye or head description which could be potentially met with a non-cryptid identity (e.g. line of dolphins). Thus, this data can be used to indicate that eyewitnesses really did observe something and reasonably estimate distance, but to say anything more would be stepping beyond what these figures say.

Cryptid Cladistics:

Due to the already extreme length of this post, I have decided to expand this section and make it a separate entity.


Heuvelmans, B. (1968). In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents. New York: Hill and Wang.

Paxton, CGM. (2009). The plural of 'anecdote' can be 'data': statistical analysis of viewing distances in reports of unidentified large marine animals 1758–2000. Journal of Zoology 279(4), 381-387.