Cadborosaurus – a saltwater plesiosaur

A plesiosaur skeleton
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The only known video footage of Cadborosaurus willsi gives the best clues yet to what it really is: a saltwater pod of plesiosaurs.

The Alaskan sea monster

In 2009, Kelly Nash, a fisherman who regularly works the waters of Bristol Bay, had a clear sighting of the famed Alaskan sea monster, or sea serpent. It measures about 30 feet long, with at least two humps. In the most striking scene in the Nash footage, the creature blew air out of a hole in its neck. This last part led one commenter to say that this creature is a common bottle-nosed dolphin—in short, a whale. But this creature is far too large for that.

Since 1734, more than 300 claimed sightings have taken place. The most common place where people have sighted these creatures is Cadboro Bay, near Victoria, British Columbia. Hence its name Cadborosaurus, “the Cadboro Lizard,” or simply “Caddy.” The creature gained the species name willsi from Archie Willis, the Victoria newspaper editor who first coined the name Cadborosaurus for these animals.

Description of Cadborosaurus

The Effingham carcass, a possible Cadborosaurus. Vancouver, BC. Photo: unknown; said to be in public domain.

The Effingham carcass, a possible Cadborosaurus. Vancouver, BC. Photo: unknown; said to be in public domain.

Edward L. Bousfield and Paul H. LeBlond made the most complete description yet of “Caddy.” Any given one of these animals measures 15 to 45 feet long. One-third of that length is in its neck. It has a pair each of pectoral (front) and pelvic (rear) flippers. It is a very good swimmer; one witness watched it swim as fast as 40 knots. Most witnesses describe humps or loops in its back as it skims the surface.

In 1936, a carcass washed up at Camp Fircom, British Columbia. Then in 1937, a whaling crew found a 20-foot carcass of an animal that might have been a Cadborosaurus in the belly of a sperm whale. Its head looked like that of a horse, and its tail had several fins and spines. The men at the Naden Harbor whaling station took many photographs. Sadly, they did not keep the carcass. They either lost it, or someone stole it—no one has ever figured out which, or gotten the carcass back.

In 1947, the Effingham carcass washed up near Vancouver Island. (See photo.)

What Cadborosaurus might be

Cadborosaurus is most likely a plesiosaur. Bousfield and LeBlond have described a creature that looks a lot like several creatures that witnesses have seen in several freshwater lakes around the world. Pods of plesiosaurs seem to live in Lake Champlain (Vermont and Quebec), Lake Okanagan (British Columbia), Lake Windemere (England), and Loch Ness (Scotland). (The Loch Ness pod might have died out by now. The water in Loch Ness is dirty and murky; the other three lakes are clean.)

Cadborosaurus differs from these seeming plesiosaurs in several ways:

  1. It swims in salt water, not fresh water. So nothing confines it.
  2. It is much less shy than its freshwater counterparts. “Champ”, “Ogopogo,” and “Nessie” have been notoriously hard to sight. “Caddy” is easy to spot. This is why we have so many good and consistent descriptions of it.

Though “Caddy” is not shy, it is not aggressive either. No “Caddy” has ever threatened a human being.

Featured image: a plesiosaur skeleton, and an artist’s concept of a plesiosaur head. Photo: Justin Pickard, 20 June 2010. CC BY-SA 2.0

Also published here.