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

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Friday, April 23, 2010

GLEN VAUDREY: Jumping on the hellbender bandwagon

As a result of the last two postings of Hellbender videos I thought I would chip in with a giant salamander story.

In the 1920s Frank L. Griffiths was out hunting deer near the head of the New River in California’s Trinity Alps. While looking into the water he spotted five salamanders at the bottom of the lake. Good going, you might think, spotting salamanders in the water; they are, after all, small little critters. Well, that might be the normal case but these were no common-or-garden salamanders. No, these were giant salamanders and as such were slightly bigger than the norm. Actually, they were considerably bigger than the norm: Griffiths stated the salamanders he observed measured between 5 and 9 feet long. Astounded or not by his sighting he nevertheless managed to hook one of the salamanders but not too unpredictably, he was unable to drag it out of the water. Hardly surprising, considering the size.

In 1948 biologist Thomas L. Rodgers made four unsuccessful trips to the area looking for a trace of these giant salamanders but it would not be until 1960 that animal handler Vern Harden claimed to see a dozen huge salamanders in Hubbard Lake. He claimed to have hooked one of these giants but had to release it because of a threatening snowstorm that was closing in. However, before letting the creature go he measured it, getting a measurement over 8 feet long. Impressive stuff, but then so are the tales of all fishermen who tell you about the one that got away.

Perhaps there are giant salamanders still awaiting discovery somewhere in the Trinity Alps. One thing is for certain: you really wouldn’t want to be licking one if you found it.


Dale Drinnon said...

Yes, many people talk about the Trinity Alps version. Few people outside of Mark Hall mention the ones Down East. Some of the ones in the East are pink: Ivan Sanderson had one in a pool on his property at one time.

Another wrinkle is that some of the ones Mark Hall mentions are reported as having "Horns". So do some of the reports in British Columbia. Some suggsts that these "Horns" are external gills like mudpuppies have, but the Hellbenders DON'T have them. It is poissible that some of the giant salamanders have catfish feelers on their faces: THAT has been independantly reported in East Asia.

Rich said...

Personally, this is one of my favorite cryptozoological mysteries. Mr. Drinnon, please explain what you mean by "Down East." My observations of this blog have shown a use of casual British geography that oftentimes leaves me puzzled as an American, so I hesitates to make any assumptions.

shiva said...

I've heard that the Trinity Alps giant salamanders are descended from Chinese giant salamanders brought over by 19th century Chinese immigrants to San Francisco for meat, who released some to have a wild, "fishable" population.

As the Chinese species of Andrias reach around 5ft (and could possibly get bigger given the right conditions), it's a plausible identity given margins of error in estimating size, especially of animals seen under water.

Dale Drinnon said...

As a matter of fact, I mentioned the "Down East" matter earlier in this series of messages and then again separately earlier on.

Giant hellbenders are reported in the Ohio River area as such and under that name, and separately Mark A Hall reported on some local varieties reported in Ohio and Kentucky particularly. I also mentioned earlier when the focus as on the British Columbian "Alligators" that other such "Alligators" were reported in Eastern Canada, citing one example of early reports around Toronto. Given the extremely Northerly clime, those would be very unlikely to have been actual alligators.

The ones around Ohio are sometimes said to be pink and sometimes said to be horned. I mentioned also in my earlier posting that some of the Siberian giant salamanders are said to have catfish whiskers which could be mistaken for horns (Hall suggests mudpuppy-like external gills, which hellbenders WOULDN'T have; the source for the information on the Siberian Water-monsters is Richard Freeman) and some of them are pink in color. The Pink Hellbenders are a separate but adjoining matter and they are elsewhere mentioned on the East coast: Ivan Sanderson reported that he had one on a pond on his property in New Jersey at one time.

The genus of giant salamanders which includes the Chinese and Japanese species was Holarctic before the Ice Ages

All of which has been mentioned in FATE magazine more than once and all of which is listed under different headings by George Eberhart. And I made mention of the same situation when I made the entry for my additions to previous Cryptozoological checklists.