Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

Search This Blog



Click on this logo to find out more about helping CFZtv and getting some smashing rewards...


Friday, February 20, 2009

RICHARD FREEMAN: Leviathan vs. Behemoth

Biblical accounts of the giant beasts Leviathan and Behemoth have caused much speculation as to their nature over many centuries. If not purely mythical constructs what could they be? Suggestions have ranged from dinosaurs to crocodiles to hippopotami, but there are accounts of two great aquatic beasts that have been seen in combat on several occasions: the sea serpent, or as I prefer to call it the marine dragon and the whale.

The Barque Pauline, was off Cape Roque north east Brazil on January 8th, 1875, at lat. 5° 13' S., long. 35° . The time was 11am.

“The weather fine and clear, the wind and sea moderate. Observed some black spots on the water, and a whitish pillar, about thirty-five feet high, above them At the first glance I took all to be breakers, as the sea was splashing up fountain-like about them, and the pillar, a pinnacle rock bleached with the sun; but the pillar fell with a splash, and a similar one rose. They rose and fell alternately in quick succession, and good glasses showed me it was a monster sea-serpent coiled twice round a large sperm whale.

The head and tail parts, each about thirty feet long, were acting as levers, twisting itself and victim around with great velocity. They sank out of sight about every two minutes, coming to the surface still revolving, and the struggles of the whale and two other whales that were near, frantic with excitement, made the sea in this vicinity like a boiling cauldron; and a loud and confused noise was distinctly heard. This strange occurrence lasted some fifteen minutes, and finished with the tail portion of the whale being elevated straight in the air, then waving backwards and forwards, and laving [lashing?] the water furiously in the last death-struggle, when the whole body disappeared from our view, going down head-foremost towards the bottom, where, no doubt, it was gorged at the serpent's leisure; and that monster of monsters may have been many months in a state of coma, digesting the huge mouthful. Then two of the largest sperm whales that I have ever seen moved slowly thence towards the vessel, their bodies more than usually elevated out of the water, and not spouting or making the least noise, but seeming quite paralyzed with fear; indeed, a cold shiver went through my own frame on beholding the last agonizing struggle of the poor whale that had seemed as helpless in the coils of the vicious monster as a small bird in the talons of a hawk. Allowing for two coils round the whale, I think the serpent was about one hundred and sixty or one hundred and seventy feet long, and seven or eight in girth. It was in colour much like a conger eel, and the head, from the mouth being always open, appeared the largest part of the body. . . . . I think Cape San Roque is a landmark for whales leaving the south for the North Atlantic . . . . . I wrote thus far, little thinking I would ever see the serpent again; but at 7 A.M., July 13th, in the same latitude, and some eighty miles east of San Roque, I was astonished to see the same or a similar monster. It was throwing its head and about forty feet of its body in a horizontal position out of the water as it passed onwards by the stern of our vessel. I began musing why we were so much favored with such a strange visitor, and concluded that the band of white paint, two feet wide above the copper, might have looked like a fellow-serpent to it, and, no doubt, attracted its attention.

While thus thinking, I was startled by the cry of "There it is again," and a short distance to leeward, elevated some sixty feet in the air, was the great leviathan, grimly looking towards the vessel. As I was not sure it was only our free board it was viewing, we had all our axes ready, and were fully determined, should the brute embrace the Pauline, to chop away for its backbone with all our might, and the wretch might have found for once in its life that it had caught a Tartar. This statement is strictly true, and the occurrence was witnessed by my officers, half the crew, and myself; and we are ready, at any time, to testify on oath that it is so, and that we are not in the least mistaken A vessel, about three years ago, was dragged over by some sea-monster in the Indian Ocean.


Master of the Pauline, Chittagong, January 15, 1876.

The vessel attacked by the monster in the Indian Ocean was the Pearl. It was a 150 ton schooner allegedly attacked by a giant squid rather than a sea serpent.

