Friday, September 16, 2011

A Baby Cadborosaur No More. Part 2b: Hagelund's Account - annotated

See the previous article for an uninterrupted version of Hagelund's account.

The encounter took place at Pirate's Cove Marine Provincial Park, De Courcy Island, British Columbia in August 1968. It runs from pages 177 to 180 in Hagelund (1987).

     With my two sons and their grandfather aboard our centre cockpit sloop,
None of these individuals have reported their experiences with the Hagelund specimen as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, if any extant witnesses were to be tracked down, their memory of the encounter would be 43 years old and thus highly questionable. Speaking of which, the time between the observation and documentation of the Hagelund specimen was 19 years.
we spotted a small surface disturbance in the calm anchorage where we had dropped the hook for the night. Lowering the dinghy, my youngest son Gerry and I rowed out to investigate. We found a small, eel-like, sea creature 
My initial impression of Hagelund's illustration is that it's not particularly "eel-like":

Notes accompanying the illustration give a total length (TL) of 16 inches, head length of 3 inches (18.75% TL), and a body diameter of 1 to 1.5 inches (6.25% to 9.375% TL). Hagelund's drawing roughly fits his measurements and is at the upper extreme of body diameter. An American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) - not one of the more elongated species of eel - has surprisingly similar proportions to the Hagelund specimen; the head is about 12.5% of the TL and the body diameter is about 6%. However, eel bodies extend almost their entire TL so A. rostrata is relatively more elongated.

Taken and modified from Wikipedia Commons.
swimming along with its head held completely out of the water, 
Apparently meaning for an extended period of time.
the undulation of its long, slender body causing portions of its spine to break the surface.
This does not necessarily mean vertical undulation, particularly when...
My first thought that it was a sea snake was quickly discarded
This makes lateral undulation seem very probable. The comparison with a sea snake is odd since the nearest species is Pelamis platuruswhich barely ranges into California. Sea snakes apparently can accomplish the described behavior:

This type of behavior seems to be more common with inland species of snake. The Hagelund specimen obviously isn't a snake, but the apparently similar behavior is very curious:

when, on drawing closer, I noticed the dark limpid eyes, large in proportion to the 
Before describing his specimen, Hagelund (1987) shared a 'Cadborosaurus' report from one Finn John, which also used the curious description of "limpid". This does not show up in any other 'Cadborosaurus' descriptions and is directly contradicted by the Cyril Cook sighting in 1922, which stated that the observed eyes has "film over them".
slender head, which had given it a seal-like appearance when viewed from the front.
It is not clear what Hagelund means by this. It may be suggesting that the eyes are placed on the front of the creature's head, but this is speculative.
When it turned away, a long, slightly hooked snout could be discerned.
Hagelund's illustration has a curious bulbous structure on the end of the snout, directly where an arrow from the description "Hooked upper jaw" is pointing.
     As the evening's darkness made observation difficult, and the swiftness of the creature's progress warned that he could quickly disappear,
 Unfortunately this description of "swiftness" is too vague to be useful.
I decided to attempt a capture and bring it aboard the sloop for closer examination. Reaching out with a small dip net as Gerry swung the stern of our dinghy into the path of the small vee of wavelets that were the only indication of the creature's position, I was pleased to find him twisting angrily in the net when I lifted it up. 
 This now seems to indicate that the creature wasn't constantly swimming with its head out of the water.
     Under the bright lights aboard the sloop, we examined our catch and found he was approximately sixteen inches long, and just over an inch in diameter.
Apparently the size was estimated and not measured.
His lower jaw had a set of sharp tiny teeth
The illustration states that teeth are in both jaws.
and his back was protected by plate-like scales, while his undersides were covered in a soft yellow fuzz.
 The Finn John report mentioned that "[i]ts long, slender body was covered by a furlike material, with the exception of its back, where spiked horny plates overlapped each other".
A pair of small, flipper-like feet protruded from his shoulder area,
The illustration seems to show fin-rays.
and a spade-shaped tail
The Finn John report states that the creature had a "spade-shaped tail, like a Sperm whale [sic]". I have no idea how the tail illustrated by Hagelund or that of a Sperm Whale could be described as "spade-shaped". These unusual similarities could be taken to indicate that details of the stories got mixed up by Hagelund.
proved to be two tiny flipper-like fins that overlapped each other.
 It is notable that the ends of the tail were noted as having "ragged ends" in the illustration. This raises the possibility that the tail was damaged and does not represent the normal condition.
     I felt the biological people at Departure Bay would be interested in this find, but without a radiophone to contact them, the next best thing was to sail up there in the morning. Agreeing on this, we filled a large plastic bucket with seawater and dumped our creature into it. We retired early, for I intended to leave at first light, but sleep would not come to me. Instead, I lay awake, acutely aware of the little creature trapped in our bucket.
In the stillness of the anchorage I could hear the splashes made by his tail, and the scratching of his little teeth and flippers as he attempted to grasp the smooth surface of the bucket.
 How did he know that?
Such exertion, I began to realize, could cause him to perish before morning. 
     My uneasiness grew until I finally climbed back on deck and shone my flashlight down into the bucket. He stopped swimming immediately, and faced the light as though it were an enemy, his mouth opened slightly, the lips drawn back exposing his teeth, and the tufts of whiskers standing stiffly out from each side of his snout, while his large eyes reflected the glare of my flashlight. I felt a strong compassion for that little face staring up at me, so bravely awaiting its fate. 
 Does this mean the whiskers are mobile?
     Just as strongly came the feeling that, if he was as rare a creature as my limited knowledge led me to believe, then the miracle of his being in Pirate's Cove at all should not be undone by my impulsive capture. He should be allowed to go free, to survive, if possible, and to fulfill his purpose. If he were successful, we could possibly see more of his kind, not less. If he perished in my hands, he would only be a forgotten curiosity. I lowered the bucket over the side and watched him swim quickly away into the darkness, then returning to my bunk for a peaceful rest, my mind untroubled by the encounter.
... and that's why the case is still being discussed.

Previous entries:

Tet Zoo Coverage: 
A baby sea-serpent no more: reinterpreting Hagelund’s juvenile Cadborosaurus


Hagelund, W. A. (1987). Whalers No More. Vancouver: Harbour Publishing.

LeBlond, P. H. & Bousfield, E. L. (1995). Cadborosaurus, Survivor from the Deep. Victoria, British Columbia: Horsdal & Schub

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