Rev. Henry T. Cheeves, in The Whale and his Captors also recounts a battle between a sea serpent and a whale. “From a statement made by a Kinebeck shipmaster in 1818, and sworn to before a justice of the peace in Kinebeck county, Maine, it would seem that the notable sea-serpent and whale are sometimes found in conflict. At six o'clock in the afternoon of June 21st, in the packet Delia, plying between Boston and Hallowell, when Cape Ann bore west-south-west about two miles, steering north-north-east, Captain Shuback West and fifteen others on board with him saw an object directly ahead, which he had no doubt was the sea-serpent, or the creature so often described under that name, engaged in fight with a large whale . . . .

“The serpent threw up its tail from twenty-five to thirty feet in a perpendicular direction, striking the whale by it with tremendous blows, rapidly repeated, which were distinctly heard, and very loud, for two or three minutes; they then both disappeared, moving in a south-west direction; but after a few minutes reappeared in-shore of the packet, and about under the sun, the reflection of which was so strong as to prevent their seeing so distinctly as at first, when the serpent's fearful blows with his tail were repeated and clearly heard as before. They again went down for a short time, and then came up to the surface under the packet's larboard quarter, the whale appearing first, and the serpent in pursuit, who was again seen to shoot up his tail as before, which he held out of water for some time, waving it in the air before striking, and at the same time his head fifteen or twenty feet, as if taking a view of the surface of the sea. After being seen in this position a few minutes, the serpent and whale again disappeared, and neither was seen after by any on board. It was Captain West's opinion that the whale was trying to escape, as he spouted but once at a time on coming to the surface, and the last time he appeared he went down before the serpent came up.”

Captain Davidson, of the steamship Kiushiu-maru, also saw a sea dragon attacking a whale off the coast of Japan. Captain Davidson's statement, which is countersigned by his chief officer, Mr. McKechnie, is as follows.

“‘Saturday, April 5th, at 11.15 A.M., Cape Satano distant about nine miles, the chief officer and myself observed a whale jump clear out of the sea, about a quarter of a mile away. Shortly after it leaped out again, when I saw there was something attached to it. Got glasses, and on the next leap distinctly saw something holding on to the belly of the whale. The latter gave one more spring clear of the water, and myself and chief officer then observed what appeared to be a creature of the snake species rear itself about thirty feet out of the water. It appeared to be about the thickness of a junk's mast, and after standing about ten seconds in an erect position; it descended into the water, the upper end going first. With my glasses I made out the colour of the beast to resemble that of a pilot fish.”

A modern account that may indicate that marine dragons feed upon whales occurred on June 1st 1999 at Alesund on the north –west coast of Norway.

Arnt Helge Molvaer had gone for a walk along the fjord. Then he saw a strange creature, swimming 200 m off and parallel to the shoreline. He described it as 25 - 30 m long and 1.5 m across, and tapering towards both ends. Just back from the head there was a squarish dorsal fin 30 - 40 cm high. He watched the strange animal for about 10 minutes through his 7 x 35 binoculars; it appeared to be feeding on the carcass of a humpbacked whale. He decided to run home for his video camera.

40 - 50 minutes later he had returned with the camera accompanied by his teenage son Per Tore. The strange creature was still there, but had dragged the whale further out in the fjord. It undulated in both the horizontal and vertical plane and appeared to be tearing lumps out of the carcass.

Molvaer said that his son Per Tore had commented on the animal in this way: "It resembled an anaconda; only it was much, much bigger."

Molvaer’s film can be seen here:
It is so blurry as to be of no use to man or beast. Large whales are sometimes observed with deep wounds or bite marks. It has always been assumed that these were the work of killer whales. Maybe they were but maybe something else made them, maybe here is something in the seas far more formidable than any orca.

Other marine mammals have been targeted by sea serpents as well. San Francisco Bay. Brothers, Bob and Bill Clark observed a sea dragon hunting sea lions off San Francisco Bay.

On February 5, 1985 at about 7:45 am they were drinking coffee in their car which was parked along the Marina Green in San Francisco only yards from the Bay with a beautiful panoramic view of the Golden Gate bridge on heir left to Alcatraz island on the right.

“We noticed a group of sea lions about 150 yards in front of us. While watching them we saw what we thought was another sea lion come around Stone Tower point and slowly approach the group. When it got within a few yards a long, black tubular object telescoped about ten feet straight up out of the water and then it lunged forward almost falling on top of the sea lions. They immediately began swimming away, leaping in and out of the water as they fled toward shore. The creature churned the water as it swam behind one of them moving so fast it was a blur, but we were able to see it creating vertical undulations, which seemed to move down the length of the animal. Suddenly, it went underwater. Meanwhile, the sea lion came closer and closer to where we were parked. Actually, it swam straight at us. It leapt out of the water as it attempted to escape. The creature followed close behind stirring up the water as it made a final attempt to procure a meal. Now only 25 yards away, an arch of the animal was exposed which looked like half a truck tire. It appeared black and slimy, yet at the same time it glistened in the early sunlight. The creature was swimming slightly below the surface almost parallel to the shore.

The water was very clear allowing a silhouette of the creature's head and snake-like neck to be observable. A short flat snout, eyebrow ridges and lots of neck could be seen. It must have been 30 feet of neck because we both thought a big snake had just swam by. We were expecting to see the end of the snake but instead of getting smaller it began to get much larger! What we watched wasn't a big snake but something even more unbelievable. There was a loud crash and with a spray of water the creature seemed to stop dead in its tracks. The sea lion, apparently being familiar with the shoreline, had swum over a shelf of rocks bringing the beast into shallow water, only three feet deep. Instantaneously, a long black neck popped up, twisted backwards away from shore, then splashed as it hit the surface of the water and disappeared. We sat there trying to grasp the reality of what was happening. For a moment we were mesmerized as the creature was practically laying at our feet! The creature twisted clockwise like a corkscrew and exposed its midsection above water, giving us an excellent view of the underbelly, which was creamy white with a tint of yellow. It resembled an alligator's belly with a soft leathery look but was divided into many sections several feet wide. There was enough room to accommodate a human being inside it. The midsection had hexagonal scales which fit next to each other rather than overlapping.

The largest scales appeared at the widest part of the midsection where the underbelly and side of the creature met, gradually reducing in size as they approached the top, front and end of the midsection. If the smallest scale was compared to a dime the largest scales were larger than a silver dollar. The midsection was about 20 feet long, black on top, and slowly changed from a mossy green to a grassy green and ultimately to a yellow-green as it approached the underbelly. There was a distinct line where the texture of the skin changed from the scales into the smooth, leathery underbelly. The animal rolled off the rocky ledge exposing a padded underbelly and lateral fins.

While it continued twisting another section six to nine feet long arched upward three feet above the water, as if pinched from both ends. Then the arch twisted away from us exposing a fan-like appendage that was attached to its side at the waterline. It looked like a flag flapping in the wind. It was triangular in shape with a serrated outer edge. Mossy green ribbing ran out from a single point attached to the side of the animal like the spokes in a wheel. A paper thin green membrane stretched between each rib, which extended farther than the membrane, creating the serrated edge. The appendage was equilateral with each side several feet in length reminding us of a "dragon's wing" in miniature. Bob concentrated on the fin trying to remember as much detail as possible. He counted the number of ribs but stopped when he got to six since there were too many. All this time it hung open against the side of the animal. The fin unfolded like a fan and had many spikelike ribs creating a serrated edge!”

The creature turned its head to the left and then to the right looking for the sea lion. Bob wanted to get closer to the creature while it was sitting under the water, but when he opened the car door and began to get out Bill became worried the creature would attack them.

The brothers were lucky enough to see the creature (or another one of the same species) several more times.

In 1967 a Mr. P Sharman wrote to the late Tim Dinsdale, a veteran monster hunter, with a remarkable story.

“Dear Sir

I have just read the book, ‘More than a Legend’, about the Loch Ness Monster, and your book ‘The Leviathans’. Throughout the books there are many descriptions of monsters resembling the Plesiosaur. They remind me of a creature I saw when on holiday in lat August 1963. In a rocky cove, near New Quay, Cardigan Bay, Wales. I noticed an animal greatly disturbing a colony of seals. The creature drawn was slowly moving its four paddles tow and fro as if in readiness to make a sudden move. At one end here appeared to be a long neck and a small head poised above the water as if to strike out suddenly. The seals around it were making off as though the fear of death was upon hem. This led me to suspect the creature was making ready to kill a seal. After I watched the thing for a few minutes I realized there was a remote possibility that I was looking down upon a floundering basking shark. This seemed more and more probable so I left the scene.

Later, during that week I was exploring another cove about half a mile from the spot were I saw he strange animal. Here I saw the carcass of a seal with a huge chunk bitten from it’s neck and shoulders. This practically cut the body in two and I could not help wondering what creature could have made such a horrible wound. Of course it could have been that I saw a basking shark half in and half out of the water and mistook the tail for the head and neck of a Plesiosaur type creature. But I saw no dorsal fin; and are basking sharks aggressive to seals? The creature, comparing I with the seals , must have been 30-40 feet long, and was a brownish black colour. I was looking down from about 100 feet at an angle of about 50 degrees. It must have been about 8 feet wide. Please could you give me your views on my statement?”

Mr. Sharman also provided a drawing of the beast seen from above and surrounded by fleeing seals. The sketch shows a bulky animal with four flippers, a shortish tail and a snake-like head and neck.

Tim Dinsdale wrote back saying that he had never seen a basking shark in that area and that they sported a tall dorsal fin. Basking sharks are or course plankton feeders and are totally harmless to seals.

Almost every year seals wash up around our coasts with big bites taken out of them. For a number of years some people have linked these with attacks from great white sharks. But once again maybe it is something far more formidable.

I have long postulated that two or more species of sea serpents are possible descendents of marine crocodiles called thalattosuchians or huge aquatic lizards called mososaurs. These both have close living relatives and make better models for sea dragons than the extinct plesiosaurs.

If these creatures are out there and are powerful enough to kill full-grown whales then it makes you wonder about all those boats and their crews that have vanished over the years!

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

Hello, Richard, I hope that you get to see this!
I am sorry to be so tardy in posting this comment but as a matter of fact I only just now saw this blog entry.

I remember discussing the matter of Sea Serpents that attack (and reportedly regularly feed on) whales back in 2005 and in fact I probably still have the transcript if you are interested in seeing it again. By now you should robably be aware that I consider the largest type of Sea-Serpent to be a type of Mosasuaur that grows to over 100 feet long (maybe just over, possibly somewhat more than that)which feeds upon whales and fairly large sharks. One of the names it is regularly called is the Sea Dragon: both Russian and Japanese whaling boats have made several reports of the type. I personally refer to it as Shuker's Leviathan owing to the fact that Karl Shuker identifies the Biblical Leviathan as conforming to the identical description.

At the same time, the Pauline account does not measure out reasonably when you try to draw what the Captain is describibg, and I have a blkog up on that, too. In that case the most reasonable explanation actually reverts back to a sperm whale and a giant squid, if only for the remarkable thinness ascribed to the creature (more in line with the assumption that the snaky parts are tentacles) and P. Sharman's drawing is one of the ones which definitely appears to be depicting a Plesiosaur rather than anything else, and is one of the key pieces of evidence in saying Heuvelmans was wrong to say te Longnecked type os Sea-Serpent had no tail.

Best Wishes, Dale D.